John was a kid out of Chicago, the Chicago Second City troupe, and I was out of the Second City in Toronto. I came from the capital city of Ottawa, the child of two government workers; his father ran a restaurant, was in private business. But we grew up loving the same things: The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, old black-and-white TV. When we first came up with the Blues Brothers, that was prior to SNL. John came up to Toronto to recruit for the National Lampoon Radio Hour; that's when I first met him. He managed to get Gilda to come down to New York to work with him. I had this gig on a kid's TV show at four in the afternoon, I had my job at Second City, I did radio and television commercials, and I had my speakeasy bar, which was all cash, no tax. So I was flush. I had rockets going everywhere. I was making more money than the prime minister of Canada. I had a car, a bike, an apartment in the city, my tent at the farm. I was living a beautiful life up there. There was no way I wanted to go to the States.
JUDITH BELUSHI, Writer: In John's first interview with Lorne, one of the first things he said was, "My television has spit all over it." That's how he felt about television. He was asked to do a few television things. He was offered a guest shot on Mary Tyler Moore, which everyone thought could easily turn into a character role. And it was kind of a big deal to say no.
He even liked Mary Tyler Moore. But he needed to be political and outrageous.
LORNE MICHAELS: I had worked in television for eight years, so I was bored with people who go, "I don't do television." I had no patience for it, for people putting it down. They say, "I'm not doing television," and then I go, "Well, then, there's no point to us talking." I told John, "I hear what you're doing is great, but I don't want you to have to do something that you don't want to do." My instinct was that he was going to be trouble.
JUDITH BELUSHI: John went to talk to Lorne because, he said, "Well, if he's hiring O'Donoghue and Anne Beatts and Gilda" - they were people John liked working with, and so he figured the show was going to be something different.
ANNE BEATTS: They had been paying us the same amount, which was a big $750 a week. You can imagine, if we were happy to accept free restaurant meals from the Village Voice, $750 a week represented a considerable sum to us in those days. I mean, our rent was $675 a month, which everyone thought was just horrendously high for what Belushi called "the Winter Palace" on Sixteenth Street.
And then NBC told me, "Oh, we're not supposed to be paying you as much as Michael. We've been paying you $750 a week, but that's a mistake. And we want the money back." They said it had been a bookkeeping error. And I basically said, "Go f--- yourself." You know, "The money's gone and you're not getting it back. Furthermore, you better start paying me $750 a week." Why shouldn't I make the same as him? I don't know. Because he had more credits or something. Or because he had a penis.