Actor, comedian. Born Cornelius Crane Chase on October 8, 1943, in New York City. His grandmother nicknamed him Chevy Chase after the wealthy Maryland community. After being named valedictorian of his high school class, Chase went on to Bard College, where he earned a B.A. in English.
Chase spent his twenties at various odd jobs with the hope of pursuing a career in comedy. During this time, he wrote for the Smothers Brothers and National Lampoon, the latter of which eventually led to a lucrative franchise of Vacation movies. Chase’s first stint as a performer was with the New York comedy video workshop Channel One, which evolved into the 1974 film Groove Tube. After seeing the film, producer Lorne Michaels hired Chase for the first season of Saturday Night Live in 1975.
Though hired as a writer, Chase soon began appearing in front of the camera as the anchor of the show’s popular Weekend Update segment. With the catchphrase opening “Good evening, I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not,” and a bumbling impersonation of President Gerald Ford, the actor quickly assumed breakout status, earning Emmys for both his writing and acting. He left after a single season to pursue film opportunities, but did not strike gold until Caddyshack in 1980, in which he played a golf pro who oozed confidence and deadpan humor. These would become Chase’s trademarks.
In 1983, Chase starred in National Lampoon’s Vacation, the first of four popular films chronicling the comic misadventures of the Griswold family, which included European Vacation in 1985, Christmas Vacation in 1989 and Vegas Vacation in 1997.
Chase’s next box-office hit came in 1985, when he starred in the cult classic Fletch, a film widely considered to be the actor’s best. As undercover newspaper reporter I.M. Fletcher, Chase created a classic comic hero with a genius for confusing his adversaries. He reprised the role in 1989 with Fletch Lives, but the film lacked the comedic genius of the original.
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Chase achieved moderate success in such films as Spies Like Us (1985) and Three Amigos! (1986). But despite an all-star cast in 1988, Caddyshack II received the same mixed-to-mediocre reviews as the Fletch sequel. The panned follow-ups, Nothing But Trouble (1991) and Cops and Robbersons (1994) did nothing to jump-start the comedian’s flagging reputation. In addition, his Fox comeback variety show was canceled two months after it premiered in 1993.
In recent years, Chase has chosen to work in family films, such as Man of the House (1995) and Snow Day(2000). His roles have gradually shifted from starring to supporting, including Dirty Work in 1998 and Orange County in 2002.
Chase has also made several television cameos—in 2006, he guest-starred as an anti-Semitic murder suspect in an episode of Law & Order, and as Sally Field’s former love interest in the television drama Brothers & Sisters. In 2009, Chase appeared as a recurring villain in the spy sitcom, Chuck.