Daniel Edward "Dan" Aykroyd, CM (born July 1, 1952) is an Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning Canadian-American comedian, actor, screenwriter, musician, winemaker and ufologist. He was an original cast member of Saturday Night Live, an originator of the Blues Brothers (with John Belushi) and Ghostbusters and has had a long career as a film actor and screenwriter.
Aykroyd was born on Dominion Day (1st of July) at the Ottawa General Hospital in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He grew up in the Canadian capital where his father, Samuel Cuthbert Peter Hugh Aykroyd, a civil engineer, worked as a policy adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. His mother, Lorraine (née Gougeon), is a secretary of French Canadian origin, and his brother, Peter, also became a comedy actor. Aykroyd was born with syndactyly (webbed toes), which was revealed in the movie Mr. Mike's Mondo Video and in a short film on Saturday Night Live (Don't Look Back In Anger). He was also born with heterochromia (a condition of having two differently colored eyes). His right eye is green and his left eye is brown.
Aykroyd was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and had intended to become a priest until the age of seventeen. He attended Lisgar Collegiate Institute, St Pius X and St Patrick's, where he was briefly expelled from the latter: he dressed up a pig to look like the pope and brought it to school for show and tell. He went on to study criminology and sociology at Carleton University but dropped out before completing. He worked as a comedian in various Canadian nightclubs and ran an after-hours speakeasy (Club 505) in Toronto for several years. Aykroyd went on to gain experience in The Second City comedy troupe and in the National Lampoon stage shows. While working with Second City, Aykroyd moonlighted as the announcer for Citytv in Toronto.
He was known for his impersonations of celebrities like Jimmy Carter (talking a talk-show caller down from a bad acid trip), Richard Nixon, Tom Snyder, and others. He was also known for his recurring roles, such as Beldar, father in the Coneheads family; with Steve Martin, Georg Festrunk, one of the "Two Wild and Crazy Guys" Czech brothers; sleazy late-night cable TV host E. Buzz Miller and his cousin, corrupt maker of children's toys and costumes Irwin Mainway (who extolled the virtues and defended the safety of the "Bag-o-Glass" toy, perhaps the retail leader of the "Bag-o" series of toys); Fred Garvin – male prostitute; and high-bred but low-brow critic Leonard Pinth-Garnell. He also co-hosted the Weekend Update segment for a season with Jane Curtin, coining the famous catchphrase "Jane, you ignorant slut" during point-counterpoint segments.
Aykroyd's talent was recognized by others in the highly competitive SNL environment: when he first presented his famous "Super Bass-O-Matic '76" sketch, a fake commercial in which a garish, hyper pitchman (modeled after Ron Popeil) touts a food blender that turns an entire bass into liquid pulp, "to [other writers and cast members] the 'Bass-O-Matic' was so exhilaratingly strange that many remember sitting and listening, open-mouthed ... Nobody felt jealous of it because they couldn't imagine writing anything remotely like it." [Hill and Weingrad p. 143]
While Aykroyd was a close friend and partner with fellow cast member John Belushi and shared some of the same sensibilities, Aykroyd was more reserved and less self-destructive. In 1977, he received an Emmy Award for writing on Saturday Night Live; he later received two more nominations for writing, and one each for acting and Outstanding Comedy-Variety series.
In later decades, Aykroyd made occasional guest appearances and unannounced cameos on Saturday Night Live, often impersonating the American politician Bob Dole. He would also bring back past characters including Irwin Mainway and Leonard Pinth-Garnell. During a couple of his guest appearances he resurrected the Blues Brothers musical act with frequent host John Goodman in place of John Belushi. Finally in May 2003, he hosted the season finale of Saturday Night Live. During his monologue, he did a musical bit with Jim Belushi that was similar to the Blues Brothers, but neither Aykroyd nor Belushi donned the famous black suit and sunglasses. It was a unique hosting choice as he was not promoting a project at the time and he did not bring back any characters for this appearance. He became the second member of the original cast to host the show. On March 24, 2007 he made his most recent cameo appearance as a crying fan of Andy Samberg portraying American Idol finalist Sanjaya Malakar during Weekend Update.
Aykroyd was good friends with John Belushi, who recruited him for Saturday Night Live. According to Aykroyd, it was his first meeting with Belushi that helped spark their popular Blues Brothers act. When they met in a speakeasy Aykroyd frequented, Aykroyd put on a blues record to play in the background, and it stimulated a fascination with Blues in Belushi, who was primarily a fan of heavy metal. Aykroyd educated John on the finer points of blues music and, with a little encouragement from then-SNL music director Paul Shaffer, it led to the creation of their Blues Brothers characters.
The Blues Brothers was a legitimate musical act, releasing the hit album Briefcase Full of Blues, in 1978, and performing live gigs. The Blues Brothers continue to tour today, featuring original members Lou Marini, Steve Cropper, Alan Rubin and Donald "Duck" Dunn, along with vocalist Eddie Floyd.
Cherokee Studios was a regular haunt for the original Blues Brothers back in the early days of the band. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd became fixtures at the recording studio, while fellow Blues Brother and legendary guitar player Steve Cropper called Cherokee his producing home. Whenever they needed a bass player, they were joined by another Blues Brother, Donald "Duck" Dunn. During this time, Cropper along with producing partner and Cherokee owner Bruce Robb (producer) worked on a number of music projects with the two comedian/musicians, including Belushi's favorite band Fear and later Aykroyd's movie "Dragnet."
Aykroyd and Belushi were scheduled to present the Academy Award for Visual Effects in 1982, but Belushi died only a few weeks prior to the ceremony. Though devastated by his friend's death, Aykroyd presented the award alone, remarking from the stage "My partner would have loved to have been here to present this, given that he was something of a visual effect himself." Not a few years before, when he and John Belushi were making an appearance on the "Today" show, he referred to them as "kindred spirits." In the biography "Belushi", Aykroyd claims that John Belushi was the only man he could ever dance with.
In 1992, Aykroyd, along with many other notable music and Hollywood personalities, founded the House of Blues. Its mission is to promote African-American cultural contributions of blues music and folk art. From 2004 until its sale to Live Nation in 2007, it was the second-largest live music promoter in the world, with seven venues and 22 amphitheaters in the United States and Canada. Aykroyd also contributes his voice to the weekly House of Blues Radio Hour, which he hosts in the character of Elwood Blues.
After leaving Saturday Night Live, Aykroyd starred in a number of mainly comedy films, with uneven results both commercially and artistically. When starting out in the film industry Aykroyd would star with his old friend Belushi in three films, The Blues Brothers, Neighbors and 1941. One of his best-received performances was as a blueblood-turned-wretch in the 1983 comic drama Trading Places; a notable flop was in the earlier 1941 (director Steven Spielberg received the brunt of the criticism, but Akyroyd's performance as an Army Sergeant was either played straight or completely manic).
Aykroyd originally wrote the role of Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters (1984) with John Belushi in mind, but rewrote the part for another famous SNL player, Bill Murray, after Belushi died. Aykroyd used to joke that the green ghoul (who would later come to be known as "Slimer" in the animated series and was credited as such in the second film) was "the ghost of John Belushi", based on the similar party animal personality. Ghostbusters became a huge success for Aykroyd as a co-creator, co-writer, and one of the lead actors; the film's inspiration came from Aykroyd's fascination with parapsychology.
Aykroyd participated in the recording of We are the World in 1985.
His directorial debut was 1991's Nothing But Trouble. It starred Demi Moore, Chevy Chase, John Candy and Aykroyd himself, sporting an oddly phallic prosthetic nose. The film was a critical and box office flop. Other efforts in the 1990s, including Exit To Eden, Blues Brothers 2000, and Getting Away with Murder, were also poorly received. He also made an uncredited appearance in the Michael Moore film, Canadian Bacon as a motorcycle cop.
In 1997, Aykroyd starred in a short-lived sitcom on ABC called Soul Man. The show lasted one season. In the 2000s, Aykroyd's film appearances have tended to be small character parts in big-budget productions, such as a signals analyst in Pearl Harbor and a neurologist in 50 First Dates. In 2001 Aykroyd starred in the Woody Allen film, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.
In February 2007 Aykroyd revealed that he would be providing voice-acting for a Ghostbusters III CGI project, although he stated that that would not happen until next year. He is also, along with Harold Ramis, writing, and appearing in the upcoming Ghostbusters video game, which will also feature Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, William Atherton, and Brian Doyle-Murray.
It was John Belushi, who discovered the band Fear and brought them to Cherokee Studios to record songs for the soundtrack of a major motion picture he and Dan Aykroyd were starring in called, "Neighbors." Music producing partners Steve Cropper and Bruce Robb (producer) remember recording the memorable band's music, but nobody knows exactly what happened with the final soundtrack which was ultimately replaced in the film by very traditional movie score.
For a time, Aykroyd was engaged to Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher (who hosted the Saturday Night Live episode in which Aykroyd and Belushi gave their first polished performance as the Blues Brothers, and had a role in the Blues Brothers film). He has been inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame and maintains his Canadian roots as a longtime resident of Sydenham, Ontario, with his estate on Loughborough Lake. In 1994 Aykroyd received an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Carleton University. In 1998, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.
Aykroyd also received a dubious honor in 1997, when the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal "awarded" him the Snuffed Candle award, for "contributing to the public's lack of understanding of the methods of scientific inquiry." CSICOP did this in response to Aykroyd's program Psi Factor.
Aykroyd is a Naturalized citizen of the United States. In 1983, he married actress Donna Dixon, with whom he starred in the movies Spies Like Us, Doctor Detroit, and The Couch Trip. They have three daughters: Danielle Alexandra (born November 18, 1989), Belle Kingston (born June 9, 1993), and Stella Irene August (born April 5, 1998).
Aykroyd described himself (in a radio interview with Terry Gross) as having mild Tourette syndrome that was successfully treated with therapy when he was a preteen, as well as mild Asperger syndrome. The diagnosis of Asperger syndrome did not exist in the 1960s, when Aykroyd was a preteen. It is unclear if Aykroyd received the diagnoses of TS or AS from a medical source, whether he was speaking in his role as a comic, or whether the diagnoses were self-made. It was an audio interview, so the audience could not see Aykroyd's facial expressions, but the interviewer indicated uncertainty about whether Aykroyd was kidding.
As of 2006, Aykroyd has entered a partnership with Niagara Cellars, which owns four wineries in the Niagara region. They will be marketing a series of red and white wines under his name. He is also considering a beer and vodka label with the Coneheads name.
Aykroyd is a lifetime member of and official Hollywood consultant for the Mutual UFO Network. He is also a Reserve Commander for the Police Department in Harahan, Louisiana, working for Chief of Police Peter Dale. Aykroyd carries his badge with him at all times. In 2005, Aykroyd produced a DVD titled, "Dan Aykroyd: Unplugged on UFOs". In it he is interviewed for 80-minutes by UFOlogist David Sereda where he discusses in depth every aspect of the UFO phonemenon, and reveals specifically that they are blue, not green, but appear that way because of a filter.
Mr. Swackhammer, the antagonist of the movie Space Jam, mistakes Bill Murray for Aykroyd at his appearance at the basketball game, commenting "I didn't know Dan Aykroyd was in this picture". In the episode of The Simpsons in which Homer's mother returns, she comments on how handsome he's become, to which Homer replies, "Some people say I look like Dan Aykroyd".
Aykroyd was played by Gary Groomes in the 1989 film version of Bob Woodward's book Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi. The film was boycotted by Aykroyd, as well as by Judith Belushi Pisano and Jim Belushi. Aykroyd was played by Dan Di Julio in the 2002 TV movie Gilda Radner: It's Always Something.