When I was kid, my mom would take Baby Sister and I to Blockbuster every Friday and let us rent five videos for family viewing over the weekend. The break down of the rentals usually went something like this – 1. New Release, generally action or family-friendly comedy, 2. Children’s Movie, selected by Baby Sister and automatically disdained by me on the mere virtue of being the selection of a younger child, 3. 1930s-1960s Movie Musical, because I was that kind of a kid, and 4/5. Classic Comedies, culled from Blockbuster’s back shelves. I would spend a significant amount of time going back up and down the aisles, trying to curate the perfect viewing experience. My mom (or occasionally my dad, when he had the odd Friday off) would casually suggest that Animal House or Blazing Saddles might be a good pick and then I would be instantly hooked, spending the following weekends trying to watch the rest of the Brooks oeuvre or researching in my Maltin guide what other films the original SNL cast had produced.
A Friday in 1998 that stands out to me, even amongst so many nights of picking up movies that would find their way on my best-of lists for years to come, was the night that Post Collegiate Dad suggested we try a Chevy Chase double feature – Fletch and Spies Like Us. I knew Chevy from the Griswold flicks and had recently seen Caddyshack for the first time, although I was more taken with Bill Murray’s Carl, dropping “it’s in the hole, it’s in the hole!” into most of my casual conversations. But up to this point in my life, Chevy Chase was Clark Griswold and nothing more.
That Chase double-feature night changed everything. I’m not sure if anything I had encountered in my life up to that point. Whether it was Fletch insisting his name was Babar and that he didn’t have any elephant books or the entire “Doctor” exchange that I still reference in my daily interactions with the doctors here, that night made me a Chase devotee. I was too young and too uninformed to know about the problems with employers, drugs, ego, and on-set difficulties – all I knew was that he was Chevy Chase and we were not and it was hilarious.
Harboring plenty of good will left from his 80’s classics, I was excited when I learned that Chase was going to be part of Community. Throughout the past three seasons, the character of Pierce Hawthorne has been sometimes difficult to take but the show has provided a seemingly ideal outlet for Chase’s talent – physical comedy, a blissful lack of self-awareness paired with an overstuffed ego, and misguided bantering. Watching Pierce try to slip in an Eartha Kitt sex story reference into each of the timelines of the episode “Remedial Chaos Theory” (it came up organically!), I really felt a glimmer of the old magic that made me want to dust off my Three Amigos VHS.
It saddens me to see the recent rumblings of discord between Chase and creator/executive producer Dan Harmon. I am not as unaware as I use to be and I know that this is just one in a long line of professional disputes that Chase has been involved in that will likely result in his leaving the show, but I am still just as disappointed. While I often try to ignore the behind-the-scenes antics and personalities when evaluating my pop culture intake, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to do so as the creative process is shared in real time over social media and spread so quickly over the Internet.
With that said, I also can’t help but feel that hopefully a few lessons can be learned from Chevy Chase’s most recent professional troubles, one that may well-serve those fresh out of college and diving into their first few jobs:
- Be careful who you say things to. Part of Chase’s job is promotion - Community has never been a ratings powerhouse, so each cast member has been deployed generously to talk to reporters and journalists ranging from major publications to tiny entertainment blogs to help drive buzz. This means that even the most casual quip or jibe made about his time on the set has been repeated, circulated, and quoted ad nauseum. What may have been a careless remark about a gag or joke he didn’t like has now become gospel just by sheer repetition. This just as true for office gossip, whether or not your office is on-set.
- Don’t take things at the work place too seriously. Maybe you and your boss don’t get along great or perhaps one of your coworkers tends to exclude you from lunch outings. Sometimes it’s best not to let life at work upset your actual life outside of work. While Chase could take the mature route and ignore what he perceives as slights and attacks from Harmon, he is only adding fuel to the fire by taking things personally. It’s a paycheck and sometimes, that’s all it has to be, especially if you’re good at what you’re doing.
- It’s prudent not to bad mouth your boss, especially in public. And at the end of the day, it’s your boss who makes sure that paycheck keeps coming. When you do have a problem, it’s always best to go straight to the source and try to have a measured, calm conversation. Airing your grievances publicly, even after you’ve left your job, only makes you look bad and burns bridges behind you.
- Try not to make the same mistakes twice. The most aggravating aspect of this debacle is that Chase has done all of the above multiple times in the past. This most current conflict, likely exacerbated by Harmon’s own prickly personality, could have been avoided if Chase had tried to learn from his previous mistakes.
What do you think? Is my affection for the comedy genius clouding my judgement on this one? Have you ever had some Chase-like moments of unprofessional behavior? Still not sure what Community is? Leave it in the comments!