John Belushi offers small chocolate donuts
Saturday Night Live Star Amy Poehler reportedly said, “Vanity is the death of comedy”. It is a philosophy traditionally adopted by anyone seeking SNL breakout stardom, as it’s often the show’s broadest and most outrageous ideas that become fan favorites, regardless of – or perhaps because of – how gut-wrenching they poke, the actors’ buttocks and other body parts directly into the camera lens.
For some people SNL stars, it takes a little convincing.
While the country was in the throes of post-Olympic fever, the November 19, 1977 episode of Saturday Night Live featured a then-ubiquitous commercial parody of the decathlon-win-turned television launcher Bruce Jenner.
With uncredited New York Knicks broadcaster Marv Albert lending his well-known tips to a breathless play-by-play of an unstoppable American athlete beating his peers in everything from a long-distance run to a mighty high jump, the camera presents with love none other than John Belushi as the perfect Olympic specimen from the ad. The joke of the play, written by Al Franken and Tom Davis (who appears as the hapless Russian racer beaten by Belushi) is, well, it’s John Belushi. Dressed in a form-fitting sleeveless “USA” t-shirt and athletic shorts, Belushi’s sprint victory sees him powering down the track with determination, while his more traditionally fit competitors look hilariously running in place. His powerful leap over the high bar is done via an oddly deft low-angle mount, with the burly Belushi clearing a bar that can be between 10ft and 10in off the ground.
The ad is for Belushi’s recommended breakfast, “Little Chocolate Donuts”, which parodies Jenner’s then-ongoing promotion of the allegedly favorite Wheaties of General Mills athletes. Belushi eventually reveals himself scuffing one while carelessly smoking a morning cigarette.
Done a long time ago SNL filmmaker and advertising parody expert James Signorelli, the commercial is a funny little masterpiece of corporate mockery. Belushi plays his role straight, with the ad featuring the infamous substance-fueled comic as the unstoppable athletic figure who would be chosen to sell questionably nutritious products to children. Belushi, a former high school athlete who had captained his school’s football and wrestling teams in Wheaton, Illinois, was, at the time he became a household name on SNL, became the beefy, bacchanalian bad boy of comedy. And while Belushi often exhibited shockingly agile physique in his stage (and eventually screen) work, his bulk was firmly a part of his comedic persona.
Yet, as noted by a close friend and comedy partner Dan Aykroyd in the oral history of the show by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller, Live from New York, Belushi hasn’t always been keen on showing off her body for a laugh. “His vanity kind of got in the way there,” Aykroyd notes, explaining that Belushi had to be convinced to make the long trip to Upstate New York University where the Olympic scenes would be shot. . He was finally convinced, with Aykroyd explaining his thought process in accepting potentially unflattering roles such as: “Well, that might not make me look good, or that’s not my humor, but it will work and it’s going to be funny.” (Indeed, the seminal book by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad on the early days of SNL, Saturday nightrecounts an episode in which all of the notoriously macho male actors balked at playing a scantily clad male pedestrian who would be called out by a group of rough female construction workers, Aykroyd only reluctantly stepping into the denim cuts the sketch demanded .)
Watch John Belushi Pitch Little Chocolate Donuts on ‘SNL’
And the piece is funny, the exaggerated effort on Belushi’s face and his exhausted but triumphant post-race stagger (complete with a Jenner-esque flag wave for the cameras) contrasting with the visual joke that he’s John Belushi. . As Signorelli adds Live from New York, Belushi “smelled his oats” as one of the show’s biggest stars, not only having to be cajoled to perform the skit in the first place, but acting irritably once the cast and crew were in place. As Signorelli recounts, Belushi, after insisting on doing what he called “the stunt” of jumping off the high bar (actually just two feet off the ground and surrounded by a landing pad of cardboard and blankets ), feigned injury, screaming “melodramatically” for an ambulance before being persuaded to return to work.
Even the relatively safe and quiet segment with Belushi eating and smoking while extolling the virtues of small chocolate donuts as part of a healthy breakfast was a try, as Belushi insisted on choosing her own wardrobe. As Signorelli explains, it was really Belushi’s own wardrobe, consisting of a bulky green sweater with a prominent moth hole in the front. Noting how much of the premise relied on Jenner’s athletic, athletic style of self-promotion, Signorelli was blocked by Belushi, ultimately only succeeding in getting the star to twist the sweater backwards so that the moth hole is hidden. “If you look at him again, you’ll see he’s wearing the jersey backwards,” noted an amused Signorelli, whose contributions to Saturday Night Live ran for over 35 years and 400 episodes until his departure in 2011.
When it comes to Belushi’s legacy, “Little Chocolate Donuts” is remembered with great fondness and fondness, with the spot doing more to enhance Belushi’s growing reputation as a fearless performer, ready for anything. and irresistible comic force that serve as a vehicle for mockery. Belushi’s appetites were part of that image at this point in his career, with the show regularly leaning into the idea that he was an indestructible comedic cannonball, doing cartwheels as Jake Blues or throwing himself out of his chair. “Weekend Update” in a rage. Belushi unfortunately proved far from indestructible, with comic book excesses finally catching up with him when he death from an overdose at the age of 33.