Senator Al Franken: John Belushi’s Overdose Death Got Me to Quit Drugs

By Bryan Le 05/30/17

In his new memoir, Franken details getting sober and attending AA after Belushi's death. 

Senator Al Franken
Today, Franken is a sober senator.

In a new memoir, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, Senator Al Franken recounted his days at Saturday Night Live and how John Belushi’s overdose pushed Franken to quit drugs.

The comedian, who is now the state senator of Minnesota, writes that he started using drugs as early as the '70s, starting with smoking pot in college and then LSD. At Saturday Night Live, he was surrounded by even more drugs. The workplace culture virtually encouraged the use of drugs to keep up with the hectic broadcasting schedule.

“It began to leak out that some of the cast and writers at the show were smoking dope and snorting cocaine,” he writes in Giant of the Senate. “The truth is that many on the show thought that you can’t do a 90-minute live comedy show week after week without doing cocaine.”

In his memoir, he divides his time at Saturday Night Live into three discrete sections: “Not the Drug Part,” “The Drug Part” and “The Part Where I Leave.”

Senator Franken believes that without the overdose death of his friend and Saturday Night Live co-star John Belushi in 1982, he probably would have followed Belushi—and Chris Farley—to a similar tragic end.

He isn’t even sure how he managed keep himself from falling victim to an overdose of his own: “I just didn’t. But I saw it around me,” Franken tells People magazine. “There’s a saying: There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

But Belushi’s death at 33 years old was the wake-up call Franken needed to kick his drug habit for good. “Before Belushi died, we didn’t realize it could kill you,” he reveals. “I did [stop]. I think Belushi dying was an, ‘Okay.’ I started going to Al-Anon. That was really when I stopped using… I would go to meetings around Rockefeller Center.”

Franken left Saturday Night Live in 1995 and won the Senate seat in 2008. As a Senator, he’s taken part in bipartisan drug reform efforts towards more sensible drug policies and has managed to keep himself in the headlines during Donald Trump’s presidency as an outspoken opponent of the administration’s policies.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter