America the Fickle has never had any problem throwing out the rascals every four years and putting someone else unequal to the task into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The real difficulty is replacing the presidential parodist at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the home of NBC’s Saturday Night Live. The original incumbent was Chevy Chase, but he took his pratfalling Jerry Ford persona to Hollywood. Fortunately, the job of impersonating Jimmy Carter fell to the show’s most brilliant writer-actor, Dan Aykroyd, 26.
Then, even before Campaign ’80 came to its denouement, he too split, forcing someone else to worry about putting on Jimmy, Teddy or Ronnie and creating the largest void at SNL since the departure of Chevy. Aykroyd, the son of a top Canadian civil servant, actually wrote much of the show’s brightest material, including his dead-on Carter and Tom Snyder impressions, the Coneheads sketches and his Czech playboy routines with Steve Martin. It was just one of those shtiks, his self-indulgent Blues Brothers act with John Belushi, that implausibly took off into a double-platinum LP (Briefcase Full of Blues) and led to the movie Aykroyd has written and is filming in Chicago and L.A. with Belushi (who doesn’t write). It’s part of Dan’s three-picture Universal deal, which also includes the newly released Stephen Spielberg film 1941.
Guarded and sometimes distant emotionally—one friend calls him “Frosty the Robot”—Aykroyd has bought a $500,000 Martha’s Vineyard estate contiguous to Belushi’s, not that he necessarily wants to go through life playing Abbott to John’s Costello. Aykroyd’s dating life has included the likes of singer Nicolette Larson, Carrie Fisher and Rosie Schuster, the estranged writer wife of his old SNL producer Lorne Michaels. But Aykroyd may still feel closest to his motorcycle, old-car collection and the fantasies he’s been acting out all his life. “Danny is out there operating beyond the pale of known human behavior,” judges Spielberg, “and he is winning.”