“I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not.”
Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Three Amigos, Fletch, Community, Saturday Night Live. It’s safe to say that Chevy Chase has built up an impressive reputation in the world of comedy. Of course, this sword is double-edged. Chase has had his share of films which were very poorly received, and those who have worked with him have their share of negative stories about him. So who is this man, and what sort of interesting trivia can we glean about his life? Find out more about Chase below!
Chevy Chase Facts
44. No One Suffers like the Artist
While Chase was on Saturday Night Live, he became known for his pratfalls. However, on one occasion, the stunt went wrong, and Chase badly injured himself. He took two weeks off to recover, contributing only voice work to the show during that time. However, Chase was afflicted by back pain for years afterward, leading him to develop an addiction to painkillers.
43. On Second Thought…
Chase was the only cast member from Caddyshack to return for the sequel, Caddyshack II. He quickly regretted this decision and was disgusted by the quality of the film. During post-production, he is said to have derisively told the director to call him when “you’ve dubbed the laugh track.”
42. Oh, What’s in a Name?
Chase was actually born Cornelius Crane Chase on the 8th of October 1943. His stage name “Chevy” was given to him by his grandmother based on “The Ballad of Chevy Chase,” a song which dates back to the Middle Ages. I guess that’s a good thing, because “I’m Cornelius Chase and you’re not!” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
41. SNL Alumnus
When it comes to Saturday Night Live, Chase holds a number of records. He was one of the show’s original cast members and was actually the first person to ever utter the words “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” Not only that, but he was also the first person to leave the show, which he did after just one season, being replaced by Bill Murray (he’s since regretted this early departure).
40. Let the Good Times Roll
While Chase’s star has fallen considerably since his heyday, there is no denying that he was once one of the great comedy stars of his day. At the height of his career, Chase was making around $7 million per film.
39. It Runs in the Family
Chase isn’t the only one in his family to find a career in the arts and entertainment industry. His father was a literary editor, as well as a writer in his own right. Chase’s mother worked as a musician and composer, while his grandmother was a vocalist trained in the classical music style.
38. Password Entry Only
Chase is a member of the Hollywood Gourmet Poker Club, a very exclusive group which is mostly made up of famous faces (given the name of the club, it’s rather obvious). Some of Chase’s fellow club members are Steve Martin, Neil Simon, and Martin Short.
37. Nothing Beats Honest Work
It’s safe to say that Chase comes from old money. His mother’s family, the Cranes, founded the Crane Plumbing company. Despite this position of wealth, Chase didn’t let that get in the way of him working to earn his own living. Before he made it big as a comedian and actor, Chase worked a variety of blue-collar jobs. These include “managing the produce department at a supermarket, selling wine, waiting tables, working in construction, and driving a truck.”
36. I’m Fletch, and You’re Not
Chase has stated several times that his favorite of his own films is Fletch, which he claimed was an “opportunity to be himself.” Interestingly, the movie was based on a book, and its author had casting approval over the film adaptation. He turned down rock star Mick Jagger and movie star Burt Reynolds in favor of Chase.
35. For the Laughs
Caddyshack is, arguably, the funniest film which Chase ever made, and he is a big reason why the film works so well. However, he was originally meant to just be a cameo! He, along with Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray, were brought in as supporting characters. However, their comedy was so good that their roles were greatly expanded. Yet, as hilarious as their scenes were, they angered quite a few of their co-stars. Scott Colomby (Tony D’Annunzio) was furious that his big break was pushed into the background thanks to the expanded roles of the established comedians, while Ted Knight (Judge Smails) was greatly put off by the improvisational antics of his co-stars.
34. They Asked, He Lied
According to Chase, he was at risk of being drafted into the US Army after he left Bard College, and he only avoided being drafted by convincing the draft board that he was gay.
Surprisingly, despite the film’s incredible success, Chase is no fan of Caddyshack. When he saw the finished product, he was left with the hollow feeling that he “couldn’t act.”
32. Let’s be Bigger Men for Once
One of the highlights of the film Caddyshack is a short interaction between regular golfer Ty Webb (Chase) and groundskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray). It was actually a last-minute addition to the film, added in at the insistence of the film’s producers when they realized that its two biggest stars had no scene together (though there is another deleted scene in which the two interact). What made it awkward was the fact that Chase and Murray disliked each other immensely, due to a feud which had begun at Saturday Night Live (more on that later). However, they managed to put their feelings aside for Caddyshack, for which we’ll be eternally grateful.
31. Good as Goldie
In 1978, Chase starred in the hit comedy film Foul Play, which also co-starred Goldie Hawn. Hawn would later be the first guest on The Chevy Chase Show (more on that later).
30. Insult Comedy at its Finest
When Chase hosted the Academy Awards in 1987, he famously opened his speech with the greeting “Good evening, Hollywood phonies!” Incredibly, he was asked to return the following year to host again. Nice to know those phonies had a sense of humor!
29. Close Call
In a rather bizarre coincidence, Chase’s brother went to Harvard at the same time as Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber. In fact, Chase’s brother lived just across the hall from Kaczynski!
28. Chance Meeting
Chase first met Lorne Michaels, the creator of Saturday Night Live, by complete coincidence. They were both in line at the movies to watch a Monty Python film.
27. Run, Chevy, Run!
Of the many films that Chase was considered to act in, two of them (Turner & Hooch and Splash) became starring vehicles for rising talent Tom Hanks. Hanks would go on to dominate the 1990s, which were a less than fortunate time in Chase’s career. We can’t put all the blame on his turning down those aforementioned films, but it didn’t help.
26. Dodged a Bullet!
While you might still be shaking your head at how Chase could possibly have allowed Tom Hanks to snag the lead role in Splash, Hanks didn’t always get the better end of the deal. When Brian De Palma was casting The Bonfire of the Vanities, he pursued Chase for the lead role of the arrogant stock trader Sherman McCoy. Hanks was cast after Chase turned it down, and the film went on to be one of the biggest box office bombs in both Hanks’ and De Palma’s careers.
Given his smarmy nature and rather aloof comedic persona, it’s probably no surprise that Chase was in top consideration to play the role of Coach Bombay in The Mighty Ducks. Chase turned down the chance, however, and the role went to Emilio Estevez instead. No doubt Estevez sent Chase some flowers and a thank-you note!
24. For the Kids
While he’d previously played ladies’ men in his career, Chase reportedly switched gears after he finally settled down and started a family. He once explained that he was concerned about his children wondering why he was kissing someone other than their mother onscreen.
23. Chevy & Harold
Not only did Chase star in the comedy classic National Lampoon’s Vacation, he also did an uncredited rewrite on the film’s script along with Harold Ramis. They also worked together on Caddyshack, which was Ramis’ directorial debut.
22. Not a Fan
Shockingly (or perhaps not), Chase has a very low opinion of Community despite the rave reviews it got and the cult fanbase it developed. Chase considered the show to be a “big mistake.” He even disparaged the entire category of the sitcom, calling it “the lowest form of television.” Ouch…
In yet another example of Chase rubbing shoulders with fellow entertainment figures throughout his life, he went to grade school with none other than Wallace Shawn My Dinner With Andre and The Princess Bride fame.
20. Well, this is Awkward
Otter, the smooth-talking ladies’ man in Animal House, was originally meant for Chase to play. However, the film’s director wasn’t interested in bringing too many Saturday Night Live alumni into the cast, so he talked Chase out of appearing in the film. Tim Matheson would end up playing Otter instead. Matheson and Chase later appeared together in Fletch.
19. What a Load of Bull!
According to Chase, he was kicked out of Haverford College in Pennsylvania because he brought a cow into his dorm room and kept it there. While this is exactly in keeping with Chase’s bizarre sense of humor, it is sadly not true. Chase’s old roommate debunked the story in 2009, stating that Chase left because of poor grades. To be fair, we’d go with the cow story too if we were asked about why we dropped out!
18. Interesting Connection
After leaving Haverford College, Chase enrolled at Bard College in Upstate New York. While he was a student there, Chase began a relationship with a woman named Blythe Danner. Danner herself would also become an actor and would go on to have a child who followed her into the film industry. That daughter was none other than Gwyneth Paltrow.
17. No Thanks, Go Ask Bill Murray Instead
In yet another incredible example of someone turning down the chance of a lifetime, Chase refused the offer to appear in Ghostbusters, even though it was co-created by his collaborators Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. In his defense, Chase maintained that the original script was wildly different from what it eventually became, so we can only assume it went through quite a few rewrites.
16. A Fun Vacation to Mexico
With all those funny movies and television shows in his roster, you might be wondering which one of them was the most fun to make. Luckily, someone asked Chase that very question in an interview, and according to him, he had the most fun being involved with the film Three Amigos. With castmates like Martin Short and Steve Martin, that’s not too surprising!
15. Chevy Jones?
Incredibly, Chase was, along with Tom Selleck, seriously considered to play none other than the archaeologist action hero known as Indiana Jones! To be honest, we’re pretty glad that Harrison Ford managed to snag this one away from Chase.
14. Phenomenal Flop
Given that his film career was failing by the 1990s, there was hope that Chase could bounce back with his own TV show. Fox produced the late-night talk show titled The Chevy Chase Show in 1993. Sadly, the show was short-lived; it was canceled after just five weeks on the air. Safe to say we won’t be getting six seasons and a movie out of that one.
13. We Don’t Need No Stinking Assistants!
Rare among celebrities, Chase personally handles his own social media. He regularly uses Facebook to share pictures of himself and his family, past and present.
12. No Third Movie
At one point, filmmaker and geek icon Kevin Smith was interested in directing another entry into the Fletch film series (despite the poor reception that the second one got). He wanted to cast Chase in the lead role again, which Chase was at least receptive to. However, things soured quickly between the two men; Chase accused Smith of deceiving him when Smith’s busy schedule delayed a script being written. Smith, meanwhile, became highly irritated by Chase’s attitude. The plans for a new Fletch movie never went through.
11. Best Buds
One of Chase’s best friends is none other than acclaimed singer Paul Simon. Chase appeared in Simon’s music video for the song “You Can Call Me Al.”
10. Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do!
Chase is one of those rare people who has perfect pitch. This means that he can “identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone.” We’re assuming that it came into great use on Community.
9. Celebrity Sponsor
Throughout his career, Chase has taken time to appear in several TV commercials. Among these commercials include Doritos, History Channel, T-Mobile, and Chase Manhattan Bank. You can’t deny that he’s versatile!
8. I Could Have Been a Star!
Those of you who watched Community and remember seeing Pierce Hawthorne (Chase) play keyboards in the first season might be interested to know that Chase didn’t need to learn how to play just for the show. Chase had played keyboards and drums for a band called The Leather Canary while he was a college student. While he didn’t end up making a career out of his music, two of his bandmates would find a bit more success. They were none other than Walter Becker and Donald Fagen from Steely Dan!
7. Not So Fun
As fun as the theme park in National Lampoon’s Vacation looks, Chase was deeply unimpressed. During the commentary, Chase admitted that during the production, he kept getting sick from the roller coasters.
6. I Won’t Vote for You
One of Chase’s more famous acts on Saturday Night Live was his parody of then-President Gerald Ford. Now, while comedians are required to take shots at the expense of celebrities or politicians, it’s not always coming from a cruel place, and is just meant to be good humor. However, Chase admitted that he greatly disliked Ford, considering him to be “a totally compassionless man.”
5. Missed Chances
Incredibly, Chase was approached to voice Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story—and he turned the role down! To be fair, one can never be sure which films will be a hit or not, but what makes this missed opportunity especially sad is that Chase was totally on board to lend his voice to the film. He only refused on the advice of his agent; we can only imagine the conversation they had after Toy Story appeared in theatres.
4. Don’t Come Back
After Chase left Saturday Night Live, he eventually returned a few times to host the show as a special guest. However, he infuriated people behind the production because of his deeply inappropriate suggestions for sketches. One of them included one incident in 1985 when he suggested a gay cast member act out contracting AIDS and then chart how much weight he loses because of his illness. Again, this was in 1985, when the AIDS crisis was in full swing. It’s no surprise that Lorne Michaels banned him from ever returning to the show!
3. Walk Off The Set
Though he left the show in less than cordial circumstances at the end of season four, Chase’s tenure on Community was always tumultuous. He often clashed with the show’s creator, Dan Harmon. Harmon recalls one instance during season three where Chase was meant to film an emotional scene—one Harmon considered absolutely essential for an episode—and Chase simply walked off set, allegedly because he didn’t think it was funny and because it required him to use the name Cornelius, his actual name. They were unable to film the scene as it was written, and it permanently damaged Chase and Harmon’s relationship.
2. Chase Against the World
Chevy Chase was hated by the rest of Saturday Night Live’s cast, and it was no great secret that they were glad when Chase left after just one season. Then, in 1978, when Chase returned to the show to host, he continued to ruffle feathers. Eventually, Chase pushed things too far and he and Bill Murray got into a fist fight just moments before Chase was supposed to step on stage to start the show. They had to be torn apart by fellow cast member Dan Aykroyd. Apparently, Murray had pointed out how much everyone hated Chase, and Chase responded by saying Murray’s acne looked like the crater-covered surface of the Moon. Things escalated, and the rest is history.
1. A Shocking Experience
In 1980, Chase acted in the film Modern Problems. However, things took a turn for the worse when he was nearly electrocuted to death. He was wearing landing lights in one scene, but they ended up breaking down. Electric currents shot through Chase’s body and nearly killed him. This experience, coupled with the end of his marriage, pushed Chase into a state of serious depression.