All the Times ‘Community’ Slyly Referenced Chevy Chase’s Miserable Life
We may have mentioned before that Chevy Chase is reportedly a tad difficult to work with, so much so that his time on Community allegedly ended with the Fletch star being escorted off the set after using the N-word for what was definitely not the first time.
Before Chase’s involvement blew up in everybody’s faces though, he was an integral part of the show — not just because of his performance as Pierce Hawthorne. Thanks to creator Dan Harmon’s penchant for inserting subtle references and stealth insults into his scripts, Community occasionally featured low-key callbacks to Chase’s career and personal life — beyond the fact that he was playing an out-of-touch racist guy with lots of money.
Pierce’s Background Was Inspired by Chase’s Family History
Pierce Hawthorne’s wealth, of course, is owed to the fact that he’s the heir to Hawthorne Industries, the makers of Hawthorne Wipes moist toilettes and an inadvertent ally of the LGBTQ+ community.
It turns out that Chase was also the heir to a fortune built on very personal products — Crane Plumbing, the makers of fine toilets and toilet accessories. Not only that but Pierce’s bigoted father, Cornelius Hawthorne, seemingly got his name from Chase’s step-grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane, who Chase (aka Cornelius Crane Chase) was himself named after. Although there’s no evidence that old Cornelius was a total d-bag like his fictional namesake.
The End of ‘National Lampoonery’
In the Season Three premiere, Pierce has exiled himself from the study group — perhaps not coincidentally, Dean Pelton also proclaims that he is putting a stop to all “national lampoonery.”
Of course, Chase starred in a number of National Lampoon-branded Vacation movies and, prior to Saturday Night Live, was a part of the magazine’s expansion to live performance, which, incidentally, was dramatized in the movie A Futile and Stupid Gesture, featuring Jeff Winger himself, Joel McHale, as Chase.
Jeff Channels Ty Webb From ‘Caddyshack’
Using Chase’s own smarmy shtick against him, in the episode “Competitive Wine Tasting,” Pierce is at the receiving end of a put-down in which Jeff tells him not to sell himself “short,” followed by an insult.
This is a direct lift from a moment in Caddyshack, in which Chase’s character Ty Webb similarly sticks it to a stuffy judge.
Chase Repeats His Spanish Greeting From ‘Fletch’
Making it abundantly clear that he doesn’t speak a word of Spanish, as the study group walks out of class in protest, Pierce mutters “Tierra de Fuego” to their new Spanish teacher as he exits. It’s a brief moment and so inconsequential that Netflix didn’t even bother to caption it.
But the phrase, which is not a real Spanish saying, but rather an archipelago “at the southern extremity of South America,” is seemingly a shout-out to a similar moment in Chase’s classic Fletch.
An Entire Plotline Was Meant to ‘Mirror’ a ‘Saturday Night Live’ Rumor
In the second season’s “Celebrity Pharmacology,” the gang is forced to stage an anti-drug play, with Troy and Abed dressed as honey bees, which is ultimately ruined by Pierce’s egomania and deep pockets.
According to Harmon, this whole storyline, right down to the bee costumes, was an effort to “mirror Chevy’s biography in a strange way,” specifically the time he returned to host SNL and was a giant asshole to everybody. As Harmon recalled, “That’s why there’s bee costumes involved because the legend is when Chevy returned to host Saturday Night Live in its second season, he and Bill Murray got into a fistfight backstage that a killer-bee-clad John Belushi had to break up and shove Chevy out for his monologue.”
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