Thursday, November 08, 2007


It's not just every day you get to see a bona fide legend in the flesh.

So it was pretty much just every day last night when Psychictoad and I attended the "Chicago Treasures" on-stage interview with "popular actor" (as it said on the evening's program) Jim Belushi.

Much to our shock and awe, not only were there more than fifteen people in attendance, but the decent-sized theater inside the Chicago History Museum was very nearly full! Who knew just how many fans of The Belush walk among us? Psychictoad immediately began making demographic notes, guestimating less than 40% of the crowd were holding GEDs. I, on the other hand, decided to focus on the superficial Body/Mass Index, and determined that it was quite possible The Belush was a role model to everyone from the mildly chubby to the morbidly obese.

When Dean Richards, local media reporter for WGN, came onstage and spouted an Inside The Actor's Studio joke, we thought we might be in for something other than mindless ego-stroking of a D-list celebrity. However, this was not to be the case. Richards repeatedly described The Belush as a Chicago Treasure, fawned as he repeatedly made reference to his "breakout" role in About Last Night, and even feigned admiration as Jimmy described his ill-advised courting by Dan Ackroyd to join him as a replacement for his dead brother on the Blues Brothers church festival tour circuit.

And oh did the spectre of The Belushi With The Talent weigh heavily on the evening. Jimmy's repeated mantra that "John was the family hero, so I had no choice but to be the family anti-hero" almost made him sound like he knew what he was talking about; that was, however, until about three quarters of the way through the evening, when suddenly the topic turned to the relatively unknown third Belushi brother. If John was the family hero and Jim was the anti-hero, he declared, what family role was left for the third brother to play? "Well, he could do the gay thing," he said, to riotous homophobic laughter. Yes, the gay-bashing was fast and furious throughout the night, from disparaging talk of his gay brother to the revelation that he feared his wife holding his four and a half year old son for too long would turn him into a "sissy," to his declaration that we always have to follow "our women" as they will lead you to the place in life you need to be, to his vehement protests that the character Andy on According To Jim is NOT gay even tho the writers have written him that way and he was gonna go back and tell them that people in the audience in Chicago think he's supposed to be gay so hopefully they'll stop putting that shit in his show. It was entertaining watching Dean Richards (well-known local supporter of the LGBT community and tireless HIV activist) pretend that he wasn't offended by the turds falling from The Belush's mouth.

However, the most interesting topic of the evening turned out to be the brand-spanking new writer's strike in Hollywood. Jimmy revealed that According To Jim is sitting on five unshot scripts ("more than anybody else in town because our writers are so good") which they're planning on filming during the strike. They can legally shoot them, he said, they just can't revise them at all, and usually by the end of the shooting week he claimed the script changes about 30%. So to solve this creative conundrum, The Belush revealed that he has resigned from the Writer's Guild (a membership he's held for over twenty years) so that he can "use his improv skills" to improve the five unshot episodes.

It's not writing, he claims, it's just "tweaking." So he's not being a "scab," he's just being a "dick."

And when asked for his opinion of the strike, Jimmyboy chose to contextualize it only in terms of the success of the writers on his show, all of whom make enough money to have bought a house, have a kid, maybe have another one on the way, you know, they're doing pretty good already, but they want more. He also described the producers' side of the argument as similar to when people buy a home: you pay other people to build it, and when it's finished you own it, and you don't have to re-pay the people who built it for you if you sell it. Which sounds rational enough, but when you realize that joke writing is hardly as lucrative (or secure) as construction work, it kinda doesn't ring so true, and unless you've paid contractors to build you a gut rehab in a ghetto that suddenly has a rapid turnaround in property value, you're not really selling your house at a massive profit -- you're lucky to get what you paid for with a modest increase for inflation. Whereas Hollywood producers who stick writers' work on DVDs and the internet are reaping schmillions from advertising revenue and giving nothing back to the writers who "built their houses." It's like if you pay a contractor to build you a house, then you wave a magic wand and turn that one house into like a million houses and make a profit on every one of them. Seems fair to me.

The best moment of the evening, however, had to be about ten minutes in, when The Belush busted somebody in the front row for videotaping him. "Is that a video camera? Are you recording this? No no no no no, you can't do that in here. Turn it off. No, turn it off. You can't do that." I really, really hope they don't edit that out of the recording NPR made of the evening.


Blogger Psychictoad said...

Yes, it truly was an evening to remember. We learned so much about movie-making, The Biz and Jim himself. We learned that when acting with dogs you have to be careful of the camera angle because dogs don't wear underwear.

We also learned that, along with his fixation on gay men, Jim has a strange fascination with yachts and has equated eating lunch on a yacht with reaching the uppermost echelon of society. This was repeated many times for those who missed it at first.

But the highlight was that Jim really revealed how unique he is among comedians by hitting material that few other comedians will cover:

1. Airline Humor - "The guy next to me kept getting up to go pee."

2. Gay Men in the Theater - "...and there were like 5 guys there [in the Wheaton High School Drama Club] and 3 of them were questionable..."]

3. Proctology Jokes - Recounting a true story about a friend who, as an older man playing for a community college football team, was asked by all the other younger players to pee for them during their drug tests. When the test results came back the doctor reported, "Well, you all passed the drug test, but we are concerned about your prostates." [at which point Jim gave the universal sign for 'man putting on rubber glove with the intention of inserting gloved hand into a most nefarious orifice']

4. Britney Spears - (This was Dean's crack, but close enough)...Something about TMZ and a hypothetical story of Britney quiting the writer's guild making light of Jim's scab status.

Thanks to Anonymous A for scheduling this event for the two of us.

12:18 PM  
Blogger K. A. Laity said...

Thanks to Anonymous A for scheduling this event for the two of us.

Clearly you two have learned that you "always have to follow '[y]our women' as they will lead you to the place in life you need to be."

An edifying evening...

1:42 PM  
Blogger John Eats said...

I just want it to be known (for future copyright and intellectual property purposes) that I have coined the nickname "Belushbag" (that's what I named the image files that accompany this story).

Just in case TMZ tries to steal it from me when they finally get on the stick and start reporting on The Great Belushi Writer's Strike Scandalâ„¢.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Psychictoad said...

This is old news, but in relation to the "Belushbag" (Kannenberg, 2007) and his "I'm not really a writer so it doesn't matter." I present (old) exhibit A:

10:09 AM  
Blogger Psychictoad said...

Sorry the link did not seem to go through:

Strike's first big casualty: 'The Office'

10:12 AM  

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