Paul Shaffer Pulled an Epic Prank on Chevy Chase

So you’re a tourist, and you’d like to meet Chevy?
Paul Shaffer Pulled an Epic Prank on Chevy Chase

Paul Shaffer and Chevy Chase were part of the original Saturday Night Live, but despite its initial success, both left before the show’s second season for what they’d hoped were greener pastures. For Chase, that meant an NBC comedy special and movies like Oh Heavenly Dog. Shaffer was convinced to leave by first-season SNL host Norman Lear, who recruited the comic/musician for an ill-fated sitcom called A Year at the Top.  

Shaffer and Paul Evigan starred as two wannabe musicians who sold their souls to hit the top of the pop charts. “It wasn’t awful, and it wasn’t great,” Shaffer writes in his memoir, We’ll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin’ Show Biz Saga. “If our show became famous, it was only famous as Lear’s first flop.”

Chase had an NBC comedy special airing around that time and asked Shaffer to serve as his musical consultant. Shaffer was happy to take the job, especially since Chase’s show was shooting on the same soundstage at The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. He and one of the show’s writers, Brian Doyle-Murray, took frequent breaks to watch that show’s bevy of swimsuit-clad chorus girls gyrate with Ann B. Davis. Chase would begin staff meetings by announcing, “We need to make this short because Brian and Paul have to get back over to the Brady Bunch set as soon as possible.”

Shaffer still had extra time on his hands because he and writer Tom Leopold found multiple ways to prank Chase during production. They told the producers of the quiz program The Liar’s Club, also filming on the same lot, that Chase loved the show and wanted to appear. As Liar’s Club generally featured little-known comics, the producers salivated over the big star. “For weeks, we kept telling them we were on the verge of delivering Chevy, and for weeks, the producers treated us like the Second Coming,” Shaffer remembers. “Of course, Chevy never came.”

But Shaffer and Leopold weren’t done with Liar’s Club yet. Every day, the members of its studio audience would line up and file past Chase’s office on their way to the show’s taping.

“Want to upset Chevy?” Leopold asked.

“Of course,” Shaffer replied.

So, one afternoon, Leopold approached the line of waiting tourists and shouted out, “Who’d like to meet Chevy Chase?”

The question was met with a resounding chorus of “ME!

Leopold didn’t need to be told twice, marching the line into the private office where Chase was smoking cigars and reviewing scripts. “The sight of these tourists traipsing through — in one door and out the other — was priceless,” Shaffer says. Chase “wasn’t thrilled about shaking hands with 150 people,” but he forced a smile and did it anyway. 

When the first episode of Shaffer’s A Year at the Top aired a few months later, Chase fired back. As the painful initial broadcast concluded, Shaffer got a phone call from Chase. 

“I’m here with Gilda and Dan and John,” Chase said. “We just watched your show, and we want to say that we still love and respect you — hold on, Paul… What was that guys? We don’t? Well, we still love you… What was that guys? We don’t?”


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