Jim Belushi Recalls Fighting to Keep Sitcom Family Friendly
As an “Saturday Night Live” performer himself, then a movie star and eventually the lead on “According to Jim,” he has proven himself to be one of America’s best-loved funnymen.
Appearing recently on the podcast “Grown-Ass Men” on the podcast site www.radiotitans.com, Belushi shared his extensive thoughts on Tupac Shakur, as well as amazing stories about his late brother, “SNL” and “According to JIm” – all of which can be heard by tuning into the episode here: http://po.st/wgebcL
ON ATTENDING THE ‘SNL 40’ ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL:
It was great because there was no award being given. It wasn’t an awards show, so it was just fun. People seeing each other who hadn’t in a long time. I met Emma Stone. I sang with Paul McCartney at the party. Taylor Swift got up and we sang: me, Danny [Aykroyd], Taylor Swift, and Paul McCartney—a Beatle! And he was like “What key do you sing this song in, Jim?” And then Prince got up at the end and closed the night. The food was great. And Emma Stone! Standing there. And they know me!
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH ‘GANG RELATED’ CO-STAR TUPAC SHAKUR:
He was a poet. It wasn’t like “me and my microphone and dick” type [expletive]. He was saying [stuff], really meaningful [stuff]. I [expletive] love his music. He’s a musician, and I’m a musician too, so what’s interesting was there was not a lot of dialog about what we were gonna do in a scene.
So what would happen was we’d start the scene and, like a musician, I would take the lead energy and rhythm in a scene. And he was like, whew, right underneath it like a bass player. Just right in the pocket. Then in the next take I’d start low, and he’d come right above me with his energy and his rhythm. So the second take would be a little different rhythm. We jammed. We were musical in those scenes, it was so natural to be with him.
He was lovely, funny, sweet as can be. He’s a serious actor. He was a really serious actor. He was mentoring a couple kids who would come down. Always had his lines. I turned him onto Frank Sinatra. I brought the “Golden Years” disc over and was like, “what do you mean you don’t know Frank Sinatra?!” He really loved “Fly Me To The Moon,” so on set we were trying to do “Fly Me to the Moon” and work in some rap into it. Seeing how we could blend it. Then at the end of the day he said,“You know what, that is just so melodic the way he sings that, you cant interrupt that song.” He was a great artist and a great man and really lovely to me and REALLY lovely to those two kids he was taking care of. There were no drugs, no drinking, no girls, no nothing. It was all about the work. That’s why, whatever that image is about him as an artist, he was fully committed. We had a ball, man. We had a ball.
ON FOLLOWING IN BROTHER JOHN BELUSHI’S FOOTSTEPS:
Yeah, well I’ve been very fortunate. My brother John was a big, big, big deal. He made this international name and I’ve been riding his coattails ever since. And I’ve been doing great with it. I’ve been having a great career and a great life and I’m always grateful to him for opening the door for me. I always look at it like, being in his shadow. But think about what a shadow is, the metaphor of it—it’s shade. I’m in the cool of the day.
No, it was a double-edged sword, really. As an unknown person walking into a room or an audition or a meeting, you have an opportunity to create an image for them to judge. You can be a serial killer, who knows, but you’ve got that five minutes to create an image. For me, having the Belushi name opened those doors to the rooms I could walk into. But the image of me had such a huge overlay because of John that I had to work double and in five minutes break that image and create my own and get cast. It was a real challenge to get gigs, because it almost…John was so big that it kinda crushed you. I just had to dig down like a tackle in football and push through the hole. So, it worked both ways.
ON WHY ‘ACCORDING TO JIM’ LASTED NINE SEASONS:
The biggest struggle I had on that show was keeping it a family comedy. You know, the context of that show was very simple: A father and his nine year old daughter should be able to sit on a couch, watch that show, and neither one of them should feel uncomfortable. That’s the level of writing. So you can’t go to big sexual jokes—insertion jokes, gay jokes. What happened was [the writers] kinda pushed the envelope and I used to say, “Look guys, that’s ‘Two And A Half Men.” Go over there and write all the [expletive] jokes you want but this is still a family show. It sells to the Midwest, it sells to the Northeast. I do a lot of [expletive] jokes with “Board of Comedy.” There’s a lot of great sex jokes in that ‘cause it’s done at nightclubs.
ON KNOWING ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, HIS “RED HEAT” COSTAR, WAS DESTINED TO BE A POLITICAL STAR:
One of the most intelligent men I’ve ever met in my entire life. I think he did know. Because one time I sat in his trailer with him eating ice cream and we weren’t even talking about politics but I walked out of there thinking, “This guy’s gonna be a governor, or a senator or something one day.” I think he was already pre-programming me. [Laughs] Like the Terminator, he put the seed in everybody so that when he started doing it, it was like “Of course!”
ON THE KEY TO HIS MAKING IT AND HOW TO SUCCEED IN SHOW BIZ:
I was telling my daughter the other day: You gotta commit. You gotta submit to a commitment and anything that takes you off that path, you have to walk by. If you are focused on what you want and walk past the things that distract you, you’re gonna get there. And I mean, I’ve missed weddings, I’ve postponed two of my weddings for work! I made the births. We wrapped at 10:45 on ‘According To Jim’ and made it to the hospital, and my son was born at 11:41. I just made it.
Nothing can get in your way, including, by the way, drugs, alcohol, women, gambling. Any of those things you use to distract yourself from purpose, purpose, commitment, commitment. From 16-23 I just wanted to be at Second City and everything I did supported that. I started my own improv groups at school, I observed human behavior constantly. I read the paper. I was constantly practicing in my head, in my mind. When I walked in for that audition, they put me right in. I went from there…and it helped to have John’s name. Thank you John, you did good!” [Laughs.]
Tune into “Grown-Ass Men” live each Friday from 10 am-noon PST on www.radiotitans.com, where you can find hundreds of other star interviews across the Radio Titans network.