Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with another Community interview from my set visit a few weeks back (read it here if you missed it). I didn’t realize Capone still had a few Community interviews banked from Comic-Con, so I wanted to space ‘em out a bit so you didn’t get too Community’d out.
Having just watched Season 3, Episode 4, though, I figured it was time to get back on the Community interview train. That episode, exploring the concept of split realities, was hilarious, easily in the top favorite Community eps, and now I’m in the mood to finish this out!
And here’s one of my favorites from the on-set interviews, a very honest and open discussion with one Mr. Chevy Chase in which we talk about a new Vacation film, Chevy’s relationships with Pierce and the other cast members, how he gets crap for not really understanding the scripts and much, much more. It’s a great chat. Enjoy!
Quint: You know, I grew up watching Fletch, Caddyshack…
CHEVY CHASE: I’ve been around a little while. (laughs)
Quint: And the Vacation movies, of course....
CHEVY CHASE: I just got off the phone with Beverly, Beverly D’Angelo. We are trying to work up a new VACATION and apparently Warners is working on one with grandchildren, but the one that Bev and I want…. You know, we are just trying to think of ideas, because she is very funny and very brilliant, so when you get her in a writing mood and me in writing mood, it’s good, but it’s very hard to get the time.
Quint: Nice! So, what can you tell me about where Pierce is this season?
CHEVY CHASE: How can I ever know where Pierce is? Shit, what did they tell you? I’m trying to remember the first one.
Quint: We haven’t really talked about it.
CHEVY CHASE: Not Pierce, but the episode.
Quint: The only thing they said is that there is a resolution to the cliffhanger of last season.
CHEVY CHASE: Oh that’s right, whether I’m admitted back into the (group). Right. Well, you know I’m sort of a strange addition to this group and I don’t ever really couple with anybody, you know? It’s actually the same way as it is off camera. I’m just sort of… When I first came it was “Oh, the iconic comedian who started SNL and wrote for the Smothers” and all of that, that was a big deal… for about a week. (laughs)
Because of my age I say what I think a little bit, and because maybe it’s in my own nature… I want to be so much a part of everything. They all have these iPads or iPods and between takes we are here most of the time. You know, I feel like they are texting each other, I mean I feel paranoid. I have a simple phone. (Laughs) I know how to text now, but…
Quint: In an odd way that’s very fitting for Pierce. Do you see a lot of similarities?
CHEVY CHASE: Well, I do. I mean that’s what’s funny. I’m the outsider kind of, but I mean I really love these people, these kids I can say. In fact yesterday we were doing promotions and I had come up with one which was “Watch COMMUNITY at 8PM on Thursday nights one NBC. You know I can’t say enough about these kids…” and then nothing.
CHEVY CHASE: Just open air with me just smiling which is my way of really insulting them all. (laughs)
Quint: Watching the show I get the impression that Pierce’s feelings get hurt by that exclusion. Do you feel that?
CHEVY CHASE: Well, I play it that way when I’m directed to or if it’s written that way. He’s such a bigot. What I love about him is this character is so unlike me in every way. I mean his manners are coarse and the way he treats women and he’s racist and bigoted against homosexuals and you know everything that I’m not. Is Fletch that way? No. Is Clark Griswold that way? No. So what do you expect when you see Chevy Chase? You don’t expect that, you’ve got Pierce. (Laughs) So I enjoy that very much.
Quint: But he’s also, as a character…
CHEVY CHASE: But he can get hurt, yeah. Then he gets mad.
Quint: Then he lashes out.
CHEVY CHASE: They were saying to me I guess it was the Golden Globe people, the foreign press, were talking and a couple of them had asked me “How come you become so mean and angry at the end of the show this year?” I said, “Well, that’s the way they directed me and you know, that’s the way they wrote it.”
Quint: The character’s been kicked out of the family essentially.
CHEVY CHASE: Yeah, but I mean also picking on Fat Neil and stuff I mean is just hideous. “How could they make me that way?” But that’s the way they wrote it and in the end Fat Neil says, “That’s the best game I’ve ever played.” I don’t even think I thanked him, I just said “Don’t mention it” or something.
Quint: That’s what I love about Pierce and that’s what I love about most of the characters in this. I’m a huge fan of the show, because I think it’s really smart the humor. There’s something really great in Pierce in that they kind of portray him as this kind of clueless, absentmindedly racist guy, but then he has these moments of brilliance. I love the DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS episode for Pierce because it gives us an insight into that aspect of him.
CHEVY CHASE: It almost comes out of his fury.
Quint: Yeah, it absolutely does.
CHEVY CHASE: And some muse that he has, but yeah I know what you mean. It’s very hard to establish what Pierce is going to do as opposed to maybe the others, because that’s the nature of his character, but you know a big part of this is just us getting to know each other the first year. By the second year I mean the writers and producers getting to know us as people and also what we do, how we act as those characters and that makes for more interesting storylines. Who would have thought the Ken Jeong character… he just breaks up at himself all of the time. (Laughs) He’s hilarious, but that he is so funny and that he will do anything. He will put grease over his body and climb through that damn vent, I mean… (laughs) He will just do anything and he’s a respectful doctor!
But I think the big issue is, and maybe this is what makes these things work… When I say “these things,” ensemble sitcoms or whatever work, which is we have gotten to know each other very well and things come out more easily and I think it’s probably easier to write for us. The only problem is the writing gets long and so the hours are long.
Quint: It’s dense. The writing is actually very dense for a comedy show. There are so many jokes being thrown out per minute.
CHEVY CHASE: Well, (Dan) Harmon is quite a terrific writer. That’s what I did for twelve years, so I’m not going to make any judgments on him… except that a page is a minute and if you keep writing 30 page scripts, you’re going to have to cut out ten. (laughs)
I just remember being at SNL where I was hired as the head writer the first year and saying, “That’s a great sketch, thanks.” It’s seven pages, “No, take it back and give me four,” you know we had the little cameras around and all of this stuff and Lorne and I had to figure out what sketches could fit and commercials, so you get to know that stuff. So I complain about the hours and it’s always in the guise of the hours, I never really say “just write the scripts shorter, like ten pages shorter, and we will get out of here!”
But you are right, they are dense and he is so creative, Dan, and his writers that they want to shove it in there.
Quint: I brought it up to a lot of the cast earlier today, but the writing of this show kind of reminds me of golden age of screwball comedy, like the Preston Sturges’ stuff. I know that’s a big comparison, but the writing on this show really is that fast smart and funny back and forth.
CHEVY CHASE: Yeah, all we need is black and white film and an hour and a half, then you’re right on.
Quint: All of the Preston Sturges movies are like 76 minutes.
CHEVY CHASE: Yeah, that’s right. But yeah I know what you mean. But you know the style that the actors and everybody at that time, particularly with Preston Sturges, was they all came off Vaudeville and off stage and it was always “Whack it in there. Get that line in there.” Everything was fast and smart.
Quint: Exactly. On the stage they had that rapid fire pace to it, you don’t give the audience a breath, so if a joke flops they don’t even notice it, because they’ve already moved on to the next one.
CHEVY CHASE: Yeah, but it’s all linear. It all follows a story. Here, I don’t know when we are following a story or not. (Laughs) I’m always with the script looking at it again and saying, “What’s happened here? How did I get there?” I get blamed sometimes, because I think Dan or somebody, maybe the directors, sometimes say, “I don’t think he really understands the script.” And they are right! (laughs)
CHEVY CHASE: It’s like, “Maybe I should have read that twice before I came in to do it.” I’m the kind of guy in all of my movies I learn my lines as I’m stepping out of the trailer, you know? It’s a different thing here.
Quint: Well yeah, it’s got to be a different process…
CHEVY CHASE: This is much harder than making movies. I mean, trust me I love making movies and I will make more, but I’ve made fifty something comedies and this is harder, because a movie you just go in and prepare for three months of shooting, generally, and you know what it’s going to be like, it’s going to be three hard months. Here it’s like I don’t know, what is it nine months or something and there are 23 shows…
Quint: How many hours?
CHEVY CHASE: Twelve hours is a good day. I mean it’s typically fourteen or fifteen hours and that’s a lot of work, but that’s the type of show it is and I’ve talked to other people on other shows and some are much shorter where they don’t spend nearly as much time and they are a longer show, but on the other hand maybe they are not what you said, “dense.”
Quint: And there’s a chemistry to this show that I think most TV comedies are desperate to get. That’s like the Holy Grail for this kind of show, because it makes the audience fall in love with the characters and want to keep coming back to visit them. I mean the chemistry that…
CHEVY CHASE: I wish they’d just kill me. (laughs)
Quint: You want Pierce to die off?
CHEVY CHASE: Yeah, I think Pierce should be killed. No, no I’m just kidding.
Quint: You said that the first season seemed to be getting to know each other. Do you think that that helps now? Is it easier?
CHEVY CHASE: I think so. I mean there are still sort of petty divisions between people here that come up here and there, but nothing that you could really nail down. Moody things and stuff. I mean, also when you have three women, you never know what time of the month it is.
Quint: It’s like Pierce just showed up!
CHEVY CHASE: I don’t have a time of the month, anymore. (Laughs)
Quint: You’ve hit menopause.
CHEVY CHASE: I actually have to get testosterone injections directly into my eye.
Quint: Nice. Cool, so what are you working on now? You mentioned you were trying to get another VACATION movie going? Is there anything else?
CHEVY CHASE: Well, of course Bev wants one. Who doesn’t want to work?
Quint: She’s been really good on ENTOURAGE recently.
CHEVY CHASE: I don’t think she’s real happy with that. I have seen parts of it sometimes. I never see her. Like I will look also at MAD MEN with parts on that and never once have I seen Alison. You know I only turn it on to see if they are on there and I don’t watch these things. I don’t watch this and when I do I get angry.
Quint: Really? What do you get angry about?
CHEVY CHASE: Oh, edits and things and if anything of mine has been left out, you know the common actor complaints.
Quint: Do you want to pursue more film work though? Is that the goal?
CHEVY CHASE: Sure, yeah. I mean look I was very happy being with my wife and kids up in Bedford, New York and if something came along maybe without working, maybe a little part here and there in a movie every so often, but for five years I’ve been retired basically and then I read the following line on the first page of pilot of this which was something like when I meet Jeff, “Jeff, Pierce Hawthorne and yes that is Hawthorne as in Hawthorne Wipes, the award winning moist towelette.” As soon as I read that I thought, “ I’ve got to play this guy.”
Quint: “He’s for me.”
CHEVY CHASE: Yeah, “He’s for me.”
Quint: That’s awesome. You’re great on the show, man and as a long time fan I just love being able to visit with you every week on the show.
CHEVY CHASE: Well, that’s nice of you, thanks.
Quint: Thank you so much for taking the time, I appreciate it.
Did you guys catch that little bit at the end there where he talks about the women in the group and their “time of the month”? I jokingly said “It’s like Pierce just showed up,” thinking he was making a joke in his character’s voice. He did laugh in response, but I got the distinct impression that he didn’t realize that what he just said was exactly the kind of thing Pierce would say and said just as earnestly.
I have to say, it was quite a joy talking with Chevy. I love how frank he was throughout, especially when talking about his feelings of exclusion from the group. And I just love Chevy as a personality. Call it repeated viewings of Funny Farm at an impressionable age, but the dude just makes me smile.
Hope you guys enjoyed the chat! I have a couple more Community interviews to post before I’m through. Still coming up are Danny Pudi, Dan Harmon, Ken Jeong and Yvette Nicole Brown!