John Belushi: His Rise From Second City to ‘SNL’ to Stardom


John Belushi’s kinetic power and talent at bodily comedy made him a bigger than life performer throughout his brief run as a celebrity on “Saturday Evening Dwell” and in motion pictures akin to 1978’s “Animal Home” and 1980’s “The Blues Brothers.”

However Belushi’s work off-camera as a author and director, from his earliest days within the Second City improv troupe, was appreciable. Because the lifetime of the comic — who died of a drug overdose at age 33 in 1982 — is re-examined within the R.J. Cutler documentary “Belushi,” which premieres Nov. 22 on Showtime, listed below are highlights of Belushi’s story as chronicled by Selection.

The primary reference to John Belushi got here within the Nov. 17, 1971, version of weekly Selection. He was singled out for reward in a typically constructive evaluate of the “Cum Granis Salis” present staged by Chicago’s legendary Second City. That famed ensemble would later contribute main gamers to the unique “Saturday Evening Dwell” solid, together with Belushi and his longtime companion Dan Aykroyd, in addition to Gilda Radner.

“John Belushi, who made his bow within the earlier present, comes off extraordinarily nicely, particularly when he’s in a state of affairs the place he can go the deadpan or mugging route. He has a naturally comedic map and understands how to use it successfully,” Selection‘s critic noticed.

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Three years later, Belushi was on the helm as Second City expanded its attain to Lengthy Island. Belushi directed and co-starred in a revue staged at Lengthy Island nitery My Father’s Place. The solid is a who’s who of future boldface names: Gilda Radner, Harold Ramis, Joe O’Flaherty and Brian Doyle-Murray.

After “SNL” arrived in 1975, Lorne Michaels and the Not Prepared for Primetime Gamers saved busy doing “SNL” in addition to quite a few primetime TV specials. They even had them doing a little bit vaudeville revue to have fun NBC’s fiftieth anniversary. In 1976, weekly Selection reported that “SNL” aired its first-ever rerun on March 20 of that yr as a result of the entire solid and Lorne Michaels had been too busy earlier within the week doing the NBC anniversary dwell presentation for an Worldwide Radio and TV Society occasion in New York. The present, written by Belushi and Dan Aykroyd and produced by Michaels, was described as an “often mocking postprandial romp” by NBC’s historical past.

Later in America’s bicentennial yr, the “SNL” staff — together with director Gary Weis, scribe Alan Zweibel, Belushi, Aykroyd and Michaels — produced an hourlong Seashore Boys TV particular that combined musical sequences with such bits as having the California Freeway Patrol order Brian Wilson to depart his mattress (this being the period when the celebrated musician was famously reclusive and rotund).

In February 1977, staff “SNL” delivered a dwell primetime particular that seemingly ought to have grow to be an annual franchise. Selection‘s evaluate of “Dwell From the Mardi Gras, It’s Saturday Evening on Sunday” makes the 90-minute particular sound pretty much as good as you’d need it to be. The manufacturing credit alone (see beneath) are sufficient to make comedy aficionados swoon.

“When a dwell present clicks together with skilled talent backed by some cautious preparation, it takes on a dimension that slick, taped 123 hardly ever has,” Selection‘s critic wrote. “With only a few technical hitches, this one moved from live performance corridor to varied N.O. areas, and the comedy when it acquired there was typically excellent. Particularly John Belushi from a ‘Streetcar Named Need’ location, Gilda Radner and visitor Henry Winkler in a working over of the previous’s w.ok. (and probably a little bit merciless) Baba Wawa routine, visitor Eric Idle (‘Monty Python’) doing a distant activate Mardi Gras revelry from a barren restaurant and Dan Ackroyd as NBC’s personal Tom Snyder interviewing the personnel of a French Quarter topless-bottomless bar.”

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Belushi made his massive display debut with Jack Nicholson in 1978’s “Goin’ South.” However he turned a film star the identical yr with the success of “Nationwide Lampoon’s Animal Home.” His starring position within the “faculty comedy” merited solely a quick point out within the Oct. 21, 1977, version of Every day Selection.

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As “Animal Home” rocked the field workplace in the summertime of 1978, Belushi and Aykroyd had been busy on stage refining the characters for his or her subsequent massive display outing. Followers of the Blues Brothers can solely dream of touring again in time to September 1978 to see Jake and Elwood open for Steve Martin on the Common Amphitheatre. The sold-out Sept. 9-17 run was saluted round that point in a two-page Every day Selection advert with a caricature of the trio.

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Within the years that adopted, Belushi’s profession continued to soar. By many accounts, the whirlwind of fame and fortune intensified the multi-hyphenate’s battle with substance abuse within the months earlier than his dying on March 5, 1982. On the time, Selection would later report, Belushi and Aykroyd had been speaking with director Louis Malle and playwright John Guare a couple of political satire impressed by the Abscam political corruption scandal. That’s only one instance of what might need been for Belushi.

As Selection famous in its obituary, Belushi was “outrageous, endlessly energetic, fast to tackle a dare and gifted with excellent mimetic skills and shocking bodily grace, Belushi scored in each space of present enterprise he tried — theatre, radio, television, music and movies.”

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