The Misunderstanding of Chevy Chase
Regardless of your opinion of the man at this stage in his life, he was and still is a comedic genius. The tremendous pressure fame puts on an artist to always perform at the highest level and to only make perfect acting decisions corrupted him. As a result, his contribution to popular culture and comedy as an art form has gone under appreciated by an entire generation of comedy fans.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends in their early-to-mid 20s about Chevy Chase and almost all of them think he’s not funny. Some even downright hate him. I’ll usually follow-up this response by asking if they’ve seen Vacation, Fletch or Caddyshack. They’ll usually follow-up my question by saying he stinks on Community. Well that’s not what I asked nor is that the Chevy Chase you should be basing your opinion on.
If you’ve ever enjoyed Will Farrell’s bumbling and silly physical comedy, thank Chevy Chase. If you’ve been smitten by Seth Rogan or Andy Samberg’s goofy yet endearing comedic sensibilities, thank Chevy Chase. If you’ve ever laughed out loud at the quick-witted, occasionally back-handed, but always perfectly timed quips of Vince Vaughn, thank Chevy Chase.
Chevy’s influence on comedy far extends past that of the four comedians I’ve referenced and for good reason, because it was comedy before comedy became fueled by cynicism. It was physical comedy that was never pushed to the point of slapstick and always came across as endearing. It was comedy that many of today’s younger comedians could learn a lot from.
I’m not just talking about acting, sketch or improv. Stand-ups can benefit from a dash of 80’s Chev as well. Stop just standing there with your arms folded and a mic resting on your chin. Loosen up. Move around. Be more expressive. Stop talking about all the things you hate about people, society and the government. Talk about the fun stupid things you’ve done. Embarrass yourself so the audience can feel more comfortable about embarrassing themselves. I mean, don’t not be a prick, just be one that people can laugh at and with.
Am I biased? Absolutely. I’m 32 and love Caddyshack so much that I cried once I was finally able to see it in a theater. Which is probably not healthy but it’s also kind of beautiful. Chevy Chase has and will continue to influence all aspects of my comedy, regardless of how much more of a self-righteous dickhead he becomes. Hell, he could look me in the eyes and tell me hates that I love him and hates everything I’ve ever done. It won’t matter. It wouldn’t make what I love about him any less funny or any less influential on my growth as a comedian.
So order yourself a Bloody Mary and a steak sandwich and a steak sandwich and take in some vintage Chev. It may not change how you entertain strangers, but at least you’ll understand that it’s not necessary to have a working knowledge of the Marvel Universe or a disdain for popularity to make people laugh.
Thank you very little.