Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We're Hail to the Chief to the Death, and You're Not

Just 8 miles north of the dysfunctional swamp that is Washington, D.C. lies the Maryland suburb of Chevy Chase. That's not really important to anything, except to say that we're going to be talking about Chevy Chase, the actor, and I couldn't come up with a snappier way of opening this post. Ta da!

Chevy Chase, the actor, was one of the original cast members on Saturday Night Live. This was back in 1975, when the president was none other than one of this week's combatants: Gerald Ford. The task of impersonating Ford fell to Chevy Chase. How'd that go?

This, obviously, was an impersonation in the vein of "not really trying to impersonate the subject." Hell, the show even calls him out on this:
If the impression could be summed up in one word, that word would probably be "bumbling." But, was Ford someone who was known for bumbling around?
Oh. Yup.

(Brief side note: in the Hulu clip above, Chevy Chase performs a lot of physical comedy, but the thing that draws the biggest laugh is when he bashes his head on the desk. There's one other clip of Chase as Ford on Hulu, and it features a similar gag that also gets a big laugh. It seems like it should be a specific reference to something, but I have no idea what. I asked my Dad, who has the advantage of having been alive during the Ford Administration, and he had no idea. What the hell?)

Anyway, Ford was voted out of office in 1976. And Chevy Chase? Well, his contract with SNL had only been for one year, as opposed to the rest of the cast, who were signed on for a full five years. This turned out to be a good deal for Chase, as he had become the show's first big breakout star. Yes, bigger than John Belushi, bigger than Dan Akroyd, bigger than Gilda Ratner. Of course, the show didn't miss a beat, calling in some guy from Chicago named Bill Murray. You've probably heard of him. Ford's replacement, meanwhile, was Jimmy Carter. Advantage: SNL.

Whereas Ford somewhat sank into obscurity after 1976, Chevy Chase did not. Chase did return a few times during SNL's second season (even taking a pratfall at one point that gave him a bruised testicle), but had largely moved onto film, busting out classics like Caddyshack, the National Lampoon series, Fletch, and ¡Three Amigos! However, I would argue that the clear high point of his career came in 1986:
Dude co-starred in a Paul Simon music video. Screw any other career accolades, that's the best thing ever, right there.

Chase's career stalled out in the 1990s, making a series of flop movies before moving back to television for The Chevy Chase Show, a late-night talk show that lasted all of six weeks in the fall 1993. It's at this point, probably, that Chevy's personality came back to bite him, as he had spent a majority of his time in the spotlight acting like a real horse's ass. How bad was he? Pick up a copy of Live From New York and thumb through it a bit; people have stories. Actually, you should read that book anyways; it's pretty awesome. Anyway, point is, Chase received a Friars' Club roast in 2002 that was so vicious, it only aired once (fortunately, YouTube is a thing).

By the end of the aughts, Chevy Chase was ripe for a comeback. And in 2009, the comeback finally came, when he got a role in a new NBC sitcom, called Community. His character? Pierce Hawthorne.

Wait. Pierce? Yes, that's right. Chevy Chase has played a Ford, and a Pierce, making him the ultimate manifestation of this week's fight. Whoever wins, Chevy Chase wins. And maybe Bill Murray wins, too, because it means a version of Chase is dead.

What? The two of them didn't get along, is what I'm saying. In fact, the two got into a fistfight just moments before an episode Chase hosted went on the air.

Okay, everyone get back out there and vote on this week's fight! You'll be streets ahead.

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