Monday, June 21, 2010
Hey, Chevy Chase used to be funny!
Since he's now been relegated to a minor supporting character on Community, it's easy to forget that Chevy Chase was once funny. Heck, all of his best work - Caddyshack, Fletch, Saturday Night Live - came out either well before or near my birth date in 1984. (I'll wait for some of you to come back from hanging yourselves.)
His demotion isn't exactly undeserved. Even on Community, his character has seemingly been scaled back because he simply isn't as funny as the younger comedians. Because he kind of looks the same, it's easy to forget that he's 66, and that a lot of his former SNL co-stars either work reduced schedules (Bill Murray) or are similarly damaged by drugs (Garrett Morris) or are dead (Belushi). Chase simply surviving to this point, given his immense cocaine problems in the past, is surprising.
However, I recently stumbled across the old Chevy Chase NBC specials on the Internets, and it is amazing how much of a fastball he had then. From 1975 and 1977, there is a dry sort of humor that is well ahead of its time. There is stilted, awkward dialogue, the sort of which Adult Swim and Space Ghost and Archer would use 30 years later, along with traditional sketches. The drug humor is also far toned down from the first season of SNL. (People tend to deify that first season, but for every great Samurai Delicatessen sketch, there is one where everyone is loaded and slurring through their lines.)
I'm guessing the specials are so good because there are only three of them. Heck, even Charlie Murphy was great for two episodes of Chappelle's Show. Without Dave and Neil Brennan editing? Eh, not so much. The specials give a glimpse at Chevy's incredible talents, and it is just a shame so much of it vanished up his nostrils.
On an unrelated note, the specials also have a really, really young and hipster Martin Mull in them. It's hard to imagine him as an actual comedian now, given all of his supporting roles - he has been in 111 freakin' things! I'll always remember him as Col. Mustard from the Clue movie though, which only I seemed to love.