With a career that has spanned six decades now, Chevy Chase has a lot of stories to tell. From his early days as a musician to the height of his fame in the 1980s, Chase has been one of the most irreverent and beloved comedians ever. You don’t have a career that long without there being some fantastic facts about your life, so here are some of our favorites.
His Father Was A Notable Book Editor In NYC Who Was Friends With Truman Capote
Chevy Chase was born into a well-known New York family (more on that later), and he was very close with his father. Edward Tinsley “Ned” Chase was a book and magazine editor with a storied career, working with writers like President Harry S. Truman, Norman Mailer, and Truman Capote. Chase told CBS Sunday Morning about a time Ned was meeting with Capote and Mailer, when his father was more interested in making a young Chevy laugh by making faces at him. Definitely a peak into his comedic instincts.
He Wrote An Article For MAD Magazine In 1970
One of Chase’s earliest forays into comedy writing happened at the venerable MAD Magazine in 1970. In issue #134, Chase wrote a comic strip send-up of the classic Mission: Impossible TV show.
Chase Was Stabbed Three Times In The Back When He Was A Kid On The Streets Of NYC
The Funny Farm star grew up in New York City’s Upper East Side, but the toney surroundings of New York’s poshest neighborhoods didn’t always protect him. In a story for New York magazine, Chase recalled the time he was harassed on the streets while running an errand for his mother. He was essentially mugged by some other kids, and as he ran away, he was stabbed three times by one of his assailants.
He Learned How To Fall As A Young Soccer Player
On Saturday Night Live, Chase was famous for his bumbling, uncoordinated impression of President Gerald Ford. Seemingly every episode of that first season started with him falling over a podium, or down some stairs, or into a Christmas tree. He credits his ability to take the falls with his athleticism and his history of playing soccer, where he says he “learned to fall.”
Chase Became Friends With Gerald And Mrs. Ford And Credits Her With Him Getting Sober At The Betty Ford Clinic
Speaking of President Ford, despite Chase’s near-weekly mocking of him, the two became good friends later. In touching tribute to the president upon his death, Chase wrote a story for the New York Times recalling some warm moments between them. He also credits Betty Ford’s “courage” in admitting she was an alcoholic with his decision to enter The Betty Ford Clinic for painkiller addiction in the 1980s.
He’s Actually Played Clark Griswold 7 Times Over The Years
Sure, everyone knows the three classic Vacation movies (and the less classic Vegas version), but those aren’t the only times Chevy Chase has played Clark Griswold. He also reprised the role for a cameo with Beverly D’Angelo in the 2015 reboot of the franchise, and also joined her for a promotional short for the now-defunct vacation rental website HomeAway, called Hotel Hell Vacation. He also lent his voice to the character for the Season 6 premiere of The Family Guy.
He Doesn't Care About The Critics
Chase has often been panned by critics and taken to task for some of his alleged on-set behavior, but the ever-irreverent star doesn’t care. When asked about his reputation, he told The Washington Post:
I can’t change anything, and I’m old. I don’t have to worry about anything I did. I know who I am. People know who I am that know me and I’m proud to be who I am…I’ve gotten to a place where it doesn’t really matter what people write or say.
Chevy Chase Has Perfect Pitch
Perfect pitch (or absolute pitch) is a very rare thing, and experts disagree on whether it is innate in some people or if it can be learned. It means that a person can hear or sing a single note and know exactly what note it is, without any reference at all. Chase has this ability and there’s no question it probably meant a great deal to his musical side. He explained to it Time Out NY:
Perfect pitch is a funny thing. There’s a lot of people with relative pitch, which means if you hear a note you can go from, you know, an E to a B, a fifth up or a fourth down. Perfect pitch comes from, I think from just playing so long. And it’s also a genetic thing, I think.
He Was The Drummer For An Early Version Of Steely Dan
Not only does he have perfect pitch, but he must have pretty good rhythm as well. While in school at Bard College, Chase was classmates with Walter Becker and Donald Fagan. The three of them often picked up gigs together and formed a short-lived band called The Leather Canary. Fagan and Becker would go on to form the legendary Steely Dan, albeit without Chase. They did have very nice things to say about him, though, calling him a “very good drummer” and “one of the funniest drummers” they’d worked with in an interview with the BBC.
Chase Also Played Keys And Drums In Another Band
Around the same time, in the late sixties, Chase was in another band in Boston called Chameleon Church. He played keyboards and drums for the psychedelic band, which recorded one album before breaking up shortly thereafter.
He Once Recorded A Hip-Hop Parody
He never gave up on his musical dreams, though it wasn’t always for the best. In the early ‘80s, Chase recorded a parody of the early rap hit “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang. Titled “Rapper’s Plight” it’s basically just a rework using a similar sample. While the song isn’t exactly a banger, his rapping isn’t half bad.
Fletch Is The Character He Most Identifies With
You don’t need us to tell you that Fletch is one of Chase’s most beloved films. It also happens to be the character he most identifies with, telling Time Out:
All I was before (Community) was just a personality who played Clark, who played Fletch. Those were the ones I was most known for. With this one I’m playing against who I really am. The others like Fletch, Fletch is really like me.
The Role Of Otter In Animal House Was Written For Chase
In another universe, Animal House is a very different movie. In the early days of casting there were a number of SNL alumni up for roles, roles that were written with them in mind. Of course, John Belushi would take his fame to a higher level as Bluto in the classic comedy, but the role of D-Day was originally meant for Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray was penciled in for Boone, and Chase was who everyone (except John Landis) wanted for Otter. Landis famously talked Chase out of the role with a classic Jedi Mind Trick, telling him another role he was up for would make him a bigger star.
In College, He Dated Blythe Danner
In addition to his budding music career at Bard, Chase also dated Blythe Danner. The relationship lasted a few years before amicably breaking up. Danner would go on to marry Bruce Paltrow, with whom she has a daughter named Gwyneth, whom you might have heard of.
Chase Took Carly Simon To A School Dance In High School
When he was at Riverdale Country School, he was there at the same time as another star who got her start in the '70s. Singer Carly Simon also attended the school, which was very near her childhood home in the early '60s, while Chase was there. According to her biography, he even took her to a sock hop. Has anyone ever asked her if “You’re So Vain” was actually about Chevy Chase?
Lorne Micheals Reworked The “You Can Call Me Al” Video To Star Chase
It’s hard to believe that one of the most famous music videos in the early days of MTV almost didn’t happen. An early version of the '86 Paul Simon classic was shot on the soundstage at SNL and after it was filmed, Simon was unhappy with it. SNL producer Lorne Micheals came up with the idea to have Chevy Chase lipsync the lyrics while a disinterested Simon looked on. The new version became legendary and is one of the most fondly remember videos of its era. It’s so iconic, in fact, that a few years later, when Simon played his monster concert in Central Park, the ever musical Chase joined him on stage to play sax for the tune.
Johnny Galecki Credits Chase With Teaching Him Comedic Timing
Johnny Galecki is famous for comedic work on two classic sitcoms, Rosanne and The Big Bang Theory. Before both, however, he played Rusty in Christmas Vacation. Barely a teenager, Galecki only had a small handful of credits to his name, and was admittedly very green on the set of the Christmas favorite. He learned a lot working with Chase and has very fond memories of the time on set, telling Rolling Stone:
Chevy worked like a puppet master for me in some scenes since I was young and had never done comedy before. He’d almost cue me for my timing. He would nod, point, or wave a finger. He was so supportive, teaching me comic timing. That took a lot of patience and consideration because the movie wouldn’t have been funny enough without Rusty having that specific timing. He was terribly generous with me.
He Struggled In High School, But Eventually Graduated Valedictorian From Stockbridge School In Massachusetts
Chase has a checkered academic career, by his own account. He was kicked out of at least one prestigious private school in New York City, Riverdale Country School. On the bright side, he seems to have found his way by the time he graduated as valedictorian of his class at The Stockbridge School.
He Didn't Actually Get Kicked Out Of College For Sneaking A Cow Into His Dorm Room
While his high school career did include some expulsions, college didn’t. Chase famously once told a story on TV that he’d been kicked out of Haverford for sneaking a cow (and some women) into his dorm room. This was later disputed by other students at the school at the time, with some good evidence that it never happened. Still, we kinda wish it did.
He Was Not Originally Hired As A Cast Member For SNL, But As A Writer
One of the reasons Chase was able to leave SNL after just about a year on the show was because, unlike the other cast members, he signed a one-year writing contract for the show, not a performance contract. He has said he just kept writing himself into episodes but really found his calling on the show with Weekend Update, which he originated, teaming up with Lorne Micheals for the idea.
Chase Hosted The Oscars Not Once, But Twice
In the '80s, Chase was at peak popularity and had often been mentioned as a future talk show host, which didn't end well when he eventually did land an infamous talk show that bombed. He did, however, get two Oscar-hosting gigs out of the talk that were fairly well received. He was his usual snarky best as host, though it all seems pretty tame by today's standards.
He Once Said Three Amigos! Was The Most Fun He Had Making A Movie
While Fletch might be the character closest to him, it was Three Amigos! that Chase told EW was the most fun he ever had making a movie. It stands to reason, since two of his close friends, Martin Short and Steven Martin, co-starred alongside him.
Almost Died Of Electrocution While Filming Modern Problems
Luckily for all of us, an early mishap in his film career didn’t stop Chase in his tracks. While filming one of his earliest movies, Modern Problems, he rigged up a series of lights around his body for a scene involving him dreaming about being an airplane coming in to land. The lights malfunctioned and Chase was electrocuted, knocking him out cold. Thankfully, he woke up.
Chevy Chase Is A 14th-Generation New Yorker
For most Americans, tracing your family in this country back three or four generations can be tricky. Chase can trace his back an incredible 14 generations, and that’s in New York City alone, as well. His mother’s ancestors arrived on the shores of New York in 1642, that’s 23 years before it was even called “New York,” as it was still under Dutch control and known as New Amsterdam.
The First Native-Born Mayor Of NY Is An Ancestor
After the English took control, one of the city’s first mayors, the first to be born in the colony, was Stephanus Van Cortlandt. Van Cortlandt is also an ancestor of Chase’s, and is the namesake for Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, very near the school Chase once attended, Riverdale Country School.
Chase Also Had Ancestors On The Mayflower
It’s not just New Yorkers, either. Chase’s family in American goes as far back as the Mayflower. John Howland and William Brewster are both ancestors of his and both arrived at Plymouth Rock with the rest of the Mayflower passengers in 1620. It likely means he is a distant cousin of Fast & Furious star Jordana Brewster, who is a direct descendant of William's.
Chase Started On The National Lampoon Radio Hour
Like many of those original SNL stars, Chase cut his comedic teeth on the National Lampoon Radio Hour, according to NPR. The show, which ran for 13 months in 1974 and 1975, was created by future SNL head writer Michael O'Donoghue and future cast members John Belushi, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, and Chase. Christopher Guest, who joined a later cast of SNL, also started on the show.
As you can see, Chevy Chase has led an intriguing life, which likely helped him make us all laugh.