Cut down in their prime, comedians Bernie Mac, Gilda Radner, John Belushi and John Candy had a lot of laughs left to inspire.
1. Bernie Mac (1957-2008)
Influenced by Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx and The Three Stooges, Bernie Mac began his career as a stand-up comedian in Chicago's Cotton Club.
From 2001-2006, he had his own FOX television sitcom called The Bernie Mac Show, for which he won numerous awards. Of these, Bernie Mac was honored by the Television Critics Association for Individual Achievement in a Comedy and received the NAACP Image Award four years in a row for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series.
He also played roles in a number of film comedies such as Friday, Soul Men, Life, The Players Club, Head of State, Old Dogs and Ocean's Eleven, Twelve & Thirteen.
In the last years of his life, Bernie Mac struggled with sarcoidosis. When he was admitted to a hospital for it in 2008, he suffered a week of unsuccessful medical treatment, went into cardiac arrest and ultimately died from pneumonia complications.
2. Gilda Radner (1946-1989)
Gilda Radner was the first performer to be cast on the debuting season of Saturday Night Live. She co-wrote many of her performances and collaborated with the show's writing staff on the sketches featuring her reoccurring characters, including the obnoxious personal advice expert Roseanne Roseannadanna, news anchor Barbara Walters parody Baba Wawa and angry, misinformed and hard of hearing elderly woman Emily Litella.
In 1978, Radner won an Emmy for her work on SNL. After she left SNL, Radner acted in a number of films – Hanky Panky, The Woman in Red and Haunted Honeymoon films – to name a few. All three of these films were made with her second husband Gene Wilder.
He was by her side when she died of ovarian cancer at the age of forty-two.
3. John Belushi (1949-1982)
One of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live alongside Gilda Radner, John Belushi was best known for his "intense energy and raucous attitude" while performing.
In 2015, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Belushi as the number one actor in SNL history. They wrote, "Nobody embodies the highs and lows of Saturday Night Live like Belushi. He was the first rock & roll star of comedy...Belushi was the 'live' in Saturday Night Live, the one who made the show happen on the edge."
Among his most notable characters on the NBC sketch comedy show were Samurai Fatuba, Ludwig Von Beethoven and Pete from the Olympia Diner. He was also very well known for playing "Bluto" in Animal House and Jake E. Blues in The Blues Brothers, an American blues and soul revival band born out an SNL musical sketch.
At the age of thirty-three, he injected a fatal dose of a heroin and cocaine combination called speedball.
4. John Candy (1950-1994)
To this day, John Candy is mainly known for his roles in American films Spaceballs, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Uncle Buck but, by far, they were not his only successful onscreen performances.
He gained wide popularity in North America when he became a cast member of Second City Television, a comedy-variety show based in Toronto. He had a knack for mimicry and celebrity impersonations.
For years, John Candy had weight-related health issues and died of a heart attack when he was just forty-three.
If you haven't already, check out our John Belushi episode on Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths, a Parcast Network podcast series, to learn more about one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live.
Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths examines the lives and tragic deaths of people who changed history and influenced pop culture.