Can you really blame him?
The Washington Post has a long profile of Chevy Chase by Geoff Edgers in which the comedian and actor is extremely critical of Saturday Night Live. Chase, of course, was the breakout star of SNL’s first season all the way back in 1975, leaving after that first year for the movies, and eventually starred in such comedy classics as Vacation, Caddyshack and Fletch. Although he returned to host SNL several teams during the show’s first 22 seasons, he hasn’t hosted it since 1997. His reputation has taken a massive hit since the peak of his stardom, and he’s now probably as well-known for allegations of being an asshole as much as he is for his actual work.
This Post interview probably won’t help with that, even though it tries to paint a sympathetic portrait of Chase. Here are the key quotes, the ones guaranteed to draw attention to this article:
First of all, between you and me and a lamppost, jeez, I don’t want to put down Lorne [Michaels] or the cast, but I’ll just say, maybe off the record, I’m amazed that Lorne has gone so low. I had to watch a little of it, and I just couldn’t fucking believe it.
That means a whole generation of shitheads laughs at the worst fucking humor in the world. You know what I mean? How could you dare give that generation worse shit than they already have in their lives? It just drives me nuts.
Those are some pretty tough words against the show that made Chase famous, a show that’s still overseen by his longtime personal friend Lorne Michaels. It’s a far more candid and negative assessment of the show than you’d expect from pretty much any other former cast member, but also exactly the kind of thing you’d expect Chase to say, if you believe the bad stories that have circulated about him for decades. And honestly, it’s hard to really argue with the guy; as you might’ve noticed by our regular SNL reviews, the show’s on a particularly terrible streak over the last two years or so, no matter how many Emmys it might’ve won. Chase slams the show hard, but it’s not undeserved. (And don’t try to argue that Edgers shouldn’t have run these quotes—Chase knew he was on record, and “maybe off the record” isn’t a strong enough request to keep a journalist from running with those quotes.)
Elsewhere in the interview Chase unloads on Will Ferrell (who was highly critical of Chase after he hosted that 1997 episode) and gives lukewarm praise to Tina Fey. He also shares a story about telling Michaels he’d like to host SNL again six years ago, only for Michaels to turn him down for being “too old.” (Michaels remembers that story differently.)
If you’ve read Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, the 2002 oral history by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller, you’re more than familiar with Chase’s terrible reputation. It’s basically a running theme throughout the book, with cast members from throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s talking about how terribly Chase treated them. If you watched Community, or just paid attention to entertainment news six years ago, you probably remember the contentious way Chase’s tenure on the sitcom came to an end. By exploring Chase’s history of being abused as a child, Edgers tries to lend some context to his behavior, although Chase himself discounts any attempt to blame his actions as an adult on his childhood. Others stick up for Chase in Edgers piece, including Michaels, painting a slightly more nuanced portrait of the man than you’ll find in most books or articles about him. If you’re at all interested in Chase’s career, the history of SNL, or how reputations can change and shift over decades, the article is absolutely worth a read.