Actor and comedian Jim Belushi credits the College of DuPage with having a huge impact on him. “It changed my life,” said the Wheaton native, who earned an associate degree from COD in 1974. “Those teachers there were so influential on the direction in which I chose to go.”
Because of his loyalty to the school, Belushi is bringing his improv sketch comedy show, Board of Comedy, to the MAC Madness Gala Celebration March 8 at the college’s McAninch Arts Center.
The gala celebrates the completion of a 14-month, $35 million renovation project on the MAC.
Belushi and the Board of Comedy will also perform a late night show at 9:30 p.m. that evening. In addition, he will conduct a master class for the theater department in the afternoon.
“I can’t wait to be playing on that stage again,” Belushi said. “It’s so nice to come home and have that community that supported me all the way.”
Belushi noted that he attended summer theater programs at COD following his sophomore, junior and senior years in high school. After earning his associate degree at COD, the actor transferred to Southern Illinois University.
“I starred in all the plays there because I had so much experience,” he said. “I had done 40 different shows by the time I was a junior in college.”
“What the College of DuPage offered was that accessibility to the stage and accessibility to the teachers,” Belushi continued. “I was in a speech program. I did after dinner speaking, duet speaking, duet acting, readers’ theater, theater, stage managing, lights, building stages — I did everything. I was a professional by the time I left.”
Returning to his improv comedy roots with the Board of Comedy is “pure joy, pure fun,” the Second City Alum said. The group includes Megan Grano, Brad Morris, Larry Joe Campbell and Joshua Funk.
Jim Belushi’s loyalty to the school extends to his creation, in 1983, of the John Belushi Scholarship Fund, in memory of his late brother, who also graduated from COD.
“When John and I went to the College of DuPage, we didn’t have any money,” Belushi said. “And we didn’t really have the greatest of grades. People with really high grade point averages get all the scholarships.” His thought was, “What about the student that’s really got some talent and that’s where their strengths are?”
Scholarships are based on talent and need. Since its founding, the fund has raised more than $300,000 and helped more than 30 students.
Robyn Coffin, who has a recurring role on the NBC show, “Chicago Fire,” received a John Belushi Scholarship in 1995. “It was for two years and it covered my tuition,” Coffin said. “The only stipulation was we had to audition for everything and be a part of productions. If we weren’t in the production, we had to do costumes or some behind the scenes thing. It really got me in top shape as far as auditioning and getting me in front of people.”
Coffin completed her college studies at Columbia College Chicago. “By the time I got there, I was already ahead of the game,” she said.
The College of DuPage’s March 8 gala will start with a VIP cocktail party for sponsors in the new Cleve Carney Art Gallery. Everyone who buys a ticket to the gala will attend the Board of Comedy show, followed by a private backstage party with a band, dancing, games and a live auction. Proceeds will benefit all of the cultural arts programs at the school as well as the John Belushi Scholarship Fund.
MAC Director Diana Martinez praised the improvements to the arts center. “They’ve done tons of acoustical work to make the space more acoustically sound,” she said. “We’ve added an orchestra shell for concerts that is absolutely gorgeous.”
Other improvements include a system that keeps the temperature consistent in the theaters, new seats in the main theater, the addition of an outdoor patio space and a new concession area and bar.