Page 2 Staff
Fortunate enough to bump into and hang out with Jim Belushi at Augusta's Café du Teau during Masters week, Page 2's Brian Murphy was asked by a pal: "What's it like to hang out with Jim Belushi?" The answer: "It's exactly like hanging out with Jim Belushi."
Born of the great Chicago comedic tradition that produced both the Murray brothers and the Belushi brothers, Jim is warm, friendly and entirely unpretentious - a lot like his brawny and receptive hometown in the Midwest. Belushi remains in awe of his late older brother, John, and formed a blues band that he freely admits is a knock-off of his brother's old Blues Brothers band. But Jim is a formidable comic mind in his own right, as any fan of " ... About Last Night,", or Belushi's underrated work on Saturday Night Live (who could forget the high-school chess coach?) can attest.
On Sunday night, Belushi will appear on ESPN's telecast of the Cubs-Yankees game.
ESPN.com caught up with him at his L.A. home for Ten Burning Questions:
Belushi: Cubs. Cub fans are delusional. Sox fans are cynical, angry and bitter. That's it. Bottom line. You want to know the truth why I root for the Cubs? It goes back to when I was a Cub Scout. See, they were really smart at Wrigley. They'd invite all the Cub Scouts, and Jack Brickhouse had a list, and he'd say, "Well, it's a great day at Wrigley when Den 10 from Wheaton, Illinois comes to the see the Cubs play." And when we got back home, we were stars. I was seven years old, and it was 'The Cubs are it.'
2. Staying on that theme: Wrigley or Comiskey? It sounds like a joke question; but a Chicago pal of mine, a Sox fan, calls Wrigley the "world's largest outdoor gay cocktail party."
Belushi: Wrigley. See, that's obviously from a cynical Sox fan. There's nothing wrong with Comiskey, it's just ... new. I liked the old Comiskey. We actually filmed "Red Heat" in the old Comiskey. I like old stadiums. They just smell of baseball. They at least have better food at the new Comiskey.
And the recent fan violence at Comiskey? Does that detract from its atmosphere?
Belushi: See, the question I have to ask is: Was the call a bad call?
There was no good or bad call!
Belushi: What? There was no call? Well, it's Chicago. Hey, at least they're not throwing bottles like the scaredy-cats in Cleveland. If we have something to say in Chicago, we'll say it in your face. That's commitment.
Belushi: Well, the men's league is really serious. Co-eds is all about getting laid.
Looking to get laid? Play co-ed softball.
I was looking to get laid, and that's why I joined the drama club in high school. There were 18 girls and four guys, and three of them were a little dicey, if you know what I mean. So I did very well. In "About Last Night," they were out to get laid.
4. Who wins the Comedy Showdown, or represents Chicago comedy the best: The Belushi Brothers or the Murray Brothers?
Belushi: The king of comedy was John Belushi. Period. That's it. That's it. Knockout. It's really all John. It's not even me. I just go on his coattails.
John liked Billy (Murray) a lot, but John was the one who broke all the new barriers of comedy. He changed the face of comedy in the Second City, from political satire to political and social satire. This went to National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, "Animal House" -- all those things were firsts in comedy for this generation. That's why he was the king.
He was our leader.
He led us all down the path.
Belushi: Nationally, it was Jordan. But in Chicago, it was Ditka. In Chicago, Ditka is king. The thing about Michael is, he's everybody's ballplayer. We couldn't keep him as just Chicago's. But Ditka is ours. Like Gale Sayers was ours. And like Dick Butkus was ours. But everybody owned Michael. Everybody wanted to see Michael. And every time he played anywhere, it sold out because they loved Michael. But Ditka ... he did my show one day. He walked on to that set, and I was just in awe. He's got hands the size of my head. He made my hand look like a poodle's paw. And I'm a big guy. He's so damn funny.
So the '86 Super Bowl was a seminal thing for you?
Belushi:Oh, it's my favorite thing of all time. I remember every moment of that Super Bowl. I sat in that damn stadium, and it was the greatest day of my life. My whole life changed in '86. I did "About Last Night," I got a divorce, I moved to L.A. My whole world changed with the Bears winning the Super Bowl. I got tickets because my mother-in-law at the time, her father was instrumental in building Soldier Field, so they had 50-yard-line season seats. I'm going to tell you how good those season seats were: I sat next to Gale Sayers all year. So they had a little pull. That's the only reason I married the girl. At the Super Bowl, a New England fan sat next to me and we made side bets every five minutes. I won every won of them. It was a flawless day. It was slaughter. It was one of the best.
6. You played a temperamental high school chess coach in a memorable "SNL" skit. Did you channel Bobby Knight, study his video?
Belushi: I AB-SO-LUTE-LY studied Bobby Knight's movements. Absolutely. I wasn't doing an imitation, but I was definitely inspired by him. The pacing, the screaming. (He lapses into the bit) "Why don't you just give him the pawn? . . . The horsie thing! The horsie thing!" (stops doing bit).
You said in Augusta that Rob Reiner, a writer on SNL, never talked to you, except after that bit aired?
7. You worked with Eddie Murphy on "SNL." In his epic, early days, was he about the best pure comedic mind you've ever worked with?
Belushi: (Dan) Ackroyd was the best comic mind of alltime. John was the funniest. But for comic mind, I would say Danny Ackroyd. Eddie, I love Eddie. He makes me laugh really hard. Did you ever see (Murphy's SNL skit) "White Like Me?" I loved it. At that time, I was doing a White Guy Rap that I wanted to do with Eddie, but he said: "Ahhh, I can't do it this week. I'm doing 'White Like Me.' That's too many white-guy things for a black guy to do in one week." Bill Murray made the most original choices I've ever seen. I don't know what it is about Billy, he's just so original and fresh.
8. You worked with Joe Piscopo. Why did his "SNL" promise never translate to future comedic success?
Belushi: Joe did a lot of prosthetic work on "SNL." And you don't do that on film. He would do prosthetics and change his face and his hair and who he was. If you look at the original "SNL" days, John and Danny were doing Nixon and Kissinger, but you knew it was John and Danny. It was a "suggestion." It's called wearing your character like a straw hat. You always saw John and Danny. With Joe, and some others later, you really saw just a representation of a character. So you don't get to fall in love with the guy. You fall in love with the impression. I played Hulk Hogan one time, and I had all that makeup on: Plastic over my head and wigs and a nose change. I walked out and the audience screamed, and yet I hadn't done a thing as an actor. What was getting the laugh was the prosthetics, so it made me a lazy actor. It happened to Joe.
Belushi: Well, I like to think so. I don't think my wife likes it, but I like to think so. I just power through gigs. That day, I got up at 4:30 a.m. and drove to Columbia, S.C., an hour-and-10-minute drive. I waited for a plane for an hour, flew from Columbia to Charlotte. Flew from Charlotte to San Francisco, transferred terminals in San Francisco to fly to Reno, and then an hour-and-15-minute drive to Tahoe. I got there about 2:30 p.m., with a gig at 8 p.m. I took a steam, a nap and came alive for an hour and a half. We open with "Sweet home Chicago," an old Robert Johnson song and a big Chicago tune. I play harmonica and sing. We had a great show that night.
10. What's with the Belushi family and the blues? Was it always a connection?
Belushi: It's all Danny Ackroyd. John was a heavy metal guy. He was partially deaf, I think. He was into, like, the Dead Kennedys and 2,000 Pound Killer Bee -- really loud, headbanger music. And Danny turned him on to the blues on "SNL." That's where he came up with the blues. Being an obsessed person, John dove into the blues. And they both influenced me. It wasn't Chicago, at all. It was Danny from Toronto. Although John and I were listening to Clapton, we had no idea that he was playing old blues songs. Now? Oh, man, I live for it. I listen to it over and over and over. Junior Wells, Delbert McClinton, Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Willie Dixon . . .
I didn't want to be the guy to ask this, but it seems unavoidable so ... is she a pro?
Belushi: At this point, we still don't know. But I'll tell you what: She knew all the pro moves.