At least one comedy classic from years past would not have survived today’s standards for commercial production, according to the widow of one of those comedic movie stars.
“I think in terms of the political correctness, I mean, certainly, ‘[National Lampoon’s] Animal House’ would not be made today,” Judy Belushi-Pisano said of her late husband, who emerged as the toga-wearing, fraternity-slob star from that 1978 film.
Pisano was speaking on Wednesday night during a virtual Q&A for the upcoming release of Showtime’s 108-minute documentary, “Belushi.”
“I think John actually was a woman’s libber before I was, sometimes contrary to some things you might hear, John was very good with women, in general,” Pisano said of the comedian, regarded in Hollywood history as an influential comedic actor 38 years after his death. In one of the well-known “Animal House” scenes, Belushi spits food at a table of men and women while imitating a popping zit.
“He had that systemic sexism. But he was aware of a lot of that and consciously tried to work around it,” Pisano said. “In Second City, he was the go-to guy to do scenes with the women. He worked really well with Gilda [Radner] when they worked together at Lampoon.”
Pisano, who was married to Belushi from 1976 to 1982, explained that the sexism of the actor’s surroundings emerged as he hit the national TV stage.
“At ‘Saturday Night Live,’ something different took shape,” Pisano said. “It was a boys’ club, but the boys, you know. Not horrible. They were normally at that age of men, and of course the comedy could get bawdy or whatever. But they weren’t, it wasn’t to the level of things we’ve been hearing about of late that we’re saying has to stop, that is just wrong. But ‘Animal House’ was borderline in some of its aspect. It is reflecting the ’60s. It’s not even reflecting the era it was made.”
“National Lampoon’s Animal House,” directed by John Landis and written by Belushi’s longtime friend Harold Ramis, was a box-office smash upon its release for Universal Pictures. For years, “Animal House” left in its wake many similarly politically incorrect comedic movies and TV shows, including “Caddyshack,” “South Park,” “American Pie” and “Beavis & Butthead.”
“Animal House” has been embraced in years since by legions of fraternities for its hard-partying themes, though the film’s intended message may have satirized that world.
Pisano was speaking at a virtual which details his creative beginnings in high school and improv theater (including a stop at summer stock), whirlwind tour through music for The Blues Brothers and acting, and drug-overdose passing at age 33.
“Belushi,” directed by “The September Issue’s” documentarian R.J. Cutler, premieres on Showtime Sunday, Nov. 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.