As part of the opening ceremonies for the McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage, one of the school’s most famous alumni will take its stage.
Wheaton native Jim Belushi, who graduated from the college in 1974, will perform at the school Saturday with his improv group “The Chicago Board of Comedy.”
Belushi recently participated in an interview via email with Suburban Life reporter Nathan Lurz.
Lurz: You have always seemed very proud and vocal about your roots in Chicago and the Chicago suburbs. What are your thoughts on returning, especially to the area where you grew up?
Belushi: I returned to the Wheaton area last fall with my 14-year-old daughter. I wanted to give her a sense of where I was from. It was kind of fun, telling her old stories about the popcorn shop. Seeing Wheaton Central torn down to the ground was funky. And seeing the County Jail next to the old Wheaton courthouse torn down was cool – I spent three days there once. Ding dong, the witch is dead! We walked the streets of my old neighborhood, to Lincoln grade school, Edison Junior High. We had a soda at the Seven [Dwarfs Restaurant] at Roosevelt [Road] and President [Street]. It was a great experience to share with my daughter, although she wasn’t as moved as I was. But I watched her eyes, she was taking it in.
Lurz: You are also returning to College of DuPage. What is it like coming back to the stage – albeit a newer one – after your time as a student? Did your experience there have an impact on your life?
Belushi: When I go back, I guess there’s always some kind of pressure to perform after all these years. There is also always a great deal of excitement and joy. I love College of DuPage. Those teachers changed my life. They rooted me in my craft and I am always indebted and grateful to those men and women who took the time that I needed and gave me the love that I needed to focus me. So whatever College of DuPage needs, I’m always there to help. We’re doing two shows: one to raise money for the theatre and the John Belushi Scholarship Fund and one for the general public.
Lurz: You helped create the John Belushi Scholarship Fund alongside The Second City in memory of your brother and fellow College of DuPage alum. You also helped establish the school’s Artist-in-Residence Fund. What motivated you to create those programs?
Belushi: I was looking for some way to express gratitude to the College of DuPage and I was looking for some way to keep John’s name and legacy alive. Since we both went to COD and Second City, it seemed like a natural fit. These scholarships go out to people who are a lot like John and myself: not straight-A students who always get grants and scholarships, but kids who are really bright in what they are doing. There seems to be a hole in school programs and universities for talented people who suck at chemistry and math.
Lurz: Have you seen the plans for the McAninch Arts Center? What are your thoughts on the new facilities?
Belushi: I have not seen the plans yet. But I do know that since I was a student at COD, they have done a remarkable job of redoing it. It is a gorgeous facility. When I was there, I was in buildings J and K, building a stage in the cafeteria for us to do our shows. All the people who have worked so tirelessly and so hard to make College of DuPage a first-rate community college have done an excellent job. It’s a beautiful campus.
Lurz: What should people attending the Board of Comedy show expect to see?
Belushi: Magic! They’re going to see magic created in front of their eyes. We have no idea what we’re going to do. We do about nine different short form improvisational games. We take suggestions from the audience and we make stuff up on the spot. This is not like watching TV or a movie or a regular theatre performance, where you’re a voyeur. You’re a participant in the audience here. We are as good as the audience’s suggestions. So I have a feeling this is going to be a good audience, a great show, and we’re going to capture some magic that people will remember for a long time.
Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy perform a late night show at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the McAninch Arts Center, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn. Tickets start at $44. For tickets or more information, call 630-942-4000 or visit www.AtTheMAC.org.