Chevy Chase.Posted: October 6, 2009
One of the nice surprises of the TV season is that Chevy Chase has finally found his funny again. On Community, he plays a business magnate returning to community college to continue his education, and the most recent episode gave him a couple of comedic bits that proved he still “has it.” One was a digression by his character on the different kinds of sneezes and how each can play a role in establishing dominance in a situation, and the other was a bit of physical comedy in the background of a scene as he attempted to get into his mouth a floppy-crusted pizza slice.
For about 28 years, it seemed the comedic genius who was Chevy Chase had drowned in a tsunami of ego. The brilliance he showed in the first season-and-a-half of Saturday Night Live, and which he’d displayed before that in the revolutionary improv-based seventies sketch comedy of the National Lampoon Radio Hour and Groove Tube, seemed to vanish. He hosted an ill-advised late night talk show on Fox in the early nineties that died a merciful early death. His movies were lame and lamer. One kept reading stories of abusive behavior toward colleagues. A turning point for him seems to have been the Comedy Central Roast he endured in 2002. I remember watching it, and thinking that savage as most of these roasts were, this one seemed as if everyone meant it. I assumed nevertheless that he brushed it off — but this Entertainment Weekly article reveals that he didn’t. It was the occasion for some genuine soul-searching.
The problem with genuine soul-searching, though, is that even when it leads an artist to see the error of his ways and to reform his relations with his fellow human beings, it doesn’t always lead to a reignition of the genius that burnt out along the way. More often, what got burnt out stays burnt out. But with Chevy, it looks, from the evidence of Community, that he found his way back to his special place. He’s Chevy Chase and we’re not. It is to be celebrated.