John Belushi

John Belushi

Infobox Comedian
name = John Belushi

caption = clothing from "National Lampoon's Animal House"
image_size = 200px
birth_name = John Adam Belushi
birth_date = birth date|1949|1|24|mf=y
birth_place = Chicago, Illinois
death_date = death date and age|1982|3|5|1949|1|24
death_place = Los Angeles, California
occupation = Film, television actor
active = 1973–1982
influences = Lucille Ball
influenced = Artie Lange, [ [ It’s The Artie Talkin’ - DIMP interviews Artie Lange ] ] Mike Myers, Chris Farley
spouse = Judith Belushi-Pisano (1976-1982)
emmyawards = Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Series
1977 "Saturday Night Live"

John Adam Belushi (January 24, 1949March 5, 1982) was an American comedian, actor and musician, notable for his work on "Saturday Night Live", "National Lampoon's Animal House" and "The Blues Brothers".


Early life

Belushi was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Agnes Belushi (née Samaras), a cashier and first-generation Albanian American, and Adam Belushi, an Albanian immigrant and restaurant operator who left his native village, Qytezë, in 1934 at the age of fifteen. [ [ > Saturday Night Live > Bios] ] [ [ John Belushi Biography (1949-1982)] ] [ [ Books Of The Times; Close-Up Of John Belushi - New York Times] ] Belushi was raised in the Albanian Orthodox church [ [ The religion of John Belushi, actor, comedian] ] and grew up outside Chicago in Wheaton, where he was a middle linebacker for the Wheaton Central High School football team, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and the College of DuPage near Chicago. Belushi's younger brother James Belushi is also an actor and comedian. John met his future wife, Judy, while a sophomore in high school, and they stayed together until his death.


Belushi's first big break as a comedian occurred in 1971, when he joined The Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, Illinois. Thanks to his uncanny caricature of singer Joe Cocker's intense and jerky stage presence, he was cast in "National Lampoon's Lemmings", a parody of Woodstock, which played Off-Broadway in 1972 (and which also showcased future "Saturday Night Live" performers Chevy Chase and Christopher Guest).

From 1973 to 1975, National Lampoon Inc. aired "The National Lampoon Radio Hour", a half-hour comedy program syndicated across the country on approximately 600 stations. When original director Michael O'Donoghue quit in 1974, Belushi took over the reins until the show was canceled. Other players on the show included future "SNL" regulars Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray and Chevy Chase. Belushi married Judy Jacklin (Judy Pisano), an associate producer of "The Radio Hour". A number of comic segments first performed on "The Radio Hour" would be translated into "SNL" sketches in the show's early seasons.


Belushi achieved national fame for his work on "Saturday Night Live", which he joined as an original cast member in 1975. Between seasons of the show, he made one of his best-known movies, "Animal House". As several Belushi biographies have noted, on John's 30th birthday (in 1979), he had the number one film in the U.S. ("Animal House"), the number one album in the U.S. ("The Blues Brothers: Briefcase Full of Blues") and "Saturday Night Live" was the highest-rated late night television program. In the toga party scene in the basement of the frat house in "Animal House", the uncredited coed dancing with Bluto (Belushi) is his wife. While filming "Animal House", Belushi made an appearance at Ithaca College in 1976. When introduced, he came onstage with a chainsaw and cut up the podium. When asked who his favorite host on "Saturday Night Live" was up to that point, he named comic Robert Klein.

When interviewed for retrospectives on John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd told stories of John often finishing SNL rehearsals, shows or film shoots and, exhausted, simply walking unannounced into nearby homes of friends or strangers, scrounging around for food and often falling asleep, unable to be located for the following day's work. This was the impetus for the SNL horror-spoof sketch "The Thing That Wouldn't Leave", in which Belushi torments a couple (played by Jane Curtin and Bill Murray) in their home looking for snacks, newspapers and magazines to read, and taking control of their television. Aykroyd called him "America's guest".

During his run on "SNL", Belushi starred in a short film by SNL writer Tom Schiller called "Don't Look Back In Anger", where he plays himself as an old man visiting the graves of his former castmembers (including Chevy Chase, who had been off the show at the time the film was shown) and reveals that the reason he's still alive is because he's a dancer. He then proceeds to dance on the other cast members' graves. (Ironically, Belushi was the first SNL cast member to die.) He left "Saturday Night Live" in 1979 to pursue a film career. Belushi would make four more movies in his career, and three of them, "1941", "Neighbors", and most notably "The Blues Brothers" were made with fellow SNL alumnus Dan Aykroyd.

Other movie projects

At the time of his death, Belushi was pursuing several movie projects, including "Noble Rot", an adaptation of a script by former "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" writer/producer Jay Sandrich entitled "Sweet Deception" (noble rot is a benevolent fungus that can infect wine grapes on the vine, helping to produce high quality sweet wines). Belushi was rewriting the script with former "Saturday Night Live" colleague Don Novello (known for his character Father Guido Sarducci).

Belushi was also considering the lead roles in "The Joy Of Sex", a comic adaptation of the Dr. Alex Comfort sex manual, and a part in a Louis Malle movie, "Moon Over Miami". These projects were abandoned in the wake of his death.

Aykroyd wrote the roles of Dr. Peter Venkman in "Ghostbusters" and Emmett Fitz-Hume in "Spies Like Us" with Belushi in mind, and the roles were actually played by Belushi's former "SNL" castmates Bill Murray and Chevy Chase respectively. Aykroyd used to joke that the green ghost Slimer in "Ghostbusters" was "the ghost of John Belushi", given that he had a similar party animal personality.

Released in September 1981, the romantic comedy "Continental Divide" starred Belushi as Chicago home town hero writer Ernie Souchack who gets put on assignment researching a scientist studying birds of prey in the remote rocky mountains. John Belushi's character "Ernie Souchak" is loosely based on popular, now deceased Chicago columnist Mike Royko, whose writings on political corruption in the Windy City, first for the Chicago Daily News, briefly for the Chicago Sun-Times and then to the end of his life for the Chicago Tribune, were legendary.

In an interview, the drummer for the punk band Fear, Spit Stix, explained that Belushi hadn't been on "SNL" for years, but "for the show that we were on (with Donald Pleasance as host), he did make an appearance. In the beginning, he's at the urinal and he turns around to the camera, 'Live! From New York!' That was a favor he did for us because during rehearsal some of our crowd — bused-in slamdancers — tripped over a cable or something, and the union people didn't want any dancers. So as a trade-off, he went up to Grant Tinker's office for us and said, 'I'll make an appearance on the show if the dancers stay.' John was such a generous guy". []

Cherokee Studios was a regular haunt for the original Blues Brothers back in the early days of the band. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd became fixtures at the recording studio, while fellow Blues Brother and legendary guitar player Steve Cropper called Cherokee his producing home. Whenever they needed a bass player, they were joined by another Blues Brother, Donald "Duck" Dunn. During this time, Cropper along with producing partner and Cherokee owner Bruce Robb (producer) worked on a number of music projects with the two comedian/musicians, including Belushi's favorite band Fear and later Aykroyd's movie "Dragnet." Surely the real entertainment is what happened in between projects, about which nobody seems willing to comment. "What can I say? John was excessively talented, and I guess you could say he sort of lived life 'excessively.' I think what happened to John had a sobering effect on a lot of people, me included," said music producer Bruce Robb (producer).

The Blues Brothers

Since the early-mid 1990s, The Blues Brothers band has re-united, and played on. They are sometimes joined by Dan Aykroyd on vocals, other times by various sound alike singers. The members had many recording sessions at the famous Cherokee Studios with Bruce Robb (producer) and Steve Cropper. John's brother James Belushi toured with the band for a short time, and even recorded the album "Blues Brothers & Friends: LIVE! From Chicago's H.O.B" with Dan Aykroyd but he did not appear in "Blues Brothers 2000" (1998). It's rumored he was approached to play not the role of Mighty Mack (played by John Goodman) but the role of the local Sheriff Chamberlain (the part played by Joe Morton). Jim would later reunite with Aykroyd to record yet another album, not as the Blues Brothers but as themselves: 'BELUSHI/AYKROYD -"Have Love Will Travel (Big Men-Big Music)"'.


Belushi often played comically intense, volatile, obnoxious and sloppy characters, and was known for his expressive eyes and the solitary raised eyebrow. His most memorable and well-known trademark is that he would raise one eyebrow for comic effect.

On "Saturday Night Live", he often did a running act during Weekend Update in which he played a news anchor who would give an editorial commentary that starts calmly, but increases in emotional intensity until he is finally screaming and flailing around like a maniac. During these emotional rants, fellow news anchor Jane Curtin would ask him to calm down and stay on topic, but this would only make him angrier. He would snap back at her attempts by saying things like "Just shut up, anchorperson, okay?" or make a fist and say "Don't push me, Curtin! I MEAN IT!!" He would give speeches about the way things "could" have been, "should" have been, and then turns it on its ear by saying, "Buuuut NOOOOOOOOOO!!!" continuing on how horrid things had turned out instead.

Personal life

The "College" sweatshirt Belushi wore in National Lampoon's Animal House was purchased in Carbondale, when his brother, Jim, was a student at Southern Illinois University. [ [ :: - Southern Illinois' Homepage ::] ]

According to writer/actor Tim Kazurinsky in the book "Live From New York", mentor and close friend Belushi was instrumental in getting fellow Second City alumni Kazurinsky onto "Saturday Night Live" in 1981. But during his run on the show, Kazurinsky became very stressed out by its demands (Dick Ebersol was now the executive producer and the show was very unlike the hedonistic manner in which Lorne Michaels produced it when Belushi was a cast member). He later called Belushi and said that he needed a ride to the airport because he was quitting and moving back to Chicago. Belushi and his wife picked him up but refused to bring him to the airport, at which Belushi told Kazurinsky that the show's atmosphere can get bad, but that he still had access to major broadcasting airwaves. Instead, Belushi took the performer to a psychiatrist whom he saw for a year, while staying with the show during his run.

Belushi was friends with fellow "SNL" player Dan Aykroyd, whom Belushi recruited for "SNL". They met in a Toronto speakeasy called The 505 that Aykroyd frequented, and immediately hit it off. It was John Belushi, who discovered the band Fear and brought them to Cherokee Studios to record songs for the soundtrack of a major motion picture he and Dan Aykroyd were starring in called, "Neighbors." Music producing partners Steve Cropper and Bruce Robb (producer) remember recording the memorable band's music, but nobody knows exactly what happened with the final soundtrack which was ultimately replaced in the film by very traditional movie score.


On March 5, 1982, Belushi was found dead in his room at Bungalow #3 of the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. [cite news |title=John Belushi, Manic Comic of TV and Films Dies. |url= |quote=John Belushi, the manic, rotund comedian whose outrageous antics and spastic impersonations on the "Saturday Night Live" television show propelled him to stardom in the 1970's, was found dead yesterday in a rented bungalow in Hollywood, where he had launched a film career in recent years. The 33-year-old actor ... |publisher=New York Times |accessdate=2007-09-25] The cause of death was a speedball, an injection of cocaine and heroin. On the night of his death, he was visited separately by friends Robin Williams (at the height of his own drug exploits) and Robert De Niro, [ [ John Belushi Dies at the Chateau Marmont] ] each of whom left the premises, leaving Belushi in the company of assorted others, including Cathy Smith. His death was investigated by forensic pathologist Dr. Ryan Norris among others, and while the findings were disputed, it was officially ruled a drug-related accident.

The case was reopened two months later, when Smith, a former groupie for The Band, and a former friend of hers admitted in an interview with the "National Enquirer" that she had been with Belushi the night of his death and had given him the fatal speedball shot. After the appearance of the article "I Killed Belushi" in the Enquirer edition of June 29, 1982, the case was reopened. Smith was extradited from Toronto, arrested and charged with first-degree murder. A plea bargain arrangement reduced the charges to involuntary manslaughter, and she served 18 months in prison.

One of his last TV appearances, for the comedy series "Police Squad!", as a favor to friend Tino Insana, a writer on the program, Belushi was filmed, face down in a swimming pool, dead. The footage was part of a running gag where the episodes' guest-star wouldn't make it past the opening credit sequence without meeting some gruesome end. Also, as noted in one of the commentary tracks on the DVD, John nearly drowned during the filming of the scene.


Belushi and his friend Dan Aykroyd were slated to present the first ever Visual Effects Award at the Academy Awards in 1982, but John died a few weeks prior to the event. Though devastated by John's death, Aykroyd presented the award alone, commenting on the stage "My partner would have loved to have been here to present this award, given that he was something of a visual effect himself."


John Belushi's life is detailed in the 1985 biography "" by Bob Woodward. Many friends and relatives of Belushi, including his wife Judy, Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, agreed to be interviewed at length for the book, but later felt the final product was exploitative and not representative of the John Belushi they knew. The book was later adapted into a feature film in which Belushi was played by Michael Chiklis. Belushi's friends and family boycotted the film, which proved to be critical and caused the movie to be a box-office flop.

Belushi is interred in Abel's Hill Cemetery on Martha's Vineyard Chilmark, Massachusetts. His tombstone reads "I may be gone, but Rock and Roll lives on." His gravestone is not above his body. It was moved after operators of the cemetery had found many signs of vandalism and rowdiness where his body lies. Belushi was portrayed by actors Eric Siegel in "Gilda Radner: It's Always Something", Tyler Labine in "Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy" (which also features his friendship with Robin Williams), and Michael Chiklis in "Wired".

His widow later remarried and is now Judith Belushi Pisano. Her biography (with co-biographer Tanner Colby) of John, "" is a collection of first-person interviews and photographs, and was published in 2005.

The James Taylor song That's Why I'm Here honored Belushi and Taylor's feelings on his death.

On April Fools' Day 2004, 22 years after his death, Belushi was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, after a ten-year lobby by James Belushi and Judith Belushi Pisano. Among those present at the ceremony were Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, and Tom Arnold.

In the 1995 film Hackers, the character Cereal Killer is seen selling a mixtape compilation which includes John Belushi's music in addition to Mama Cass and Jimi Hendrix.

In 2006, Discovery Channel aired the "John Belushi" episode of "Final 24", a documentary following Belushi in the last 24 hours leading to his death.


* "" (1975) (voice) (1979 American dubbed version)
* "Animal House" (1978)
* "" (1978)
* "Goin' South" (1978)
* "Old Boyfriends" (1979)
* "1941" (1979)
* "The Blues Brothers" (1980)
* "Continental Divide" (1981)
* "Neighbors" (1981)

Recurring characters on SNL

* Samurai Futaba
* Captain Ned, one of Miles Cowperthwaite's cronies
* 'Joliet' Jake Blues, from the Blues Brothers
* Jeff Widette, from the Widettes
* Kevin (from "The Mall" sketches)
* Kuldorth (from "The Coneheads")
* Larry Farber (one half of the Farber couple [the wife, Bobbi, was played by Gilda Radner] )
* Lowell Brock, from the H&L Brock commercials
* Matt Cooper, from the Land Shark sketches
* Pete, from the Olympia Cafe
* Steve Beshekas (who was in real life a good friend of Belushi's since childhood)
* Frank Leary, one of St. Mickey's Knights of Columbus

Celebrity impersonations on SNL

* Al Hirt
* Babe Ruth
* Bert Lance
* Cesar Romero
* Dino De Laurentiis
* Ed Ames
* Ed Asner
* Elizabeth Taylor
* Elvis Presley
* Franklin Roosevelt
* Fred Silverman
* George Wallace
* Henry Kissinger
* Hermann Goering
* Jack Kerouac
* Jawaharlal Nehru
* Jimmy Hoffa
* Joe Cocker
* John Lennon
* Leonid Brezhnev
* Ludwig van Beethoven
* Marlon Brando
* Menachim Begin
* Richard Daley
* Robert Blake
* Roy Orbison
* Sam Peckinpah
* Sanjay Gandhi
* Steve Rubell
* Sun Myung Moon
* The Incredible Hulk
* Tip O'Neill
* Truman Capote
* William Shatner/Capt. James T. Kirk
* Woody Hayes
* Yasser Arafat


External links

* [ Interview (MP3) with biographer Tanner Colby and Judith Belushi Pisano] on the public radio program "The Sound of Young America" regarding their book, "Belushi". Includes clips from Belushi's work on "The National Lampoon Radio Hour".
* [ Belushi: A Biography] , official website for the book
* [ EG Blues Brothers] , featuring screencaps from John's films
* [ John Belushi Cult Turns 25, The Conservative Voice]
* [ Maxim Rated Top SNL performer]
* [] , John Belushi Tribute Page
* [ Bartcop Entertainment: The Life and Death of Captain Preemo (alternative theory of John Belushi's death)]
* [ Noble Rot] the "lost" screenplay of Novello and Belushi

NAME = Belushi, John
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Belushi, John Adam
SHORT DESCRIPTION = American actor, comedian
DATE OF BIRTH = January 24, 1949
PLACE OF BIRTH = Chicago, Illinois, United States
DATE OF DEATH = March 5, 1982
PLACE OF DEATH = Los Angeles, California, United States

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