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The Kalamazoo Gazette
With a piano, a few chairs and a lot of blue-collar comedic pizzazz, Jim Belushi and The Chicago Board of Comedy charmed a near capacity crowd at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Friday night. The Second City troupe performed nine sketches — with Belushi routinely pressing the pause button to get the audience involved. “Give me a polysyllabic adjective, a noun and a verb,” he asked. His request answered by shouts in every direction: “Delicious!” “Caterpillar!” “Regurgitate!”
“It’s so nice to be in the Pinnacle Bank Arena,” Belushi joked, as he began his opening monologue. He was soon joined by the Board — comedians Megan Grano, Larry Joe Campbell, Brad Morris and Joshua Funk — who skillfully impersonated everybody from Rosa Parks and an Indian cab driver to The Three Tenors and ravenous bears. And to complement each sketch, pianist Trey Stone added color and drama, creating a subtle but important soundscape.
In one memorable sketch, a la Mad Libs, Campbell asked the audience for three movie lines, three song lyrics, three bumper sticker slogans and three things they heard today. Each response was written on a small piece of paper, dropped onto the floor and then woven into a plot in which Belushi, Morris and Funk played three gonorrhea-stricken fraternity brothers. Just listening to Campbell and the audience was fun. For instance, when “Honk If You Love the Kardashians” was suggested as a slogan, Campbell quipped, “No, you shouldn’t honk, you should hit that car!”
From beginning to end, Belushi and his cohorts refreshingly mixed comedy, theater and improvisation. No skit was predictable or cliché-driven. The comedians always felt energized. And that was due in large part to the audience, who clearly felt the same way, and thankfully had no reluctance expressing it.
Steve Barnes, April 3, 2014
SCHENECTADY — The peculiar, particular and zany humor that is improv comedy was most evident Wednesday night at Proctors when two burly guys bumped their bellies while singing a spontaneously created song called “Me and That Beaver,” set to a salsa melody, and one of them rhymed “muy caliente” with “really felt me.” The guys were Larry Joe Campbell and Joshua Funk, and the scenario for improv scene they were in, using song titles and musical styles suggested by the audience, was the opening and closing night of a new musical, the title for which, “The Prince of Central Park,” also came from the audience. The fake musical, with titles and suggestions controlled from the side of the stage by the evening’s star, Jim Belushi, also included a polka-inflected “I Got Girls, One a Day” and a reggae love song, “Nothing Wrong with Two Men Cuddling.”
Belushi, who started his career 37 years ago with Chicago’s famed improv troupe The Second City, last year returned to his roots by gathering five friends from the improv world for a tour dubbed Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy. Their stop at Proctors was a loose, friendly and largely hilarious evening of joy, delight and laughs as skilled performers found comedy in what Belushi repeatedly reminded the audience was basically five people “making (stuff) up.”
The success of an improv performance like this depends in part on material shouted out by the audience, and the crowd at Proctors, though small, was enthusiastic and vocal. They quickly proved their willingness to participate when Belushi, during his 10-minute solo chat to open the show, confessed that, like the routines that would follow, he too was making it up on the spot. An audience member shouted “No kidding!,” which broke up Belushi and set the right tone for the two-plus hours that followed.
Over the course of eight scenes, all involving a degree of input from the audience, Campbell and Funk were a dentist and patient, with Megan Grano as one of their wives with a secret, in a scene that somehow occasioned the observation that movie “Of Mice and Men” with John Malkovich is sexually arousing enough to be “good spank material”; Belushi and Brad Morris were neighbors in a dispute over Belushi’s loud carnality; Funk, Belushi and Campbell were The Three Tenors, complete with waving hankies; an exchange of letters between a Civil War soldier and his wife occasioned the deleriously unexpected explanation of a fellow soldier’s nickname, “We call him Bigfoot because his hands are tiny”; and a trio did a scene made up largely of dialogue composed of audience-supplied phrases read from slips of paper scattered on the stage floor.
Belushi and his cohorts, accompanied by Trey Stone on piano, have strong connections and evident trust, and each one’s creativity inspired both laughter and more comedy from his or her scene partners.
Annie Alleman, September 12, 2017
Chicago comedy royalty returns for a night of improvisational comedy.
Jim Belushi brings his show, Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy, to the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake Sept. 22 for an 8 p.m. show.
Belushi is an alumni of "Saturday Night Live" and Chicago's famed Second City. He had a long-running sitcom on ABC, "According to Jim," and he just finished a critically-acclaimed performance on Showtime's "Twin Peaks" revival.
Accompanying Belushi are trained improv comedians Megan Grano and Joshua Funk.
He created his Board of Comedy show a few years ago and has been touring the country with it. "We are just having a ball," he said. "We all come from that Second City training and we do a lot of games. We take suggestions from the audience and we improvise. The whole show is improvised. Every show is a new show. It always keeps you in the moment."
The ability to think on your feet is an acquired skill, he said. "It's unlike standard comedy, where you're standing up there and you're coming up with a joke, delivering a joke and judging yourself in one moment," he said. "Here, you're with other actors and you're supporting each other and you play. It's like play, like when you're playing combat at seven years old in the neighborhood. We're playing and we're having a ball."
The topics in the show are all based on what the audience wants to talk about, he said. "We'll ask for location, we'll ask for relationships, we'll ask for styles … it's not too far from 'Whose Line is it Anyway,' but we're a little longer form than that," he said. "But it's spontaneous and it's not where the audience just witnesses, they participate. It's community acting."
The show is recommended for an 18 and older crowd.
In addition to his comedy show, Belushi is enjoying high times in his acting career. He was cast in Woody Allen's upcoming film, "Wonder Wheel," as Kate Winslet's husband and also worked with David Lynch on "Twin Peaks."
"These guys are so full of vision and such clarity that it makes it so easy to act, but really difficult also, if that makes sense," he said. "They create a situation where you are really willing to go deep and be free — kind of like what do in the improv show. You're just so present and free, the vulnerability of your work is just shown and it's just beautiful. It's been a special year for me as an actor.
"The other thing about working these two gentlemen — you never know what you're going to shoot the next day, you never get to read the whole script, everything's top secret, you can't talk about it. I can talk about 'Twin Peaks' now because it's over, but they're all top-secret situations."
When he's not acting, he performs with his Sacred Hearts Band as well as with Dan Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers as Zee Blues.
"Danny and I just did the Fourth of July Celebration on Capitol Hill for PBS," he said. "We do mainly corporate events."
He doesn't know if he will return to network TV, but he doesn't rule anything out. "I've said this before in many interviews, and I'll say it to you. It's very hard to describe what goes through your mind and body when that moment happens and the audience laughs and you're in full communication," he said. "I call it magic. They are pure moments of magic. Working with Woody Allen was magic every day. David Lynch — magic every day. I'm just going where the magic is."
Wayne Catania, July 7, 2014
I was lucky enough to catch Jim Belushi and his comedy troupe last month in Oakville, Ontario at the Oakville Performing Arts Centre. They have been touring throughout Canada and the US and this was the last show of the tour. It was a full house and I could feel the buzz and excitement in the room as the crowd waited expectantly and the house lights began to dim. Trey Stone, a seasoned Jazz pianist and musical director at Chicago’s Second City, settled at his piano and signaled the opening of the show with an up-tempo bluesy riff. Almost immediately the audience picked up the beat, clapping to the groove and were joined by the sweet sultry sound of a harmonica. Jim was in the house. In fact, he was sitting in the audience and playing a mean harp. Standing to applause, he played all the way to the stage, then, in his famous Zee Blues fashion blasted into “Sweet Home Chicago”; the audience loved it!
After the opening number, Jim set the evening’s mood. Talking to us as if we were in his living room, asking names, where people were from and what type of music they liked. He also talked to us about himself. It felt as if you could chat with him about anything (and some people did). Before long everyone was relaxed and comfortable... That's when the party started.
Jim then introduced his cast to the stage. More than just comedians, these folks are comedic actors.
Joshua Funk is quick witted and has a huge operatic voice, has won two Jefferson Awards: one for Best Director for “Holy War Batman” and the other for Best Production for “Pants on Fire”. This summer you can see him on the new MTV sketch comedy show "Short Circuitz".
Brad Morris is a writer/ producer / actor who can be seen in a soon to be released TV movie "WTF America". He also appeared in two film comedies last year: "Dealing with Idiots" and "The Mole Man of Belmont Avenue". He pulled out some very funny characters on stage.
Megan Grano is an Actor/Writer/Comedian. She's a staff writer on Jimmy Kimmel Live and you may find her on stage at Second City Hollywood, and now she brings her comedic energized personality to Jim’s stage.
Larry Joe Campbell, whom I instantly recognized from his character, Andy, in the TV show "According to Jim”, is a funny guy who can make you laugh with a simple facial expression. And, it turns out, he also has a great singing voice!
The set-up for the show was delightful. With input from the audience the cast would set up scenes using audience member’s names, jobs or perhaps something that happened to them that day in a place they may or may not have been. The scenes the cast put together out of these tricky circumstances left you not only laughing, but amazed at how quickly and effortlessly they were able to not only improvise but keep things genuinely funny.
One of my favorite moments was when the cast disappeared off stage and we were asked for our favorite song titles, movie titles and bumper stickers. Each suggestion was written on a piece of paper and then tossed around the stage. When the cast returned they randomly picked up the pages and worked the suggestions into their dialogue. Once again, this talented group was able to knit the random absurdities into a hysterically funny experience.
If you get the chance to catch Jim’s “Board of Comedy” -- take it! You’ll have a fun night out, be guaranteed a lot of laughs and leave the theater feeling like you’ve made new friends. I had forgotten how good it feels to laugh so hardily and want to thank my friend Jim for showing all of us great evening and for his wonderful, warm and caring hospitality.