Daniel Edward "Dan" Aykroyd, CM (born July 1, 1952) is a 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 July 1, 1952 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 coloured eyes). His right eye is green and his left eye is brown.
Aykroyd's great-grandfather Samuel Augustus Aykroyd (1855-), a dentist, had been a mystic and had been involved in Spiritualism, which Aykroyd would have a great interest in, stating that "all that stuff was hanging around the old farmhouse I grew up in, so I was kind of steeped in it".
Aykroyd was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and had intended to become a priest until the age of seventeen. He attended 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's musical career was initially developed in Ottawa, particularly through his regular attendances at Le Hibou, a club that featured many blues artists. He describes these influences as follows:
...there was a little club there called Le Hibou, which in French means 'the owl'. And it was run by a gentleman named Harvey Glatt, and he brought every, and I mean every blues star that you or I would ever have wanted to have seen through Ottawa in the late 50s, well I guess more late 60s sort of, in around the Newport jazz rediscovery. I was going to Le Hibou and hearing James Cotton, Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, and Muddy Waters. I actually jammed behind Muddy Waters. S. P. Leary left the drum kit one night, and Muddy said 'anybody out there play drums? I don’t have a drummer.' And I walked on stage and we started, I don’t know, Little Red Rooster, something. He said 'keep that beat going, you make Muddy feel good.' And I heard Howlin’ Wolf (Chester Burnett). Many, many times I saw Howlin’ Wolf. And of course Buddy Guy, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. So I was exposed to all of these players, playing there as part of this scene to service the academic community in Ottawa, a very well-educated community. Had I lived in a different town I don’t think that this would have happened, because it was just the confluence of educated government workers, and then also all the colleges in the area, Ottawa University, Carleton, and all the schools—these people were interested in blues culture.
Aykroyd gained fame on the American late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live, where he was a writer and cast member for its first four seasons, from 1975 to 1979. Aykroyd brought a unique sensibility to the show, combining youth, unusual interests, talent as an impersonator and an almost lunatic intensity. Eric Idle, of Monty Python, once said that Aykroyd's ability to write and act out characters flawlessly made him the only member of the SNL cast capable of being a Python.
He was known for his impersonations of celebrities like Jimmy Carter, Vincent Price, Richard Nixon, Rod Serling, 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 eccentric 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."
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 an appearance as a crying fan of American Idol finalist Sanjaya Malakar (played by Andy Samberg) during Weekend Update. On February 14, 2009, he made an appearance portraying U.S. House Minority leader John Boehner.
Aykroyd was good friends with John Belushi. According to Aykroyd, it was his first meeting with Belushi that helped spark their popular Blues Brothers act. When they met in a club 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.
Backed by such experienced professional R&B sidemen as lead guitarist Steve Cropper, sax man Lou Marini, trumpeter Alan Rubin and bass guitarist Donald "Duck" Dunn, the Blues Brothers proved more than an SNL novelty. Taking off with the public as a legitimate musical act, they performed live gigs and released the hit album Briefcase Full of Blues in 1978. The Blues Brothers Band continues to tour today, featuring original members Cropper, Marini, Rubin, and Dunn, along with vocalist Eddie Floyd
Early in the incarnation of the Blues Brothers, John Belushi joined the Grateful Dead on Stage on April 2, 1980 for a rendition of "Good Morning Little School Girl" at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, N.J (coinciding with the Dead performing on SNL that weekend). John sang the part usually carried by the late Dead band member "Pigpen." This is a moment cherished by all fans of John Belushi and the Dead alike. There were other SNL connections between the Dead and SNL over the years.
Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles 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 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 Delaney aka Elwood Blues.
Today, The Blues Brothers still tour. Dan Aykroyd still performs as Elwood back with John's little brother James Belushi who plays "Brother Zee" on stage. They are almost always backed by The Sacred Hearts Band.
Concurrent with his work in Saturday Night Live, Aykroyd played the role of Purvis Bickle, lift operator at the fictitious office block 99 Sumach Street in the CBC Television series Coming Up Rosie.
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 Aykroyd'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 ghost (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.
Aykroyd was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for 1989's Driving Miss Daisy.
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 films starring Aykroyd in the 1990s, included Exit To Eden, Blues Brothers 2000, Getting Away with Murder; these 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 it would not happen until next year. He also, along with Harold Ramis, wrote and appeared in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, which also featured 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 Neighbors, a film he and Aykroyd were starring in. Music producing partners Steve Cropper and Bruce Robb remember recording the band's music, but nobody knows exactly what happened with the final soundtrack, which was ultimately replaced in the film by a traditional movie score.
On the 2008 release of fellow Ottawa born blues musician JW-Jones' album Bluelisted, Aykroyd wrote the liner notes.
In 2009, Aykroyd contributed a series of reminiscences on his upbringing in Canada for a charity album titled "Dan Aykroyd's Canada".
On June 14, 2009, GameStop called people who pre-ordered Ghostbusters: The Video game using Aykroyd's voice telling them to come to the launch event at 10pm.
Most recently, Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase guest starred in the Family Guy episode "Spies Reminiscent of Us". He also hosts the nationally-syndicated radio show "House Of Blues Radio Hour" under his Blues Brothers moniker Elwood Blues.
He has been inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. 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 honour 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.
The popular Scottish band Dananananaykroyd named themselves after Dan Aykroyd.
Eric Idle once said of Aykroyd that he was "the only person I ever met who could have been part of Python - he had all the skills, the capability of being a Python."
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). He maintains his Canadian roots as a longtime resident of Sydenham, Ontario, with his estate on Loughborough Lake.
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 was not standardized as a diagnosis 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 (which he denied).
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 spent a good amount of time in 2009 promoting his own Crystal Head Vodka, with his interest in the paranormal coming through with the drink's unique skull-shaped bottle. He is also considering a beer and vodka label with the Coneheads name.
He is 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.
Aykroyd helped Dale start the Blue Line Foundation. They are redeveloping flood damaged lots in New Orleans and helping first responders buy them at reduced prices. Coastal Blue Line LLC, hopes to eventually to rebuild 400 properties in New Orleans.
In a recent radio interview with the Hill-Man Morning show, Aykroyd said if he could forget one film he did it would be Exit To Eden.
Aykroyd considers himself a Spiritualist, stating that:
I am a Spiritualist, a proud wearer of the Spiritualist badge. Mediums and psychic research have gone on for many, many years... Loads of people have seen [spirits], heard a voice or felt the cold temperature. I believe that they are between here and there, that they exist between the fourth and fifth dimension, and that they visit us frequently.
His great-grandfather, a dentist, had been a mystic who had corresponded with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the subject of Spiritualism, and who was a member of the Lily Dale Society.
Other than Spiritualism, Aykroyd is also interested in various other aspects of the paranormal, particularly ufology. He is a lifetime member of and official Hollywood consultant for the Mutual UFO Network. 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 phenomenon, and reveals specifically that they are blue, not green, but appear that way because of a filter.
On September 29, 2009, Peter Aykroyd, father of Dan Aykroyd, published a book entitled, A History of Ghosts. This book chronicled the family's historical involvement in the Spiritualist Movement, to which Aykroyd readily refers. Aykroyd wrote the introduction and accompanied his father on a series of promotional activities, including launches in New York City and Toronto, an appearance on Larry King Live and various other public relations initiatives. Aykroyd also read the introduction for the audio version of the book.
A third daughter with wife Donna Dixon, Stella Irene August, was born on April 5, 1998, weighing 6 lb.
A police buff, he rides an Ontario Provincial Police motorcycle, collects police badges, sometimes rides shotgun with detectives in squad cars, and owns a business in partnership with several Toronto police officers.
Was good friends with John Belushi.
Is very interested in the supernatural and has an extensive collection of books on the subject.
His grandfather was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Daughters with Donna Dixon; Danielle Alexandra (Danielle Aykroyd) (born November 18, 1989) and Belle Kingston (born June 9, 1993).
Worked as a mail sorter for Canada's national postal service before he became an actor.
Older brother of Peter Aykroyd. Like Peter, an alumnus of the Second City comedy troupe in Toronto.
Roman Catholic of English and French extraction. On his father's side, he can trace his ancestry to the 15th century.
Is a victim of syndactylism, a birth defect where several digits are fused together. In Mr. Mike's Mondo Video (1979), he takes his shoes and socks off on-screen, to reveal this anomaly.
Co-owns House of Blues with friend Isaac Tigrett
On his passport, he lists his occupation as "Writer".
Has played harmonica since he was 17 years old.
Holds an advisory commission with the Police Department in Payne City, Georgia.
Once helped to subdue a drunk and disorderly passenger on a Montreal-to-Los Angeles flight.
Was offered the role of "D-Day" in Animal House (1978), but turned it down.
After working together on three films, Jamie Lee Curtis called him the best "screen kisser" who ever had a scene with her.
Though he has made numerous appearances on "Saturday Night Live" (1975) since leaving the show in 1979, he did not actually host it until the 2002-2003 season finale.
Has a "Blues Brothers" type band with John Belushi's brother, James Belushi.
Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith. pg. 32-33. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
Proposed to Donna Dixon on Fran Drescher's porch. Drescher played a major role in getting them together from the start.
Received the Order of Canada in 1999.
He met John Belushi in a Chicago speakeasy that was a favorite night spot of his and put on a blues record to play in the background while he and Belushi discussed the possibility of Aykroyd joining "Saturday Night Live" (1975). Not only did they hit it off and become good friends, Belushi became fascinated with the blues that was being played in the background because, to Aykroyd's surprise, the Chicago-born Belushi was primarily a fan of heavy metal. Aykroyd's familiarizing Belushi with blues music eventually led to them forming their popular "Blues Brothers" act, with a little input from then SNL music director Howard Shore.
Aykroyd and John Belushi were scheduled to present the first annual Best Visual Effects Oscar at the 1982 Academy Awards, but Belushi died weeks before the ceremony. Aykroyd presented the award alone, and stated from the podium: "My partner would have loved to have been here tonight to present this award, since he was a bit of a Visual Effect himself."
Was born with complete heterochromia; his right eye is blue and his left eye is brown.
Came up with the character of Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute, when he lived with former "Saturday Night Live" (1975) writer Rosie Shuster. He first did it to entertain Rosie at home.
As a child in the early 1960s, he was diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome and Asperger syndrome. The symptoms had mostly subsided by the time he was 14.
He has owned or co-owned several bars and restaurants, including the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City and the House of Blues chain.
He has such a fascination with both police officers and criminals, one of the writers from the original "Saturday Night Live" (1975) said his ultimate fantasy was to commit a crime, then arrest himself for it.
Said that his original finished script for The Blues Brothers (1980) was over 300 pages long, roughly the size of a phone book. He even sent it to director John Landis in the guise of a phone book as a joke.
Ranked #14 on Tropopkin's Top 25 Most Intriguing People [Issue #100]
His original idea for Ghost Busters (1984) was set in the future, where an army of Ghostbusters fought hordes of ghosts. He used to refer to the green Slimer ghost from Ghost Busters (1984) as "the ghost of John Belushi", as Slimer's party animal personality reminded him very much of his friend.
A scene was deleted from Steven Spielberg's 1941 (1979) where his character, Sgt. Frank Tree, met John Belushi's character, Wild Bill Kelso. The scene took place right after the tank was dropped into the water by the Japanese sub: Wild Bill was swimming out in the sub's direction just as Frank emerges from the top of the sinking tank, spots Wild Bill and they look at each other curiously, as if recognizing each other, a nod to their real life friendship. It was the only scene in the film where they interacted.
Supports MUFON, a UFO study group.
He's the first male regular cast member of "Saturday Night Live" (1975) to be nominated for an Academy Award. (Joan Cusack was the very first regular cast member of the show to be Oscar-nominated.)
His parents are Lorraine and Peter Aykroyd (not to be confused with his younger brother Peter Aykroyd). His father is best known as P.H. Aykroyd.
Many sources state that he was married in the 1970s to a woman named Maureen Lewis and had three sons (Mark, Lloyd and Oscar). However, the marriage never occurred and the three kids never existed. What happened was that before Aykroyd became famous, he filled out a questionnaire from the publishers of Who's Who and made up a phony biography complete with a wife and kids.
Is ambidextrous, as is evident by his writing left-handed during the examination scene in Spies Like Us (1985).
He was awarded the C.M. (Member of the Order of Canada) on October 21, 1998 for his services to entertainment, scientific research, Carleton University, and Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
Is a big fan of The Beach Boys and his first piece of writing was a sketch that appeared in the 1976 documentary The Beach Boys: It's OK (1976) (TV).
Was very close with River Phoenix during the filming of "Sneakers". Aykroyd can even been seen wearing the shirt of Phoenix's band, Aleka's Attic, in the movie.
He and M. Night Shyamalan, are the only two men to direct themselves in performances that "won" them a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor. Aykroyd "won" the award for, and also directed, the film Nothing But Trouble (1991).
He and Bill Murray resumed their Ghostbusters roles to visit a terminally ill child who was a fan of the film and wanted to meet them. Owns Dan Aykroyd's Wine, an Ontario-based distillery/vineyard and plans to open up for the market in 2008. His idea for the name he got from Paul Newman. He is a huge fan of the TV Series "Dragnet" and the show's star, Jack Webb. So much so that many of his characters are able to rapidly spit out technical information just as Webb did reciting laws and regulations as Sgt. Joe Friday. Some examples of this are: 1. In "The Blues Brothers" when Elwood describes the specifications of the Bluesmobile. 2. In "Ghostbusters" when Dr. Raymond Stanz "orders" the demi-god Zuul to leave New York. 3. In "1941" when Sgt. Tree teaches the Ned Beatty character how to load and fire the anti-aircraft gun. 4. During the "SNL" Weekend Update whenever he would verbally spar with Jane Curtain.
Is portrayed by Danilo Di Julio in Gilda Radner: It's Always Something (2002) (TV).
Spends every Canada Day (July 1, also his birthday) performing some sort of civic duty in Kingston, Ontario and one year was appointed a Citizenship Judge where he swore in some immigrants as Canadian citizens.
Is part owner of a company that owns the exclusive distribution rights to Patron tequila for the entire country of Canada. Is now also distilling a vodka called "Crystal Head" to be bottled in a skull-shaped glass bottle.
His name is the inspiration for, and foundation of, the sobriquet of Glasgow, Scotland post-hardcore/indie-pop rock band Dananananaykroyd.