Three-time alum of The Second City Mainstage
Original cast member of Saturday Night Live
Formed The Blues Brother with Dan Aykroyd
Comedy is chock-full of shows and comedians that have been inspired by the style of John Belushi,and his legacy continues to impact the world of comedy today. Belushi became involved in improvisational comedy after he graduated high school, forming the comedy troupe The West Compass Trio. The trio, which also consisted of Tino Insana and Steve Beshakes, would perform “borrowed” Second City material. When the theater caught wind of what was happening, Joyce Sloane and Bernie Sahlins went to investigate. And instead of suing, they hired the 21-year-old.
Belushi joined the Mainstage cast in 1971, where he immediately became a sensation. He appeared in three revues, all of which he acted alongside Joe Flaherty. In No, No, Wilmette, he starred alongside Brian Doyle-Murray, and in 43rd Parallel or McCabre & Ms. Miller, Belushi co-starred with his future National Lampoon collaborator, Harold Ramis.
After The Second City, Belushi was cast in National Lampoon Lemmings, which opened in January, 1973. The show’s cast of actors and writers included Chevy Chase, Christopher Guest, Sean Kelly, Anne Beatts, and Ramis. Belushi was also involved with The National Lampoon
After performing with The Second City, he was cast as a Not Ready for Prime Time Player for the first season of Saturday Night Live. Belushi and the rest of the cast shot to fame. His physical comedy, along with bizarre characters, such as “Samurai Futaba,” garnered him critical acclaim. Impressions he did throughout the show included Henry Kissinger, Elizabeth Taylor, and more, though perhaps the most notable is Joe Cocker. While working on SNL, he starred in Animal House as Bluto, and his career exploded.
Belushi and Dan Aykroyd went on to create The Blues Brothers, releasing three albums (including their debut album, Briefcase Full of Blues) and a movie of the same name. They also starred in 1941 and Neighbors together. In the summer of 1978, Animal House was number one at the box office, Briefcase Full of Blues was the number one album, and Saturday Night Live was the number one late night show on television.
Belushi, the older brother of Jim Belushi, died in 1982 at the age of 33. He was posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004. In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Belushi as the most important cast member in the history of Saturday Night Live.
1971: No, No, Wilmette: Chicago Mainstage
1971-1972: Cum Grano Salis, Chicago Mainstage
1972: 43rd Parallel or McCabre & Ms. Miller, Chicago Mainstage