Waxing Nostalgic Over Classic TV

Monday, November 3, 2008

John Belushi: What Might Have Been

When Saturday Night Live debuted in 1975, a daring new kind of comedy was introduced to Americans, and they ate it up. The star of those early SNL years turned out to be John Belushi, a wild, manic, comedic genius.

Belushi started out with the highly popular Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, and then landed a role in the stage production of National Lampoon's Lemmings. Lorne Michaels was putting SNL together and was encouraged to hire Belushi, even though Belushi made it clear that he thought television was "shit."

For me, watching Belushi create so many memorable characters on SNL ("The Samurai" was my favorite) was a revelation, in that it showed that comedy didn't have to be presented within narrow borders. It could be revolutionary. The fact that parents everywhere didn't get it made it even better.

Belushi's manic TV persona was matched by his manic personal life, and he burned out much too young at the age of 33. You have to wonder how far he would have gone had he lived; how many more characters were lurking inside his head.

Above is the historical first audition tape that Belushi did for Saturday Night Live.

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