Monday, June 23, 2008
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.