Sympathy for the Asshole: or, an article that actually moderates my opinion of Chevy Chase

I’ve never been a fan of actor Chevy Chase. I’d have to go back over forty years to find anything he did that I find the least bit funny. His entire schtick seemed to consist of the springing of irony and breaking the fourth wall on an unsophisticated TV public who’d never seen Ernis Kovacs, Dick Cavett or the Smothers Brothers do it a decade earlier. It was buoyed up by the fact that he was a rich, young, handsome WASP: he was Chevy Chase, and we weren’t.

He also had an ugly assholish side that leaked out when he had to ad lib. His crack about Cary Grant is a typical example.

I do love “Caddyshack”, but for me, that movie was 95% Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight. You could replace Chase’s scenes with test patterns, and I’d enjoy it just as much. The same goes for his performances in the “Vacation” franchise (although I admit to having first encountered the stories as written (by John Hughes) in the National Lampoon, where they were told in the much funnier, first-person perspective of Clark Griswold’s more precocious adolescent son. So I didn’t care for the picture adaptations much at all, not just Chase’s performances).


This Washington Post article (which is behind a paywall) talks about Chase’s current predicament: he’s conquered some recurring substance abuse problems, and would like to work, but no one wants to hire him.

People quoted in the article invariably talk about assholish things he’s done, which certainly dovetailed with my opinion of him.

But the article goes on to report that Chase had a painful childhood. His parents divorced when he was young, and he was raised by an abusive mother, the kind who controlled by tearing into a kid’s self-esteem. The result of this is supposedly an insecurity that drives his snotty aloofness. It may also be why he can’t distinguish between cutting-edge irreverance and cruelty (as with the Cary Grant comment).

I’d long known that he was heir to a large fortune (the Crane plumbing fixtures corporation), so I admit that I never expected that he had that kind of hardship in his early life. And I understand that material wealth doesn’t magically erase those issues.

I still don’t think the guy is funny (although I admittedly tuned him out long ago). But maybe I’ll cut him a little slack now.

Does he have to stop being filthy rich?

I can’t say I feel sorry for him. There are thousands of talented people trying to make it in show business who never get a proper chance. It’s no tragedy if being an asshole your whole professional life reaps its rewards.

Chase had his chance at turning around his career and public image when he was cast on Community. But as soon as he regained any kind of success, his asshole nature reasserted itself.

As for claims that he’s changed this time, he was just bashing people (the current SNL cast) in an interview last week.

It’s sad that he had a bad childhood. But he’s 74 years old. It’s no longer an excuse for the way he’s behaved for the past fifty years.

Nah, he also stopped being good-looking a long time ago.

Excellent, interesting OP. I agree with everything, except this:

and this:


I remember when he had a late-night talk show that garnered such low ratings, it was simply cancelled one day.

Having a shitty childhood doesn’t actually make someone an interesting artist. I’d much rather read a Washington Post article promoting Danny Pudi or Yvette Nicole Brown.

Hmm. I had a “mixed” childhood; mostly very normal, even very good; but mixed with some horrifically abusive moments (periods, even) that scarred me irrevocably.

No one, not family, friends, or employers, has had the least hesitancy on calling me for the shit I do that stems from that trauma. It’s cost me jobs, and relationships.

But I own that shit; it’s who I have been for so long that it’s who I am. Maybe I should’ve talked to someone long ago about the Bad Stuff, to get a grip on it, some handle on it, that maybe would’ve let me lead a more healthy, normal life. Oh well; c’est la vie.

I see no reason why some rich, celebrity asshole should get a pass.

Christmas Vacation is still a favorite, but I never had much use for him otherwise.

Mmmmmm. I’ve enjoyed some of his performances over the years…SNL, Vacation…thought he was useless in Caddyshack.. Always thought he was pretty much of a dick. Now that he’s 74, can’t he just kick back and spend the rest of his life reading detective novels?

Point #1:
A LOT of public figures–artists, politicians, etc.–are rude, crude, downright mean, or otherwise unpleasant in their personal lives. You have to decide whether, in your own mind, you want to separate their personal lives from their professional lives.

Point #2:
Seriously, people? No love for Fletch or Three Amigos? Are you people nuts?

I always liked the one he did with Goldie Hawn that was kind of like “Silverstreak” but not as good. (Oh, yeah “Foul Play”.)

Thank you.

In dissent, I cite the following, all from Rodney:

*“I figured as much. Hey Moose, Rocco - help the judge find his checkbook!”

“She musta really been something before electricity”

“Hey kid - park my car, take care of my clubs… and put on some weight”* (while tossing twenties at the caddy)

And the immortal line from the judge:

“The world needs ditch-diggers too.”

I’m not sure how well-known it is, but a fun fact about CC is that he has a writer’s credit on a one-off cartoon in MAD Magazine.

Sorry but I never found him funny in the slightest and detest both of those films.

I agree. Every Chevy Chase movie I’ve seen, I hated. It’s a mystery to me why he had any success at all post-SNL.

He had moments in Community, but other than that I’ve never found anything he did on screen to be funny.

I liked him enough for his SNL gig, but his work afterwards was uneven. The Three Amigos was his best film, though he was tolerable in the first Christmas Vacation. Community was a surprise, but he burned that bridge when he could have built on it.

I contrast him with someone else from the first year of SNL, Steve Martin, who I couldn’t stand on the show, but who eventually developed into an excellent comic actor.

Three Amigos is a guilty pleasure for me, I’ve always enjoyed watching it, despite Chevy Chase’s presence. He sticks out like an unfunny sore thumb.
I thought he was hilarious in SNL’s first season, but have yet to see a funny moment from him since then.

I like his work but he’s a dick. The story moved me not at all. In the article he is still bashing people. He’s not going to change. Take him as he is, or move on.

Spies Like Us, Fletch and The Three Amigos are comedy classics and the world is better for having Chevy in it. That being said I wouldn’t want to work with him and after Community I don’t blame anyone else from not hiring him. I can’t see anything in the article that makes me change my mind and I’m ok if he never works again.