I grew up in Australia with two alcoholic parents. My mother was in and out of mental hospitals. She had her first nervous breakdown when I was 6. I spent an entire year in a Catholic orphanage. I had an ulcer at age 14 and a half. It was thought then that ulcers are caused by stress. Not at all. They’re exacerbated by stress. I found out years later that they’re caused by the Helicobacter pylori. It’s a corkscrew-shaped bacteria from bad sanitation. We didn’t have a flush toilet until I was 14. We were in government housing with two 40-gallon dunny cans.

I worked with some very bright people at Leo Burnett: Peter Seaman and Jeff Price. They were funny in pitch sessions, and I thought I could be funny, too. That’s why I took classes with Jo Forsberg and then Del Close at Second City. In the workshops with Del, I could tap into my cleverness, my imagination. Second City offered me a job for an 80 percent pay cut, and I said, “I’d be crazy to pass up this opportunity.” Those years were the most fun I had anywhere.

John Belushi had seen a show and took a shine to me. The one time I got him to do a set, he hadn’t been back in probably three or four years. This was late ’79. He had the No. 1 album, the No. 1 movie, and the No. 1 [late-night] TV show. You saw the Argentinians’ reaction to the World Cup? That was that audience when he walked out onstage. Three hundred fifty people stood up in unison, they knocked drinks over. It was one of the weirdest experiences of my life.

The only time I ever rented a limo was to drive my mother from her hotel to Saturday Night Live. I’d flown her in from Australia. After, on that Sunday, we went for a walk through Central Park. We sat on a bench and people would go by like, “Hey, Tim Kazurinsky, thanks!” And my mother just started sobbing. I said, “What are you crying for?” And she said, “I’ve only heard our name yelled by bill collectors and people who come to repossess cars.”

One time I went into SNL and literally everybody on the floor was whacked on coke. I just turned around and went home. I wasn’t going to get anything done. Because for me it means they’ve all got diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain. If I’d had one of those big Edward Don restaurant-supply mayonnaise jars and collected all the coke offered to me in those four years, I’d be a rich man.

George Wendt called up and said, “I’m going to Kansas City to the most successful dinner theater in America and doing The Odd Couple, and I want you to go.” I said, “George, I haven’t acted in years. I don’t know.” And he went, “Fuck you. I gotta play Oscar, and you know you’re Felix, so let’s just go. It’s a good paycheck.” And it was a blast. We went out every night after the show and ate barbecue. When we remounted The Odd Couple in Chicago, George had a heart attack in my car after the last rehearsal. And I’m like, It’s from the fucking barbecue we ate in Kansas City. I’ve got two stents now.

Everybody’s got a story. Everybody’s got a life that’s had its ups and downs, its perils, its disappointments. And I’m intrigued. It’s why I read the New York Times obituary pages. What did this person do with their chance, with the X amount of heartbeats that they got?