Monday, June 23, 2008

Medium Talent


When Chevy Chase returned to host Saturday Night Live during its third season, the biggest event of the week was a fistfight between Chase and Bill Murray that happened, apparently, just before airtime. There are about five pages devoted to this incident in the book Live From New York, although there's no consensus as to when it occurred, and there's absolutely no reason given as to the cause of the fight.

"That was because I was the new guy," Murray said, "and it was sort of like it was my job to do that." Chevy blamed Belushi, who supposedly fed all kinds of bad stories about him to Murray, but the blocking on that seems a little off. It may have been just that everyone who is around Chevy Chase feels the need to take a poke at him sooner or later.

My best guess is that this happened right before they went on the air. "I don't know how he did it, but Chevy went out and did the monologue a few minutes later," Laraine Newman said. "Watching him from the floor, he seemed shattered." Watching him from my couch, he didn't seem very funny, but I just ascribed that to the fact that he was Chevy Chase. Contradicting Laraine, Lorne Michaels said, "Billy Joel, the musical guest, was out there singing his heart out while all this was going on backstage," implying that it happened while they were on the air, but I don't think anyone ever accused Lorne of paying real close attention to the show.

Murray and Chase didn't have to interact much during the show; I think they had only two sketches together, both big-group things where they didn't really have to work with each other. That was all to the best, I think. The funniest thing about the whole episode was that right in the middle of the fray, as fists were flying, Murray shouted out, "Medium talent!" It's hard to argue with that.

12 comments:

Scraps said...

I heard it as "You're medium funny," which I like more; but I haven't read the book, so that's probably wrong, which would disappoint me.

T. Nawrocki said...

The funny thing is, the quote in the book comes from the director John Landis, who never had anything directly to do with Saturday Night Live but just happened to be backstage that night.

When I Google "Chevy Chase medium funny," I got a lot of sites selling T-shirts.

Anonymous said...

Wow.. Adding shots to something that happened thirty years ago?

Also Mr. Chase is a 65 year old guy who hasn't done anything in years - Why not skewer Ed McMahon while you're at it..

T. Nawrocki said...

You apparently haven't been reading this blog very long. One of its central tenets is that American culture has been flattened out to the point that its temporal nature has almost disappeared, and whether a movie or TV show or record came out yesterday or 30 years ago is not very relevant.

I mentioned a few weeks back that I was going to be watching the third season of SNL because it held great interest for me, and I think it was kind of implied that I'd be commenting on it along the way. If you don't want to read my take on what happened back then, or want to read observations of only contemporary cultural phenomena, I'd respectfully suggest that you should read a different blog.

T. Nawrocki said...

And Ed McMahon is a punk. He's 85 years old and can't make his house payments. Well, duh. What kind of fool arranges his financial affairs so that he's still making mortgage payments at age 85?

Scraps said...

Not to mention, Mr. Chase continues to make movies and television shows to this day.... unless by "hasn't done anything in years" you meant anything anyone cares about.

Anonymous said...

O.K.
I might have read you're "Hard to argue with that" as agreeing that Chase was a medium talent-
He certainly is now but was very talented and relevant in his day.

If he were dead everyone would love him!

Rob said...

I resent the accusation nobody cares about “Cops and Robbersons.”

Yup, the fight was right before airtime. For the hilarious details, I recommend “Saturday Night,” by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad, the only real history of the show. (“Live from New York” is fun to read but not so tight.)

Pike said...

My favorite thing about “Cops and Robbersons" is that they actually invented a completely ridiculous surname for the sake of a genuinely bad title.

Jake Robberson said...

Invented?

MJN said...

Likewise, the 1981 TV pilot "Nichols and Dymes", completely forgettable except for its egregious title.

T. Nawrocki said...

Now I'm sure we'll hear from Jake Dymes...

Then there's John Singleton's movie "Poetic Justice," which is about a woman named Justice who writes poetry.