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Thanks for the Cool Brilliance of Chevy Chase

November 27, 2010

For over a year now, Community has maintained its vaulted status as my favorite television program in our post-The Wire landscape (Peep Show and Party Down – …oooh, soo close!). To call the show “fast” or “witty” is the equivalent to citing Randy Moss as “moody” or Lewis Black as “slightly perturbed”. When assessing potential Halloween threads, I found a ’60s-era suit, and threw it on. “I’m going for ‘Presidential’, but this is more ‘Deposed Strongman'”, I muttered to myself. But then I realized, “I’m making up ‘Abed’ quotes, completely unsolicited!”

While the writing is at a level that almost seems impossible to maintain (how long can that crack team of writers continue escalating from jokes with a 90% success rate? Even Tim Duncan will eventually stop converting in the paint), the quality of the cast actually matches the material. The last show with this kind of potential, Action, suffered because of the massive talent chasm between the principals and the peripherals (save Fab Fillippo, who is even better in Gary Burns’ Waydowntown). Community has no such issue, as the pool of rising stars reminds me of the box of rookie cards I would compile after Topps, Fleer and Donruss would drop their new sets in the late-80s and early-90s. Every year, I’d thumb through the cards, knowing a Mike Piazza or Pedro Martinez awaited. While Alison Brie and Donald Glover have big things ahead of them, and Gillian Jacobs’ character might be the first ever female lead that aims to be appreciated for her activism instead of her appearance (now that’s hot), it’s Chevy’s world, and we’re all just living in it.

When Steely Dan sang about never going back to their old school, perhaps they were not ready to face the tour-de-force of their prat-falling former classmate. From my TV-and-movie-obsessed youth through my current era as careful cultural consumer, there’s a constant, and it’s Chase. I’ve regaled you all with stories of my movie-channel childhood, but I’ve neglected to mention the Foul Play era, which truly deserves its own epochal nomenclature. How do you top Goldie Hawn, Dudley Moore’s swingin’ bachelor pad, a full-on Burgess Meredith, San Francisco’s co-starring role, the most overwrought (and awesome) Barry Manilow soundtrack in history, one of cinema’s most-entertaining car chases, and some legitimately-creepy incidental music? I’m almost afraid to give this film any publicity, in case some hack director gets a lazy studio to greenlight Foul Play, Y’all in 2011.

Next year came National Lampoon’s Vacation, which still amazes with how few scenes are not funny. Chevy gives us the equivalent of Neil Peart’s drum solo on Exit…Stage Left, where talent and project are at their most copasetic. In what may be the most quotable movie that no one actually quotes, one re-watch in a southwestern Victoria hotel room was a helluva reminder of how damn brilliant Chase is during this one:

“No, I’m not with the CIA. I was, but that was a long time ago. I don’t like to talk about it. No, I’m mainly interested in my motels now…and my airline.”

“Edna, this is your tent!”

“Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun!”

“What it is, bro!”

“Roy, could you imagine if you had driven all the way to Florida and it was closed?”

“Hey tenderfoot, move your chicken wings, turkey!”

“THIS IS CRAZY! THIS IS CRAZY!”

“Are you kidding? This is a Magnum P.I.”

“The ‘Ole Miss’. The ‘Old Man’. Dee-ee-eeeeeep Riii-veeeerrr!”

His lines in Caddyshack are almost as great, although like Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”, this example of subversivity has been embraced by many of its targets. The definitive Brown Tweed Society examinations of Caddyshack and iThe Three Amigos! need to happen, definitely.

So for being a part of some of the greatest pop culture America has bequeathed upon a weary world, I offer thanks to Mr. Clarence “Chevy” Chase.

Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

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3 Comments
  1. November 27, 2010 6:17 pm

    ‘Former classmate’? Dude, he was their DRUMMER.

    This is fabulous, by the way. Bring on the “Caddyshack” appreciation. Rescue it from its “bro’s before ho’s” co-optation.

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