CHICAGO — The name on Hollywood audition lists and casting sheets must be unmistakably eye-catching: Rob Belushi.
The 32-year-old actor and comedian is from yes, that Belushi family. He's the son of Jim Belushi and the nephew of the late John Belushi and for the past decade or so an aspiring actor in his own right.
Rob Belushi has guest starred on TV shows like his dad's "According to Jim" and "The Defenders." He's appeared in made-for-TV movies and graced the stand-up stage. Now he's starring on the Spike TV reality program "The Joe Schmo Show" that airs on Tuesday nights.
He calls his famous last name a "double-edged sword."
"I would say people are very interested in seeing me or checking out what I have to offer," Belushi said in an interview in the lobby of a fancy downtown Chicago hotel. "I also think that they have their own expectations of what that will be and I am not my uncle or my father. That is pretty clear to see upon meeting me."
The Spike TV show requires Belushi to act off-the-cuff, using skills he learned in Chicago's improv scene — where his father and uncle got their starts, too. Belushi grew up in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to go to high school, but the family business didn't interest him at first. He was more interested in behind-the-camera work.
"My dad was actor and my mom was an actor and my uncle was an actor," Belushi said. "It seemed like maybe we hit our quota."
But a few small roles in college and influence from a teacher at Wesleyan University in Connecticut steered him in front of the lens. After college he headed back to Chicago.
"I moved to Chicago so that I could do it well and not just be some jerk with an unearned last name," Belushi said.
He spent time not only at Chicago's famous Second City, but at other improv comedy and theater schools. He also earned experience with dramatic stage performances and alongside actors like John Mahoney.
"When I first came to Chicago I really thought I had to be really special because I started in a town where my family is beloved," Belushi said. He describes working as a nanny and waiter to make money.
"My first job was as a host at Second City, where I essentially shushed drunk tourists and cleaned up throw-up in the bathroom with kitty litter," Belushi said. "But I also got to watch the show seven nights a week."
And while his famous father's mark is definitely on his career, Belushi says Jim Belushi "has had probably no influence and all the influence in the world." Jim Belushi didn't push his son toward acting, but offered support when needed like practicing for auditions, Belushi said.
Jim Belushi describes his son as funny, talented and good looking — "the smartest Belushi you've got." Not a surprise for a father talking about his son. The pair owns a comedy club, The Comedy Bar, together in Chicago.
"I've given him a lot of advice," Jim Belushi said in an interview. "My main advice to him is just do what's right in front of you. It's basically stay in the moment."
Rob Belushi was a baby when his famous uncle, John, died of a drug overdose at age 33 in March 1982.
"I've always felt like John was out there somewhere looking down on me and hopefully smiling or frowning but as every actor wants, paying attention in some way," Belushi said. "We have a lot in common in a lot of ways, some are good, some are bad. So I would say, as with my dad, I feel very honored to carry on the tradition that comes from Chicago."