Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy
When Jim Belushi was 16, he went to the famed Second City in Chicago to see his brother, John, and Harold Ramis perform with their group. When it was over, he said, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. I want a piece of this.” When he got his own first laugh on that stage, he said that the adrenaline kicked in and he was dizzy. That was it for him; he was hooked on comedy and performing.
Belushi’s craft was honed by stints at Second City and on Saturday Night Live. From Second City, he learned about character comedy, social satire, comic rhythms and doing eight shows a week. Saturday Night Live taught him how to work under pressure and was the most difficult experience of his life. Everything since then, he says, has been easy, except his wife’s driving. The multi-talented artist has performed on Broadway in The Pirates of Penzance and his band opened for the Rolling Stones at Soldier Field in Chicago. For eight years, he starred in the sitcom According to Jim.
The comic is touring with a group of pals that includes Megan Grano, Larry Joe Campbell, Joshua Funk and Trey Stone. Belushi created the show several years ago and has been touring the country with it in between other projects.
“I’m having a ball,” he said. “Every performance is different and unique. Plus these improvisational actors on stage with me are geniuses. They crack me up every night. I’m just chasing the magic. Everyone, including the audience, is fully engaged and participating, and when there’s success in the scenes, there’s nothing like it. It feels safe when you’re up there with an ensemble as your safety net. What’s great about this show is that it reunites me with Larry Joe Campbell (from According to Jim). He’s the best partner I’ve ever had in my career. The problem with improv is that it’s life or death. You either come off the stage going ‘I’m going back to being an apprentice printer because I’m terrible or you come off going, ‘I am God. I am a gift to all.’ And that’s the best part!”
In addition to Campbell, the cast includes Megan Grano, a Second City alum who has appeared in television in Weeds, Parks and Recreation and Hot in Cleveland, and in movies including Bridesmaids and This is 40. She has been a staff writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live. Joshua Funk is an award-winning director and Second City alum. He has appeared in Key and Peele, Reno 911 and Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant. When he is not acting, he composes and produces the original music for Comedy Central’s Key and Peele. He is artistic director for Second City Hollywood. Trey Stone began as a jazz pianist in Chicago and became musical director for Second City, where he remained for 15 years. He records and tours with his band, Trey Stone and the Ringers.
For Belushi, it’s all about catching lightning in a bottle and creating magic.
“We have no idea what we’re going to do,” he said. “We do about nine improvisational games. We take suggestions from the audience and we make stuff up on the spot. You’re a participant in the audience. We are as good as the audience’s suggestions. When we have a good audience, it’s a great show and we capture some magic that people will remember for a long time.”