Thursday, March 27, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Second City Alumni
- 1960s: Alan Arkin, Joan Rivers, David Steinberg, Robert Klein, Peter Boyle, Fred Willard, Harold Ramis, Jack Burns, Avery Schreiber, Joe Flaherty
- 1970s: John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, John Candy, Bill Murray, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, George Wendt, Jim Belushi, Brian Doyle-Murray, Shelley Long, Betty Thomas, Tim Kazurinsky
- 1980s: Mike Myers, Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, Steve Carrell, Bonnie Hunt, Dan Castellaneta
- 1990s: Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Nia Vardalos, Horatio Sanz, Jeff Garlin
If You Go
- What: The Second City
- When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Tuesdays; 10 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays
- Where: Flamingo
- Tickets: $44.95; 733-3333
- Also: The Second City Scriptless, an all-improvised show with a different cast; 10 p.m. Saturdays
Beyond the Sun
The Second City, one of the country’s most venerable improvisational comedy companies, began its eighth year at the Flamingo this month with a cast that includes 27-year-old Robert Belushi, a fledgling actor whose name you might recognize.
The Belushi name reverberates through Second City archives, which are filled with comic geniuses and legends.
Brothers John and Jim Belushi are two of the most esteemed alumni. Both starred on “Saturday Night Live” — the ensemble comedy that draws heavily from Second City performers — and in motion pictures. Jim Belushi currently stars in the TV sitcom “According to Jim.”
Robert is Jim’s son. He was an infant when his uncle John died in 1982.
“So I just have an everyday fan feeling for him,” Belushi says. “But 26 years later people still say, ‘Man, when John died I cried for days’ and ‘I miss John.’ That’s a testament to how powerful the Belushis can be. Two and a half decades later and he’s still touching people.”
Robert Belushi was reluctant to follow in the footsteps of John and Jim. He was always interested in film, which he studied at Wesleyan University. But after graduating in 2004 he couldn’t deny his destiny.
“I went to Chicago to be trained so that I could be good at it, not just a guy following a legacy,” Belushi says.
He studied with The Second City, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and other groups in Chicago.
Belushi says he isn’t concerned about being compared with the other Belushis or about being in their shadows. “What an honor to be associated with these two men who are so beautiful. The older I get the more I respect them.”
There’s a key to being a Belushi: “We don’t mind looking stupid. No one likes to look stupid, but the more you relish the idiocy of being a Belushi, the more successful you are.”
The greatest influence his father and uncle have had on him is showing him the importance of being bold and taking risks with the character he’s playing.
Belushi joined the Las Vegas cast of The Second City in time for its seventh-anniversary celebration and in time to be part of a makeover that includes new comedy sketches. His co-stars include Michael Lehrer, Paul Mattingly, Katie Neff and Robyn Norris.
“It’s such a generous group of performers,” Belushi says. “They’re extremely funny and not at all mean. The comedy is irreverent and silly and maybe sometimes dirty, but the whole thing is really based on love.”
He says the actors support each other onstage and don’t try to upstage each other.
“It’s a breeze to work with them,” Belushi says.
The younger Belushi has hopes for the future, but right now he’s busy learning his craft, looking for his own voice. He still turns to his father for advice.
“I think any man would be hard-pressed to say his father doesn’t influence him in everything he does,” Belushi says. “Once I started acting I started talking to my father all the time. I just called him today with questions, getting his perspective.”
Jerry Fink can be reached at 259-4058 or at [email protected]