Halfway through my 15-minute phone interview with Chevy Chase yesterday, I asked the Bedford resident what movie and TV projects he was working on. His deadpan reply? “I have six pictures coming out and I’ll be on three sitcoms.” The former “Saturday Night Live” writer and cast member had been so cautious and measured with his replies up to that point, I didn’t laugh for fear it wasn’t a joke. But with his next two words, “I lied,” we chuckled and the rest of the interview flowed more comfortably.
Chase, 64, has been keeping a lower profile of late on the entertainment circuit; responding seriously to the aforementioned question, he said he’s working on a few screen projects, but cited the Writers Guild of America strike as one of the reasons he declined to elaborate. Off-screen, his high-profile appearances of late have been with wife, Jayni, raising awareness about environmental education in Bedford and beyond. The latter was the impetus for my call, but after discussing that for one minute, I had to ask him some entertainment-related questions. Wouldn’t you?
Below are highlights from my exclusive interview with Chevy Chase. In it, we learn about his truce with Howard Stern; whether he or “Caddyshack” costar Bill Murray is the better golfer; his thoughts on the strike; “SNL” then and now; and more. Some questions were rearranged and omitted to make for a cleaner read.
On mending fences with former Briarcliff Manor deejay Howard Stern, who donated an auction prize to the Chases’ charity following a feud that spanned almost 20 years:
I saw Howard this summer and, you know, those kinds of things, they die down. I think he felt bad about what he’d done. And he likes me and he likes Jayni and he’s a likable guy, and it went our way. And it was a great help to have him do that. He has so many listeners, you know. And initially it wasn’t such a great help when he did what he did to us, because we don’t have any listeners. [Laughs.] It was kind of like beating a dead horse after a while.
He sort of started to lay off I think when I called him a few years back. I said, “Look, I can’t go to a Knicks game, I can’t go to a Yankee game with my daughters, because people yell out thing like, ‘Hey, no wonder Howard Stern says you’re a pr***,’ or just stuff that’s just hideous.”
So, I called and talked to his producer (Gary Dell’Abate) and said, ‘Look, do me a favor, tell Howard what’s happening and about how it’s affecting my family,’ and Howard got on the air apparently and said, ‘Look, this is business and it’s not anything to do with a personal issue. Leave him alone.’ And I thought that was a nice gesture back then. So, when I saw him at a Bon Jovi end-of-the-(summer party this year), we kind of were civil and were just two dads talking, basically.
On the state of “Saturday Night Live” these days:
I love it. I really think it’s a resurgence. I called Lorne (Michaels) and told him I was surprised to see LeBron James, the dancing, the special effects, and all that stuff that they do — the videos — it’s so much more, technically, than what we were doing. And of course, I should expect that; it’s been 30 years. I hadn’t followed it much and then (was) following it and then (was) appearing briefly on the next show (hosted by Seth Rogen). I’ll do it again when we get closer to the elections.
To me, there are some very talented kids out there — Amy (Poehler) and Seth (Meyers) — who are perhaps doing their kind of comedy to the new [Laughs] — the new generation, whatever you want to call it. I feel secure in my own kind of comedy, too, so it’s nice to be there and get an ovation and all that.
In the end, I think that, yeah, the show has gotten quite a bit better than — it’s had some good years and some bad years. You can’t really tell what it’s going to be until you see it put together. And Lorne, as usual, is the man in charge, and even though he seems to separate himself a little bit more — because he is getting older, perhaps, or whatever — he’s still the guy who knows the right kind of edits and the right kind of thing to do from dress (rehearsal) to air, and it’s quite amazing that he still does it so well. And I’m very happy with him and the show.
On his relationship with Sneden’s Landing resident and fellow “SNL” alumnus Bill Murray, with whom he had a backstage fistfight in the show’s second season:
How would I describe our relationship? Well, we go (out). We date on occasion. You know, a little light petting, not heavy petting. … Yeah, if I can get him drunk, he’ll pursue anything. Unfortunately, he’ll also hit me with a hammer, but you know, those are the chances you take. I’d just as soon Bill Murray hit me with a hammer than anybody else because he’s pretty funny. [Laughs.] We’re friends. We’re not close; we don’t see a lot of each other, but we talk on the phone and we’ve played golf a couple of times. I can’t play for crap, but Bill’s quite good. Quite good.
On his closest friend from “SNL” :