Jim Belushi has had a pretty interesting and diverse career. He’s done comedy, he’s done action. He’s been a movie star, a TV star. Nowadays he’s a cannabis farmer. He has great Tupac stories and he’s very open to learning more about anime. One thing you may not remember is that he did two seasons on SNL, where he made history, of sorts: He was the first cast member to be fired then rehired. In a new interview with Vulture (in a bit teased out by IndieWire), the performer says that his stint almost broke him, but it wound up making him a better person in the end.
Belushi was on the longtime sketch show from 1983 through 1985, following in the footsteps of his older brother John, whose own stint made him a legend. At one point he was briefly canned by then-executive producer Dick Ebersol. When asked why, Belushi did not sugarcoat it.
“I was out of control,” he told the publication. But he saw it as a wake-up call. “It was the best thing to ever happen to me. I was out of my mind. I was throwing a fire extinguisher at Dick Ebersol, a hissy fit.” The experience inspired him to get his stuff together. “I went back to him with my tail between my legs. I drop the ego, I got humble. I stopped drinking the rest of that season.”
He added, “Dick put me in my place, rightfully, and had the courage to do it. I came back; I begged [him] for forgiveness, and he put me on probation. My wife at the time said, ‘You thrive on probation. You were on probation from freshman to senior year of high school. You operate better with boundaries.’”
Still, it sounds like his whole stint was a kind of trial by fire. “SNL’is the hardest thing I ever did, and that’s including divorce,” he said. “I survived it, barely.”
Belushi’s return didn’t last that long. After his second season, Lorne Michaels, who had departed the show in 1980, returned five years later, and proceeded to overhaul the cast and writing staff. But it all worked out in the end: In 1986 alone, Belushi appeared in four big movies, earning acclaim for About Last Night… and Oliver Stone’s Salvador and becoming a bankable name for the silver screen.
He also discussed his brother John, who was one of SNL’s original cast members and who famously left early. He recalled giving him a hard time: “John did four years and he quit. I said, ‘What the f*ck, man? What are you quitting for?’ He said, ‘Jim, it’s like high school: Senior year, you’ve got to move on.’”