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Comedy, cigars and cheeseburgers: a conversation with Jim Belushi

Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy perform at The Venetian April 18 and 19.
Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy perform at The Venetian April 18 and 19.
courtesy of Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy

Jim Belushi may wear many hats—actor (“According to Jim,” K-9), comedian (“Saturday Night Live,” The Second City), singer (the Blues Brothers, The Sacred Hearts)—but he’s a consummate performer first and foremost. Always able to entertain a crowd, audiences can see the funnyman put his skills to the test when he returns to The Sands Showroom inside The Venetian April 18-19 with Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy.

Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy perform at The Venetian April 18 and 19
Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy perform at The Venetian April 18 and 19
Gary Lupton

“It’s such an intimate theater—it’s great for what we do,” Belushi told Examiner.com.

The comedy star likened the improvised sketch comedy group—which also consists of Megan Grano, Larry Joe Campbell, Joshua Funk, Brad Morris and Trey Stone—to his experience with Chicago’s famed Second City, which his brother, the late, great John Belushi, was also a part of.

“It’s the same fun,” he said. “I remember seeing John (performing with The Second City) when I was 16 and I knew then that I wanted to be a part of that. I’ve been chasing that magic ever since.”

Belushi said he loves working with the Board of Comedy for the “community” the group builds with its audience. Typically, the group will play nine different games onstage, each one with a different restriction it will ask the audience for (for example, a relationship or setting).

“The audience really becomes another scene partner,” Belushi stated. “We start a relationship with them at the beginning of the show and it just grows into something magical.”

When asked what prepared him better for his upcoming Vegas tour dates, Belushi acknowledged that both The Second City and “Saturday Night Live” provided him with “different skill sets” as a performer.

“With Second City, I learned to improvise and write and build a relationship with an audience,” he explained. “With ‘Saturday Night Live,’ I was performing for 20 million people on real sets. It was a huge learning curve. I always say Second City gave me my masters in comedic acting and ‘Saturday Night Live’ gave me my doctorate.”

That education has served Belushi well over the years, as the funnyman always seems to be working on something. Aside from his tour dates with the Board of Comedy, fans can soon see—or should we say, hear—Belushi in the upcoming animated film Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return. A huge fan of The Wizard of Oz (“I watch it all the time,” Belushi stated), Belushi provides the voice of the Cowardly Lion in the movie opposite Lea Michele as Dorothy, Kelsey Grammer as the Tin Man and his Blues Brother partner Dan Aykroyd as the Scarecrow.

“It’s very well cast,” Belushi said. “I just saw it the other day and it’s very well done. Marty Short (who voices The Jester character) just chews the scenery. I was very impressed.”

Belushi’s also been busy with several other projects, including a role in director Kenny Ortega’s (High School Musical, This Is It) latest film, A Change of Heart. He’s even been learning the art of stand-up, which Belushi acknowledged as “the toughest form of comedy.”

“It’s really hard because you’re onstage all alone,” he said. “If you can’t get that relationship with your audience, it’s just painful.”

While Belushi’s been traveling the world with the Board of Comedy and his various other projects (he’s currently shooting another movie in Utah), he can’t wait to get to Las Vegas to dine at one of his favorite restaurants.

“I don’t want to tell you which one it is—it’s a secret,” Belushi teased. “Really, though, Lotus of Siam is one of the best restaurants in the world. It’s in the strangest mall with a wife-swapping club and strip clubs and religious places and a fetish store, but my cast keeps voting Lotus of Siam No. 1 when it comes to restaurants we’ve ate at on the road. We’ll probably be eating there both nights before the show.”

Although Belushi noted the duck, catfish and garlic shrimp at Lotus of Siam as must-tries, when asked about his guilty food pleasures, Belushi mentioned a different type of dish entirely.

“I love cheeseburgers,” he said. “I can be at a nice restaurant and sometimes the cheeseburger will just pop out at me. I also have to have French fries. Not garlic fries or Parmesan fries—nothing fancy—just regular French fries with ketchup and salt.”

When in Vegas, Belushi said he also likes to go to Casa Fuente inside The Forum Shops at Caesars to smoke cigars.

“It’s really an excellent, excellent hang, and they have great smokes.”

Given Belushi’s seemingly laid-back nature, it should come as no surprise that his dining out pet peeve really has little to do with something someone else does and more to do with how his own friendliness can work to his disadvantage.

“I hate when I’m talking to my wife and we’re having a tense discussion about something and someone asks me for an autograph,” Belushi said. “I’ll say sure and then I’ll lose my focus and just get hammered. Women are so smart; it takes all of my energy just to maintain the conversation without being clobbered.”

Considering Belushi’s fondness of the city, it was only natural to wonder if he had any plans to bring Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy back to Las Vegas again in the near future.

“I would love that,” Belushi said. “I would love to perform at The Venetian three or four times a year and be a regular show.”

Whether or not that becomes a reality, only time will tell, but one thing is for certain: Jim Belushi doesn’t plan on leaving the Board of Comedy anytime soon.

“The most I laugh is during the show,” Belushi stated. “Megan, Josh…they’re all so good that it’s hard not to laugh, and that’s why I keep doing this, because I love it. You can come to the show with your head down, but you’ll always leave with your head up high and feeling great.”

Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy perform inside The Venetian April 18 at 10 p.m. and April 19 at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $75.75 and $105.75, inclusive of tax and handling fees. A limited number of VIP packages, including preferred front-row seating and a meet and greet with Belushi, are also available for $185.75. To purchase your tickets, call 702-414-9000 or simply click here.

For more on Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy, click here.