Chevy Chase has had a new lease of life as Pierce Hawthorne on the set of Community, the Emmy Award-nominated comedy set in school attended by a lawyer whose education has been deemed void.
Here, the comedic natural behind hits such as National Vacation and Fletch, expounds on the art of ad-libbing, blowing money, making telly not film, who's funny these days... and what hanging out with Dan Ackroyd means...
Q: So here you are on set today, so Pierce must be back for season three?
CC: No. I just love these guys. I'm just having such a good time, I am going to fight my way back in.
Q: Because we are here for the season two DVD release (in the UK), and it seemed like, during season two, there was a plan to have Pierce kicked out of the group!
CC: Ostracized? Out of the show? Too old? I was kind of worried about that too. I had to actually ask when I looked at the last script. But then I started acting, which took all the humour out of it!
Q: Some of my favourite episodes of season two have to be the paintball episodes. Did you enjoy them?
CC: Well, I have to say that one of the things that bothers me about our show is that it is placed in that study room all the time, with the same light, the same colour - that's not interesting to see a lot. It's just joke after joke after joke around that table. It's hard to shoot it all the time in the same way, the same thing. So we did these other episodes, which shows depth, which showed colour, which showed movement. But it's a tough show to do because by necessity, it's in a school. We have a biology classroom, we have other classrooms, but sitting and making jokes is not an easy thing to write. The more movement the better, I think, personally. I think you can then get a little more differentiation of colour, of light and dark, etc. I don't necessarily mean a paintball one. But we do have those hallways where someone can get angry and chase someone.
Q: Why did you decide to do a TV show after doing so many movies?
CC: It was a big mistake! I saw this pilot script, thought that it was funny, and I went into the room where they were casting and said, "I would love to play this guy." Then they mulled it over. Then they hired me and I just sort of hung around because I have three daughters and a wife, and I figured out I might as well make some bread, every week, so I can take care of them in the way they want. My wife has just been in the Antarctic, and Cuzco in Peru, and Lima, and Machu Picchu... she likes to travel. That was about a month of travelling, and that will take about a year of work.
Q: Do you enjoy doing TV?
CC: Well, what else have I done, besides a lot of movies? I prefer movies because the money is better and certainly because you really know where you stand when you are making movies, and I have made a lot of them: 50 something, I don't know. The hours in this kind of show are not commensurate with the actual product.
The hours are hideous, and it's still a sitcom on television, which is probably the lowest form of television. That's my feeling about it. I think the reason I have stuck around is because I love these kids, the cast - they are very good. It's not like I am working with the great innovators of all time, but at the same time, they are my friends and I am out, and one of my daughters is out here, and wants to be in the business, so she is living with me. I will have some time off and I will be looking for a film, which I think will be my next thing, my next move.
Q: What do you think about the writing of SNL now?
CC: Now? I don't watch it all that much.
Q: What about the writing for Community?
CC: For this one? As I said, it's completely different. That kind of show that I wrote for, that style of show, which is a variety, comedy, sketch show, and the fact that it's live and late at night, allows you to do so much more than you can ever do in a sitcom. I don't know much about how I would change the situation comedy world, but it is exactly what it says: it's situation comedy, and the situation can get old, and sometimes the ones that are at the very top, which just have three people in them, The Big Bang Theory or whatever it is - it's three people, that's basically what the premise is, and we can do that day and night. None of that really interests me. What interests me is being alive and being with friends that I care about and being as creative as I can given circumstance.