Monday, June 23, 2008

John Belushi

The 1970s were sort of a revival in film. The initial popularity of the Television was starting to die down, and the masses began to flock to the cinemas once again. Many great comedians emerged during this decade, including the legendary John Belushi.

John Belushi grew up outside of Chicago. He was first recognized while performing shows in The Second City, a Chicago based comedy troupe. According to The Second City's official website, Belushi debuted in the show No, No, Wilmette in June of 1971. His incredible talent led him to be cast in the play "National Lampoon's Lemmings" in 1972, and National Lampoon's Radio Hour from 1973 to 1975. This half-hour radio show also starred comedy legends such as Bill Murray and Chevy Chase.

In 1975, NBC introduced the show Saturday Night Live (SNL). The show's creator was told to hire Belushi as a cast member, but according to, Lorne felt that Belushi was "too loud, too hard, and too self centered." Belushi auditioned for the show by playing the role of a mute samurai. The test audience loved him, and the rest is history. Belushi's samurai character became one of the most beloved impressions performed in the show. He also became known for his stunning impression of the singer Joe Cocker. He over-exaggerated Joe Cocker's jerky stage presence, which audiences found hilarious.

In 1978 Belushi entered the film business when he starred in National Lampoon's Animal House. He played the role of Bluto, a brother of the Delta fraternity who leads fraternity members in a war against another fraternity and the college administration. I will not reveal much the story in case you have not seen it - so go see it, it is a classic. Belushi proves that being obnoxious, and rather disgusting can be hilarious. The film was a huge success and generated one of the highest box office revenues of any comedy it it's time period ( It has become a true cult classic, and it even has its own Facebook fan page. It was accepted into the Library of Congress' film registry in 2001, and is listed by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 comedies. A great explanation of the film can be found here. Many people regard Animal House as the classic stereotype of college life... though I must say that my experiences at Emerson College are not on par.

Belushi's film career was rather short due to his untimely dead in March of 1982. After starring in Animal House, he went on to play roles in 7 other films while still remaining on the cast of Saturday Night Live until 1979. Although his career was short, he made a huge impact on the comedy genre and his hilarious characters are not forgotton.

Here are some great clips from Animal House. Enjoy!

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