POSTED February 15 2015

The Unassuming Mr. Aykroyd

imagesWith the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Live at hand and a tribute airing tonight on NBC, many are ranking favorite cast members, defining sketches, and most memorable contributions.  John Belushi, Tina Fey, Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy appear to be the most beloved show horses, but allow me a few words on an underappreciated SNL workhorse and member of the original Not Ready for Prime Time team, Dan Aykroyd.

Most everyone remembers his possessed parody of gadget inventor Ron Popeil, The Bass-o-Matic. And his impersonation of Julia Child, the memory of which makes me laugh so hard I can hardly type. And let’s not even begin to talk about his impression of John Boehner or I’ll never be able to complete this. With Aykroyd, you don’t remember the player, but the characters he played. Eric Idle observed that Aykroyd’s  unassuming writing, concentration and delivery made him the one SNL member who would have been a good fit among Monty Python’s merry men.

And though his screen career isn’t quite the magnitude of that of Murray or Murphy, Aykroyd does more with less on the big screen than most actors. Consider his performance as Daisy Werthan’s exasperated and loving son in Driving Miss Daisy (which won him an Oscar nod), or as Louis Winthorpe III in the sublime Trading Places (opposite Eddie Murphy), or as Dr. Raymond Stantz in Ghostbusters (which he co-wrote). I find his small part as the neurologist who explains her memory disorder to Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates surprisingly moving.

He is a staunch believer in paranormal phenomena (read this essay) and it occurs to me that maybe he’s so memorable at playing characters because he believes that he is a medium channeling others.

Thoughts? Favorite SNL player(s)? Best movie based on an SNL sketch?


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