Chevy Chase is a comedy legend. He’s an original cast member of Saturday Night Live (SNL), and starred in many 1980’s classics. However, he’s famously antagonistic, angering a long list of co-stars throughout his fifty-year career.
Chevy is currently banned from SNL for his conduct when he guest-hosted in 1997. That week, he slapped cast member Cheri Oteri on the back of the head, saying it was a joke. Chase was ousted, and is the only former cast member to ever be banned.
During Chevy’s time at SNL, he was in his second serious relationship, which was with Jacqueline Carlin, a model and aspiring actress based in Los Angeles (his first marriage ended in divorce after an unremarkable three years). They married on December 4, 1976, but the marriage quickly fell apart as Chevy started to get into substance abuse. Chase was mentally all over the place because of the prodigious level of substance consumption. The divorce also included Carlin suing Chevy because of his alleged threats of violence against her.
Chevy was not popular among his SNL co-stars, because he was not only insensitive when it came to the writers’ room, but he was also openly insulting to anyone and everyone in his path. According to the book Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, Chevy was a, “a viciously effective put-down artist, the sort who could find the one thing somebody was sensitive about — a pimple on the nose, perhaps — and then kid about it, mercilessly.”
Pratfalls Of Comedy
Although Chevy was officially a writer on SNL, he also performed. Also, Chevy famously opened every show by saying, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” Memorably, he mocked President Gerald Ford for falling down the stairs of Air Force One by doing an impersonation of him acting extremely clumsily, including re-creating a tumble. Chevy’s physical comedy and signature pratfalls were lauded at the time, but had dark consequences. His back eventually started to ache, and he developed a dependence on prescription painkillers because of them.
Calling It Quits
Only after one and a half seasons, Chevy grew tired of being on SNL and decided to leave. He allegedly missed a couple episodes of the second season because of an injury, but people believe this was a lie that was simply a way for the executives to test how the show did without him. Instead of being on SNL, Chevy chose to host some NBC primetime specials. Chase claims that he left because of personal issues with his girlfriend, but he once admitted he did it for, “Money. Lots of money.”
Best Friends Forever?
At the time Chevy was on SNL, he was best friends with the big boss, Lorne Michaels. They even shared the same manager, Bernie Brillstein. However, when Chase decided to chase money and movie roles instead of continuing on SNL, he betrayed both Lorne and Bernie. He dropped Bernie and signed with William Morris. This was not just a business move- it was done in a vindictive way. A former writer said that “Chevy was a scumbag the way he left.”
Weekend Update Return
When Chase returned to host SNL, he returned to the Weekend Update desk, where he’d made his mark as a cast member with his trademark lines, “I’m Chevy Chase … and you’re not!” and his sign-off, “good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.” However, the new Update anchor Jane Curtin, according to Chevy, did not want him on the segment. She admitted that he was, “expecting [a reaction] that he wasn’t getting from me.” Curtin more recently unveiled the blatant sexism of many SNL cast members.
Worst Host Ever… Again
For some reason, Chase was invited to host SNL once again in 1985. There he made fun of 20-year-old new cast member Robert Downey Jr. Chevy asked Robert, “didn’t your father used to be a successful director? Whatever happened to him? Boy, he sure died, you know, he sure went to hell.” Chevy also made insensitive jokes directed towards Terry Sweeney, to the point where he was begrudgingly forced to apologize. Sweeney said Chase was, “really furious that he had to apologize to me.”
Chevy is one of the blue-blooded American elite who is listed in the exclusive Social Register. His ancestors were New Yorkers back in 1624, but go back all the way to the Mayflower. In his bloodline was former NYC mayor Stephanus Van Cortlandt, and members of the prominent Schuyler family. Chase’s parents divorced, and his father re-married into the Folger’s Coffee family. Still, despite a comfortable upbringing, Chevy worked as a cab driver, construction worker, waiter, salesman, and usher before committing to comedy.
The Chevy Chase Show
Fox wanted to hire someone to host a talk show, to replace the gap that was just made by the departure of Johnny Carson from TV, so they hired Chevy in 1993. The Chevy Chase Show had huge expectations. Executives projected to outcompete David Letterman and Conan O’Brien. The network also spent $1 million renovating the theatre where they filmed the show, and even renamed it after Chevy! After five weeks, however, the show was canceled. Time said, “Chase tried everything, succeeded at nothing.”
Causing A Brainstorm
As a writer on season one of SNL, Chevy Chase disrespected the long-held notion that writer’s rooms are generally safe spaces for brainstorming. It is a place where people need to feel free and open to discuss ideas that are sometimes vulnerable. Instead of accepting peoples’ ideas, whether they were good or bad, Chevy would viciously attack other writers’ ideas in a mocking, sarcastic way saying, “gee, I don’t think that’s very good at all.” And that was him being nice.
Always The Critic
Despite the immense failure of his talk show and three of his early 90’s movies, Chevy still remained acerbically critical when it came to others’ work- even when he admittedly didn’t really know what he was talking about. Stephen Bocho, who developed Doogie Howser, M.D. and NYPD Blue had the unfortunate luck to appear on a talk show with Chevy. Chase called Bocho’s work, “useless and worthless,” and turned the offenses to host Bill Maher when he tried to steer the conversation back to the script.
Chevy was commercially successful as Fletch, an investigative reporter and master of disguise in Fletch and the sequel Fletch Lives. A prequel has been in development for 20 years now, and the cult audience is waiting patiently. At one point, indie director Kevin Smith met with Chevy about developing the movie together. The meeting was abysmal. Kevin claims Chase, “claimed he invented every funny thing that ever happened in the history of not just comedy, but also the known world.” Unsurprisingly, Smith did not end up making the movie.
At the legendary improv theatre UCB, Chevy Chase came by to greet all the up and coming comedians, including Rob Huebel. Rob’s entrance into showbiz was inspired by Chevy Chase; Rob says he was “the biggest Chevy Chase fan in the world. [He] knew every word to Fletch and Caddyshack. [He] wanted to be Chevy Chase.” Rob giddily introduced himself, and, Chevy “just slapped me across the face. He didn’t say anything; he just looked at me for a second and belted me. It was really hard—offensively hard.”
One of the biggest honors in comedy is to be the subject of a roast, where celebrities come and make fun of the foibles of your life and career. Usually, it is an honor to be roasted, as you can only really be made fun of by those who are trusted friends, who know not to cross the line. However, many came to the roast with revenge on their minds; the jokes were savage and “relentless.” Even sadder, however, was how few from the SNL cast showed up.
Modern Problems was a 1981 film with Chevy Chase starring as the main character, an air traffic controller who gets a telekinetic ability. The movie was successful: it made $26 million on a budget of $8 million. However, this movie was probably one of the worst experiences Chevy ever had making a movie, as he nearly died during filming. During one dream sequence, he is dressed as a human airplane. The lights he was adorned with malfunctioned, and he was electrocuted and lost consciousness.
You Can Call Me Chevy
Paul Simon is not only known for his iconic work as part of Simon And Garfunkle but also as a solo artist. One of his biggest hits, “You Can Call Me Al” was released in 1986, and reached top five status in seven countries. Originally, the music video was of Paul performing on the set of Saturday Night Live. However, he was unsatisfied with this. So Lorne Michaels, Paul Simon, and director Gary Weis decided on a quirky alternative: Paul sang while Chevy Chase sat nearby, lip-syncing along.
Member Of The Community
In 2009, Dan Harmon put together a successful sitcom called Community, and cast Chevy Chase in it. Chase had not been prominently featured in films or TV for years, even relegating himself to playing as a regular character on a Swedish sitcom called Hjälp! Even still, Chevy was seemingly ungrateful, as he complained about the long hours of filming constantly. Chevy’s constant complaining eventually started to annoy Dan Harmon, and they got into a spat that erupted at the third season wrap party.
At the third season wrap party, the Harmon did something that he later said was him acting like a, “selfish baby.” Due to all the in-fighting, Harmon was frustrated and ended up giving a speech in which he verbally abused Chevy, shouting expletives at him, and even coaxing the rest of the cast and crew to join in a chant, cursing out Chevy. Chase was furious, as he was humiliated while with his wife and daughter. He fired back in a much-talked-about way.
After being cursed at by Harmon, Chevy stormed out of the wrap party. He decided to fire back via a voicemail message. In the message that is less than a minute long, he somehow makes it so loaded with profanity, it is mind-boggling. Chevy insults the poor health of Harmon, saying he would be lucky to live past 57, with his eating habits and alcohol consumption. Chase also touches on Harmon’s craft, saying that his “writing is getting worse and worse.”
Things were already awkward on the set of Community when this incident occurred in 2012. Chase was doing lines as his character, Pierce Hawthorne, and, as he struggled with some of the lines, he said a racial slur, which was presumably offensive to his African American co-stars Yvette Nicole Brown and Donald Glover. Although the slur was not directed towards anyone, Chase gathered the cast and crew to apologize. In an unexpected twist, Dan Harmon ended up getting booted from the show, and Chase stayed on the show.
More Community Issues
Chevy rubbed some of the women of Community the wrong way when he made certain jokes that the ladies euphemistically explained away as, “from a different time,” or due to a “generational gap in terms of comedy.” Co-star Dino Stamatopoulos said that Chase, “has a reputation [for being insensitive]… [and] that reputation is earned.” Although Dino says he does not have any real problem with Chase, Dino says it’s only because he doesn’t work with Chevy on a daily basis.
Chevy Chase has been in rehab twice. Once in 1986, where he was treated for his reliance on prescription painkillers. His back hurt after doing so much physical comedy as a younger man, that he needed the pills. However, he went overboard with it and had to check into the Betty Ford Clinic. In 2016, he arrived at the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in Minnesota for an alcohol-related issue. A representative for Chevy said that he was simply looking for a “tune-up.”
Chevy attended Bard College, where he originally declared pre-medical studies as his major. Studying that and entering medical school afterward would disqualify him from entering the draft for the Vietnam War. However, instead of going through with that, he switched majors to English. To avoid the draft, Chevy made up many things about himself to try and get a 4-F classification: “not qualified for… physical, mental, or moral standards.” Chase said that he was a homosexual, and the draft board made him 4-F.
Along with his acting, writing, and comedic skills, Chevy is a musician. His mother was a concert pianist, and probably got him into music. Chase also has the genetic gift of perfect pitch. In college, Chevy played drums, and formed a band with school friends Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. Although Chase called their band, The Leather Canary, a “bad jazz band.” However, he must have been wrong, as Walter and Donald went on to form a little band called Steely Dan.
Chevy Chase is an outspoken Democrat, and has something to say to multiple presidents. After all, his famous Gerald Ford impression probably makes him feel like he should be giving presidential advice. Chase called President Bush an “uneducated, real lying schmuck.” Chase told Bill Clinton to, “take a deep breath, [to] look like he’s thinking before he answers questions. The whole trick is to behave presidentially.” Surely Clinton did not mind, as Chase raised a lot of money for him in the 1990s.
Fued With Howard Stern
Chevy was on Larry King’s show at one point, and decided to use the commercial breaks to talk smack about Howard Stern. Word got out to Howard, and he somehow got the recording of the trash talk. Stern, always the showman, played the clip on his radio show before calling Chase to confront him. Chevy told him to never call him again. They made up eventually, and Stern even had Chase at his wedding, where Chevy gave an ad-libbed speech which Stern’s wife described as, “fun.”
Worst Host Ever… Yet Again
Lorne and the folks at SNL never seemed to learn their lesson, as they had Chevy on as a host again in 1997. Tim Meadows, ten-year SNL veteran, said that watching Chevy deal with cast members and writers was like, “watching a car accident over and over again.” This hosting stint, Chevy’s most egregious sin came when he harassed a female writer. Will Ferrell did not understand why Chevy was so, “snobbish” and terrible, guessing that Chase perhaps, “took too many back pills that day or something.”
Fisticuffs With Bill Murray
Bill Murray started on SNL to fill Chevy’s shoes. When Chevy came back to guest host in the third season of the show, tensions were high between the two. This was somewhat expected, as Murray was, “the new guy, and it was … my job to [confront Chevy]. At one point, Murray dissed Chase, who shot back by comparing Murray’s pockmarked face to craters on the moon. They then famously exchanged fisticuffs. Even during the fight, Murray mocked Chase yelling how he was a “medium talent.”
Fought With Johnny Carson
Chevy angered everyone, including legendary late-night host Johnny Carson. Chase poked and prodded Carson to the point where Johnny snapped and said that Chase “couldn’t ad-lib a fart after a baked-bean dinner.” Chevy did not respect what Carson did professionally, which was revealed in a New York magazine interview when Chase was asked if he would ever consider being a late night host. Chase derisively said that he, “never be tied down for five years interviewing TV personalities.” Ironically, this changed in 1993.