Belushi, the ultimate documentary on a genius, in comedy and beyond…
A few weeks ago, we watched the documentary directed by R.J. Cutler about the life and death of the American comedian John Belushi and the truth is we loved it.
It’s available on Movistar+ and it shows the softer side of this comedy genius who was an icon on the legendary TV programme “Saturday Night Live”, 50% of the Blues Brothers together with his inseparable friend Dan Aykroyd and the unmistakable star of “Animal House”, that became the highest-grossing comedy of all time.
John Belushi was born in a modest family of Albanese immigrants and knew, from a very young age, that he not only would not take on his father’s restaurant to earn a living but that comedy was his thing. He had a natural talent for making people laugh and an advanced wit that he polished until he became one of the best comedians in the US. As if this wasn’t enough, Belushi was also a magnet for attracting people and becoming the centre of attention thanks to his great charisma, as well as a number of other skills such as his gift for playing football, for singing, for playing the drums and for impersonating a thousand and one different characters. All this becomes apparent through the archive images and the sound pieces from his relatives, companions and friends such as Dan Aykroyd, Carrie Fisher and Harold Ramis, and the letters from his widow and the love of his life, Judith Belushi-Pisano, that as well as adding context to his life, move the viewer and help us to understand how this artist came to be.
“One of the most lovable and tragic characters I ever met. He could be totally kind, thoughtful and generous, but also chaotic and tortured.” Tom Schiller
It all began on Saturday Night Live…
Belushi’s debut on SNL was good but not as he himself had hoped as he felt that Chevy Chase eclipsed him and he was relegated to the role of a bee, where he was unable to show his skill for comedy.
This really frustrated him and brought out his rebellious temperament in a confrontation with Lorne Michaels, the creator of the programme. Even so, when Chevy Chase left the programme, he took the centre stage and proved he was the “King”, giving us delirious and fun moments.
One of a Kind
The documentary is also a reminder of his art and allows us to revisit new sketches and outrageous impersonations such as those of Joe Cocker, or the Samurai ones or the cheeseburger seller, inspired by his own father. Belushi was unique.
Animated sequences and effects
Another aspect of the documentary that we like the most is how the testimonials are shown through Stefan Nadelman’s effects and Robert Valli’s evocative animated sequences, that help us to understand what Belushi was like as a child, his difficult relationship with his parents, his hopes for his life and how he related to himself, together with Bill Hader’s voice interpreting Belushi at times.
“He was part of the most popular TV show, of the most successful comedy film ever made and he was on stage with an amazing music band. My first thought was how great for him. My second thought was I don’t think he’ll survive this.” Harold Ramis
Aykroyd was his “Sancho Panza” and he remained Belushi’s most loyal friend until his tragic end. However, Aykroyd regretted not being with his friend when the tragedy occurred, as he was working on the script for “Ghostbusters” at that time, for which he not only counted on Belushi but also felt that it would bring him back the success he had lost, at least in Hollywood.
Drugs: his grave
Belushi was a cocaine and heroin addict and an alcoholic practically from the beginning of his time on SNL and he felt incapable of fighting drugs. His wife and loved ones tried to drag him out the self-destructive spiral on different occasions but it was not possible and in March 1982, at only 33, he died of a Speedball overdose in his suite at the Chateau Marmont having been out on the town with Robert de Niro and Robin Williams.
“I don’t like myself and I don’t trust people who like me.” John Belushi
The moving letters he sent Judith Belushi-Pisano made the emptiness and the pain that he felt due to drugs clear, as well as the impotence that he felt regarding his damned addiction.
As you will be able to discover when you see the documentary or read his biography – “Belushi: a biography”(2005) written by Judith Belushi-Pisano – Belushi did everything, and very quickly. Even dying.