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The Real Reason You Don't Hear From Chevy Chase Anymore

After making a big splash as part of the original Saturday Night Live cast, Chevy Chase became one of the biggest movie stars of the '80s, headlining comedy classics like National Lampoon's Vacation, Fletch, Three Amigos, and Caddyshack. More recently, he was part of the NBC cult classic Community, and he also turned up in Hot Tub Time Machine and the Vacation reboot. But other than that, he's not dominating movie screens with his dry wit and amusing smirk anymore. So what exactly happened to the legendary funnyman? Well, here's why Chevy Chase isn't around much these days.

He hasn't had a hit in years

Hollywood only gives leading roles to actors they know can carry a movie and "put butts in seats," as the expression goes. Chevy Chase could do that in the '80s, and as long as people kept coming to see his movies, Hollywood kept putting him on the silver screen. But it's been a long time since Chase starred in a big film that did respectable business. The last time he had more than a cameo in a major hit was in 2000, with his role as a weather reporter in the $60 million-grossing kids' movie Snow Day. Ever since then, it's been a string of forgettable films like Zoom, Shelby, and Before I Sleep, none of which exactly killed it at the box office.

His TV show was a huge bomb

A talk show might be a great fit for a comic elder statesman such as Chase, except he already did that back in 1993...and it ranks among the biggest failures in TV history. Fox paid Chase $3 million for The Chevy Chase Show, which featured the comedian shooting hoops on stage, playing the keyboard during musical breaks, and doing a news parody bit lifted from his "Weekend Update" anchoring days on Saturday Night Live. His first guest was his Foul Play and Seems Like Old Times co-star Goldie Hawn, whom he danced with and fawned over, but even she couldn't draw in viewers. Entertainment Weekly's TV critic gave the show an "F" grade, and the Los Angeles Times said Chase had "nothing clever to say" and appeared "terrified" to be hosting a show. With seasoned professionals like Jay Leno on NBC and David Letterman on CBS, there wasn't room in late night for Chase, and Fox canceled the show after just six weeks of increasingly dismal ratings.

He quits easily

There are many famous actors who are hard to work with, but at least they show up to the set for the duration of the project. After all, filmmakers are going to be reluctant to cast an actor with a reputation for ditching a series midway, thus leaving everybody high and dry. Unfortunately, that's a lesson Chevy Chase had to learn the hard way.

Early in his career, Chase became the first Saturday Night Live cast member to leave the hit sketch show (which he says he did to marry a woman who didn't want to move to New York, not for a film career). But after his disagreements with Community creator Dan Harmon, Chase walked away from the series for good in 2012 when its fourth season was still in production. Harmon has said that Chase also frequently left the set before episodes had wrapped, which isn't going to win you any brownie points with future directors.

He's had personal and health issues

It's hard to work when you're dealing with health issues, and Chevy Chase has had his fair share of medical setbacks. For example, he's struggled with addiction and had to take time away from his career to address those personal issues. In 1986, Chase checked himself into the Betty Ford Center to treat an addiction to prescription painkillers, which developed after he took them for chronic back problems incurred from years of doing pratfalls and physical comedy. More recently, Chase sought treatment at the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in 2016. According to his publicist, Chase checked in to get a "tuneup" in a long-standing fight against an alcohol dependency. Regardless of whether you love the guy or hate him, you've got to wish him well when it comes to health, so here's hoping he can keep things on track.

His franchises ultimately flamed out

Some of Chase's biggest success have been in franchise films. He played the definitive American dad in the National Lampoon's Vacation series, and then there was the quippy, identity-concealing investigative reporter Irwin Fletcher in the Fletch movies. Plus, he also played the cool golfer Ty Webb in more than one Caddyshack outing. But when franchises die, it hurts the careers of the actor most associated with them. All three of Chase's franchises fell apart because of one bad entry in each series. The fourth Vegas Vacation had a disappointing run in 1997, Fletch Lives came and went quickly in 1989, and Caddyshack II was widely ignored.

He's aged out of the roles he used to play

Chase had a distinctive screen persona in the '80s and '90s. He was one part smirky smart aleck, one part overly confident middle-aged doofus. But time marches on, and so does Hollywood. Chase is in his 70s now, meaning he's not in the running for the same roles anymore. Chase and contemporaries like Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd, and Steve Martin don't make too many big comedies these days because they've stepped aside for newer, younger stars like Will Ferrell and Melissa McCarthy. However, it's notable that Chase's appearances in major movies recently have been cameos. He was Clark Griswold in the 2015 Vacation reboot with Ed Helms, and he showed up as a repairman in the '80s nostalgia trip Hot Tub Time Machine. Sadly, it seems that Chase had his moment in the sun, and it was great, but now his time in the spotlight has passed.

He's reportedly very hard to work with

Let's cut to the Chevy: Chase has a reputation of being difficult and mean. Some examples:

On Tom Snyder's talk show Tomorrow in 1980, the host brought up how Chase was earning favorable comparisons to classic Hollywood leading man Cary Grant. Chase responded by saying he thought Grant was homosexual, adding, "What a gal!" Grant sued Chase for $10 million for slander, and the case was settled out of court.

When Chase hosted an episode of SNL in 1985, he allegedly made a shocking pitch to Terry Sweeney, the show's first openly gay performer. According to Sweeney, Chase said, "I've got an idea for a sketch for you. How about we say you have AIDS, and we weigh you every week?" Sweeney claimed Chase was forced to apologize, and allegedly, Chase was mad that he was made to do so. When he hosted SNL again in 1995, Tim Meadows said watching him interact with cast members was like "watching a car accident over and over again just watching him deal with people." Will Ferrell claimed Chase was "the worst host" he'd ever dealt with, and that the comedian's misdeeds included screaming at people and sexually harassing a female writer.

No, he's REALLY hard to work with

Did you think that Chase's difficult reputation only extended as far as his tenure on SNL? Think again. 

At a 2004 Kennedy Center event for the progressive organization People for the American Way, Chase made some pretty inflammatory comments about then-President George W. Bush. "This guy in office is an uneducated, real lying schmuck," Chase said, before leveling some R-rated profanity in Bush's direction. It was so bad that the Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, had to issue a public apology on Chase's behalf.

But hey, we're still not done here quite yet. As part of a long-running feud between Chase and Community showrunner Dan Harmon, Chase left Harmon some pretty brutal voicemails. However, he probably didn't expect Harmon to make one of those recordings public, and when people heard it for themselves, they heard Chase hurling all sorts of colorful insults. Needless to say, this didn't win the man any new fans.

He got The Last Laugh

More recently, Chevy Chase engaged in two of the biggest current trends in entertainment: he starred in a Netflix Original movie, and teamed up with a fellow veteran star. In the spirit of Michael Douglas and Adam Arkin's The Kominsky Method and Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin's Grace and Frankie, Chase got together with fellow '70s/'80s icon Richard Dreyfuss in the ominously titled The Last Laugh. Chase plays Buddy Green, an old-school Hollywood manager who convinces his first client, a washed-up, long-retired comedian named Al Hart (Dreyfuss), to hit the road for one last series of stand-up gigs before one or both of them dies. Road movies are kind of Chase's thing (Vacation), as is playing a curmudgeon (Community), but The Last Laugh arrived to little fanfare on Netflix in January 2019. It earned middling reviews, amassing a lukewarm 53 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, although critic Simon Foster of Screen-Space said the film features Chase at "his most understated and likable in years."

Every rumor about Chevy Chase was confirmed...by Chevy Chase

All that stuff other people have said about Chevy Chase being just about the toughest co-star in Hollywood history? It's all mere conjecture until the world hears his side of the story. In 2018, Chase sat down for a long interview with the Washington Post, and he delivered his story... which only bolstered the argument that Chase is as prickly as Clark Griswold missing out on his Christmas bonus.

First, he defended an item in Community co-star Donald Glover's New Yorker profile, which alleged that he once told the future Childish Gambino that "People think you're funnier because you're black." Chase told the Post that he "could have said it," but also that it was a joke. Ha-ha? Then Chase went trashed Saturday Night Live and its founder, Lorne Michaels, saying "I'm amazed that Lorne has gone so low. I had to watch a little of it, and I just couldn't f***ing believe it." He added, "That means a whole generation of s***heads laughs at the worst f***ing humor in the world."

And then, after all that, Chase admitted it was hard for him to understand why he doesn't get more work — although he does blame ageism, claiming Hollywood is "really more about the George Clooneys and people that age. I look pretty good for 74. I don't know why I couldn't do a Chevy Chase picture, but it just doesn't happen." Yeah, it's a real mystery.