That time I outquipped John Belushi on stage…and regretted it years later

That time I outquipped John Belushi on stage…and regretted it years later

Back in the day, I was doing community theatre. It was in the early days of Saturday Night Live, and my director was a big fan of John Belushi.

There was a show coming to a local college…as I recall, it was called Stars of Saturday Night Live.

The director asked me if I would bring Belushi a gag gift, knowing that I was comfortable enough to approach a big star like that. It was a coffee can, labeled (unfortunately in hindsight) The John Belushi Memorial Fund.

I hadn’t really watched Saturday Night Live, but I said I’d do it.

People expected that Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner would be there, but it turned out to just be Belushi and one of the writers (that’s how I remember it).

I think people were disappointed by that initially…and Belushi’s performance was not well-received. He yelled at the audience a lot, and one of his bits when heckled was to say, “Do you want to get up here?” He tried to get the audience to sing Let’s Kill Gary Gilmore for Christmas, but it wasn’t happening.

The tone in the audience was ugly.

I had told a security guard that I had the gag gift. Finally, I think he decided it wouldn’t hurt, so he gave it to him (I was standing by the stage at that point). Belushi said to me, “Do you want to get up here?”…and I hopped up on the stage.

I spoke to the audience a bit…I believe Belushi was making funny faces and such behind me.

I finished, and Belushi said, “You’re a real professional, you know?”

I said, “Well, one of us has to be.”

I was kidding, but there was a big “Ooooh!” in the first few rows. I hopped back down.

Belushi went offstage and got a chainsaw. He broke up the lectern (I assume it was a breakaway) and started to saw it up. A piece spun off and stuck in the video screen behind us. I’ve always thought that must have been expensive damage.

As I mentioned, the college offered people refunds, and I heard that many people asked for them.

The newspaper wrote up the show, mentioned my ad lib, referring to me as “One nervy spectator”.

That experience didn’t bother me for myself, but I felt Belushi had been unfair to the audience. I decided I didn’t want to support what he did. I didn’t watch SNL while he was on it.

I ran into a conflict when The Blues Brothers movie came out. I had been at a small event where John Landis and Rick Baker showed Schlock and talked about it. I liked Landis and wanted to support him…and he directed The Blues Brothers.

What I did was wait to see it in a third-run theatre, or thereabouts…I think I paid a dollar admission. I figured the amount that Belushi would get from that would be negligible.

Years later, I regretted how I felt about Belushi then. I realized that his performance may have been affected by substance abuse. I was proud of being snarky (I’m still proud of the line…but not using it in those circumstances), but it would have been better for Belushi to get treatment, not be trolled.

Anyway, this came up today, and I realized I hadn’t told this story online (or at least for sure, not in this blog), so I thought I’d share it.

Why tell it?

More to preserve the history than anything else, I guess. I’m certainly not trying to criticize John Belushi at this point. I’ve watched SNL now, and Belushi did some amazing work. I loved The Blues Brothers as an act. I should mention, I’m a big fan of Dan Aykroyd. That especially goes for the knowledge of and promotion for things that would fall under Bufo’s Weird World. The line on The Coneheads, “Tell them we are from France,” refers back to the 1896-97 Airship flap, where Americans (especially) reported seeing impossible aircraft. Some of them spoke with pilots and passengers…and some said they were from France. Oh, and Ghostbusters? So brilliant!

So, that’s the story of how I outquipped John Belushi…and lived to regret it.

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

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