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Chevy Chase - Biography

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Comedian and actor Chevy Chase
Photo by Nancy R. Schiff/Getty Images

Born:

October 8, 1943

Chevy Chase Overview:

Chevy Chase is not only an icon of '80s comedy, but also one of the founding members of Saturday Night Live and a defining comedic voice of the '70s thanks to his work with National Lampoon. Mixing a gift for physical comedy (not since the days of Buster Keaton could a comic take a fall better than Chevy Chase) and a quick-witted sarcasm, Chase was great at playing both the "everyman" (think Clark Griswold in the Vacation franchise) and the smartass who's faster and funnier than everyone in the room (Fletch). He's Chevy Chase, and you're not.

Quick Chevy Chase Facts:

  • Cornelius "Chevy" Chase was born and raised in New York City.
  • He was one of the first cast members on the original cast of Saturday Night Live beginning in 1975, but left after just one season to pursue a film career. He has since hosted the show eight times.
  • For most of the 1980s, Chase was one of the biggest comedy movie stars in America.
  • When his film career stalled in the '90s, Chase began to pursue other projects. His own late night talk show, The Chevy Chase Show, debuted on FOX in 1993. The show lasted only six weeks and is considered one of the biggest blunders in network TV history.
  • In 2009, Chase joined the cast of the NBC sitcom Community alongside Joel McHale and Donald Glover. He was openly unhappy with the show and had a contentious relationship with the creator and quit the show in its fourth season.

Chevy Chase Early Life and 'Saturday Night Live':

Chase grew up upper-middle class in New York and attended school in Massachusetts. After co-founding the sketch comedy group Channel One and taking a job writing for the Smothers Brothers in the early '70s, Chase became a writer and cast member on The National Lampoon Radio Hour in 1973, a show that also featured future SNL cast members Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and John Belushi.

In 1975, Chase was hired as a writer for the new late night sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live. While the show was rehearsing, Chase was asked to join the cast. He became the show's biggest breakout star thanks to memorable turns such as President Gerald Ford (best known for taking some punishing pratfalls), the Land Shark and as anchor of "Weekend Update," which he introduced every week with "Good Evening, I'm Chevy Chase and you're not." Chase won a Golden Globe and two Emmy Awards for his work with Saturday Night Live, but left the show after just one season to pursue a movie career in Hollywood. He was eventually replaced by Bill Murray, who, legend has it, got into a fistfight with Chase when he returned to host the show. Though his time with the show was brief, Chase was a big reason for the series' early success and a huge part of its legacy.

Select Chevy Chase Filmography:

  • Foul Play (1978)
  • Caddyshack (1980)
  • Modern Problems (1981)
  • National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
  • Fletch (1985)
  • National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985)
  • Spies Like Us (1985)
  • Three Amigos! (1986)
  • Funny Farm (1988)
  • Fletch Lives (1989)
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
  • Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)
  • Vegas Vacation (1997)
  • Dirty Work (1998)
  • Hot Tub Time Machine (2009)

Additional Chevy Chase Facts:

  • Chevy Chase was the host of the Academy Awards in both 1987 and 1988.
  • Chase is an accomplished jazz musician and has played onstage with his friend Paul Simon, with whom he most famously appeared in the video for Simon's 1986 hit song "You Can Call Me Al."
  • He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Harvard Lampoon in 1996.
  • He was the guest of honor at his very own Friar's Club Roast aired on Comedy Central in 2002. Chase himself has claimed that the roast was a sobering experience, as he had to put up with being called a horrible person by people he had never met or worked with. The special has never re-aired on Comedy Central.
  • Chase works actively to donate and raise money for both the environment and the Democratic Party, and was a contributor to the campaigns of Bill Clinton and John Kerry in 2004.
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