Not Even John Belushi’s Widow Could Stand Writing on ‘SNL’

R.I.P. Judith Belushi Pisano
Not Even John Belushi’s Widow Could Stand Writing on ‘SNL’

Judith Belushi Pisano passed away on Friday night at the age of 73, survived by four children and six grandchildren, as well as three siblings, according to The Martha’s Vineyard Times. For comedy fans, Belushi Pisano is, of course, most famous for being the widow of John Belushi, her high school sweetheart, who died in 1982. 

Belushi Pisano had a lot of engagement with her late husband’s legacy in the years following his death, penning multiple books on the subject, and even participating in the organization of a Blues Brothers-themed convention in the historic Old Joliet Prison. Not surprisingly, a whole lot of Crystal Head vodka was served. 

Less well-known is the fact that Belushi Pisano briefly worked behind-the-scenes at Saturday Night Live. Very briefly, that is. Yeah, even the wife of one of the show’s most legendary cast members hated her experience writing for the long-running sketch show.

As Belsuhi Pisano revealed during an interview for Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, she decided to “do a little writing” for SNL, but her time there only amounted to three weeks, and just one show.

Dick Ebersol took over SNL’s producing duties in 1981 (Lorne Michaels left the show in 1980, and his replacement, Jean Doumanian, was relieved of the job after only a handful of episodes), prompting Belushi Pisano to seek a writing position. “Why would you ever want to write for Saturday Night Live?” John Belushi asked his wife at the time.

Belushi Pisano reasoned that she had already contributed to the show, but just didn’t get any credit for it. “I had been around it so much, and sometimes even participated — giving somebody a line or something,” Belushi Pisano stated. She had also worked as an associate on the National Lampoon Radio Hour, so when it came to writing for SNL, she told herself, “I can do that.”

The Ebersol season also saw the return of head writer (and Muppet-hater) Michael O’Donoghue, who, famously, wasn’t always the easiest person to work with. And things were even worse in the Ebersol era, according to Belushi Pisano. “He didn’t want to be there, and he was really miserable about it,” she recalled. 

Belushi Pisano’s contribution to the show was a lengthy Raging Bull parody sketch co-written with Mitch Glazer, but it was immediately rejected by O’Donoghue. “We were like an hour late handing it in, so Michael refused to look at it. It was just like school,” she admitted.

Ebersol only got to produce one show before the sixth season was abruptly cut short by a writers’ strike. The one episode, which Belushi Pisano worked on, was a super weird one, featuring several new cast members, guest star Chevy Chase, and somewhat conspicuously, no guest host. Instead of an opening monologue, we got a wildly unpleasant sketch in which Joe Piscopo’s Frank Sinatra rants about the evils of Japanese people while encouraging viewers to buy American cars.

When the show returned later that year, Belushi Pisano wasn’t a part of the writing staff, saying of the experience, “I thought it would be interesting. But I really didn’t like it.”

And she’s far from the only one who felt that way…

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).


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