Belushi: The Brilliance and Tragedy of a Comedy Genius

Belushi: The Brilliance and Tragedy of a Comedy Genius John Belushi. Photo Credit: Judy Belushi Pisano/Courtesy of SHOWTIME.

Saturday Night Live, The Blues Brothers, and the National Lampoon — John Belushi was an iconic figure of the 1970s comedy scene. But he was more than just a comic genius. 

At one moment, Belushi had the number one show on television, the number one film at the box office, and the number one record on the charts. Just three years later he died from a heroin overdose aged just 33. How did such a talented figure come to such a tragic end?

The award-winning director, producer, and writer, R.J. Cutler, helps us find out as we talk about his new film Belushi (2020). He uses previously-recorded phone interviews combined with archival footage to help us relive the extraordinary life of the beloved actor and comedian. 

R.J. explains how he obtained access to the interviews, love letters and home movies needed to make the film, and why it has been so hard to accurately depict Belushi’s life until now.

Belushi is available to watch now on Sky On Demand and NOW TV.

“We talk about the joy, and the brilliance, and the magic, but we also talk about darker things.” – R.J. Cutler

Time Stamps:

01:43 – Where you can watch Belushi.
02:22 – What the film is about and who John Belushi was.
06:25 – What made Belushi such an iconic character during the 70s and 80s.
11:52 – The anarchic nature of Saturday Night Live when it began.
13:50 – The complicated relationships people had with John McEnroe.
16:46 – The parallels with how Paul McCartney and John Lennon met.
18:43 – The love story of John Belushi’s life and the tragedy that accompanied it.
20:40 – How John’s relationship with his father contributed to his genius.
25:31 – The problem with achieving the American Dream.
29:01 – The melancholy aspects of John’s life, and how his addiction got the best of him.
31:44 – How R.J. got involved with making the film.
35:55 – The responsibilities you have as a filmmaker when making a biopic of someone.
36:58 – What it was like working with John’s wife, Judy.
40:38 – Why R.J. used animation in the movie and how he found the right music to accompany it.
45:46 – How R.J. got access to the love letters that John had written before he died.
50:08 – The Billie Eilish film R.J. is releasing next. 


Belushi (2020)
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Animal House (1978)
Saturday Night Live (1975-)
The National Lampoon
Wired: The Short Life & Fast Times of John Belushi by Bob Woodward 
Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry (2021)
Alamo Pictures
MLK/FBI: America on a Collision Course

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Episode 44