Affectionately known as "America's Guest", John Adam Belushi (January 24, 1949 — March 5, 1982) was a Chicago-born actor and comedian of Albanian descent. He rose to fame in 1971, after joining the Second City comedy troupe, where he became well known for his impersonations of Joe Cocker, resulting in his being cast in National Lampoon's Lemmings, a parody of Woodstock. It was while he was with the National Lampoon that John would meet fellow future Saturday Night Live regulars such as Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, and Brian Doyle-Murray. His high school sweetheart Judith Jacklin, whom he later married, also worked for National Lampoon — and, as a fun fact, can be seen dancing with him in Animal House, which he starred in.
In 1975, John Belushi was accepted into Saturday Night Live, alongside Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, and Garrett Morris. (In fact, Belushi was the first Not Ready For Prime-Time Player to appear in the show, as part of the first episode's first sketch.) From here, he went on to work with Dan Aykroyd on a film based off their already highly successful musical act and band, The Blues Brothers, which gained cult status, and a gross revenue of $115,229,890. John and Dan worked together in two other movies, 1941, and Neighbors.
Belushi is hailed as a benevolent figure, often lending a helping hand to any who needed it. This ranged from aiding his little brother, James Belushi, in getting started in comedy, through to helping friends setting up businesses, and delivering an epiphany speech to Tim Kazurinsky (a cast member during Dick Ebersol's era who often felt frustrated and underused about being on the show due to the Spotlight-Stealing Squad that was Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo) and assisting him in getting help when the stress of working at Saturday Night Live became too much. He is also credited with choosing music for The Blues Brothers because he thought the original artists could do with the royalties.
Unfortunately, he didn't survive the lifestyle of the entertainment industry. Belushi was very into drugs during his career, and it was very severe to the point that it kept negatively impacting his career and his life. Tim Matheson, who co-starred with Belushi in Animal House, stated that he believed that Belushi actually got introduced to drugs as a result of being exposed to the music industry, which was very drug-heavy at the time, on a regular basis due to frequently dealing with the music industry while both shooting The Blues Brothers and performing on Saturday Night Live. Belushi eventually passed away on March 5 1982, following the administration of a cocaine-heroin mix known as a "speedball" (making that famous SNL short film about John Belushi being the last cast member to die and visiting the graves of his former cast members very cringeworthy to modern sensesnote ). Former singer Cathy Smith later came forward, and was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Belushi's legacy lives on, however. He has since been awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Aykroyd also affectionately refers to Slimer in Ghostbusters (1984) as, "the ghost of John Belushi". note Further, John's work still draws audiences and provides an influence to young and upcoming comedy talent such as Danny McBride.
Some of the films he appeared in includes:
- Tarzoon Shame Of The Jungle (1975). Voice actor.
- The Beach Boys: It's OK (1976).
- The Richard Pryor Special (1977).
- The Rutles: All You Need is Cash (1978).
- Animal House (1978).
- Goin' South (1978).
- Things We Did Last Summer (1978).
- Grateful Dead: The Closing of Winterland (1978).
- Old Boyfriends (1979).
- 1941 (1979).
- The Blues Brothers (1980).
- Continental Divide (1981).
- Neighbors (1981).
This Actor Provides Tropes of:
- Acrofatic: Chubby guy, but he could really dance and he could engage well in physical comedy too, such as his Joe Cocker impersonation and the "Little Chocolate Donuts" sketch. He was also captain of his football team in high school.
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: He had thick but very expressive eyebrows which helped make his performance as Bluto a masterclass in silent comic acting.
- Biopic: As of 2014, he has been the only SNL castmember to be the basis of a biopic, the 1988 film Wired that was based on Bob Woodward's 1984 tell-all biography and starred Michael Chiklis. It was lambasted as a hatchet job by just about everyone who knew him, many of whom refused to let their names be used. Chiklis would later blame the film for derailing his career until The Commish pulled it back into place.
- One of the very few people who did allow his name to be used was Dan Aykroyd, who was so offended at the movie's portrayal of Belushi as nothing more than a strung-out addict that he blacklisted everyone who appeared in the film. When Aykroyd learned that J.T. Walsh (who played Woodward) was involved with the 1990 production of Loose Cannons, he had him thrown out. (Ironically, not participating in the project probably helped Walsh in the long run, since Loose Cannons bombed hard and currently holds a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.) Aykroyd did, however, eventually patch things up with Chiklis, who hated the film as well.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Dan Aykroyd.
- Large Ham: He was a very energetic performer.
- Nice Guy: He was apparently very benevolent and generous.
- Platonic Life-Partners: Gilda Radner initially, while Laraine Newman would become a second one during his SNL years.
- Please Don't Leave Me: Cruelly subverted, as the one who was with him the night before his death left the bungalow he was in.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The red to Dan Aykroyd's blue, most of the time.
- Sad Clown: He started doing drugs because being as funny as he was got exhausting.
- Vitriolic Best Buds / We Used to Be Friends: He's had this with both Chevy Chase and Jane Curtin.
- It's invoked with Chevy and he has been pretty remorseful on the subject of John, but...