My fraternity house at Florida State University wasn’t radically different than any other fraternity, sorority, or campus dorm room in the late 1970’s. Just like other residences and pubs at 11:30pm on Saturday nights, our keggers and disco would wind down and revelers would wind up in front of television sets to catch the irreverent antics by the cast of Saturday Night Live.
And the raunchiest of this energetic crew was John Belushi. His brilliant characterizations of Samurai Futuba, Pete from the Olympia Café and side-splitting impressions of Ludwig van Beethoven and Joe Cocker showcased his raw comic brilliance . . . and we couldn’t get enough. Finally at 1:00am when the show signed off, the music would sign back on, the party and laughter would continue, only this time punctuated by the sound of Donna Summer, Styx and Supertramp.
Sadly, in 1982 John Belushi’s spark was extinguished just before my graduation and I found myself facing “the real world” without my comedy hero who was my touchstone for laughter and helped me forget my troubles, but never does one door close without opening a window.
I went out into that cruel, cold world in 1983, fresh-faced with diploma in hand, and newly married. Suddenly, those new windows began to open in my life. A new job, a new baby and in no time discovered another comedy hero also named Belushi. John’s younger brother, Jim Belushi, joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1983 and never looked back, and neither did I. Yes, still up on Saturday nights, perched in front of the TV with a bottle in my hand, now filled with baby formula and the rocking of my laughter gently drifted my beautiful daughter, Patsy, to sleep.
Jim’s style was his own, not John’s, but one of pure genius for improv, sketch and stand-up which earned him superstar status in his own right. This versatile actor, singer, comedian and musician is widely known for playing James “Jim” Orenthal in his successful television series According to Jim, but I’ll always think of him as the comedian who helped me find my smile and a new chapter in my life. A favorite of film, television and stage audiences, Belushi is one of the great leading character actors equally at home in drama and comedy, and a gifted performer who can also hold a room as front man of a rhythm and blues band.
Fast forward more than thirty years to the Grand Theatre today, where Jim Belushi is bringing an improv comedy sketch show to the stage featuring members of the Board of Comedy. Accompanying Belushi are Megan Grano, Larry Joe Campbell, Joshua Funk, Brad Morris and Trey Stone, all of whom are classically trained professional improvisers who tour regularly nationwide.
“We are not stand-up comedians. Our show is not a passive, sitback-and-watch experience. Most of the fun we have on stage comes from our inclusion of the audience – we get suggestions from them to begin each scene we perform, and in certain instances, bring them on-stage with us to add to our performance. It’s less a ‘show’ and more a party. At least it feels like one to me. This group of actors brings me right back to how I started out in comedy maybe that’s why we have so much fun doing it.” – Jim Belushi