• Image about Chevy Chase
Chase as Pierce Hawthorne on NBC’s Community, now entering its third season.
NBC Universal

All that said, it’s Chase’s role as the rather odious Pierce Hawthorne on NBC’s Community that has people talking now. Like many things in life that become lodged staunchly in the success category, the role is something he wasn’t totally seeking out.

“Actually, I had no real desire to do anything,” Chase admits. “I get a lot of scripts all the time, and the one for this thing was really funny. And I didn’t understand all the exigencies of a television sitcom — you read a pilot and that’s it, you’re in forever. The pilot script was terrific, and now I’ll be there forever. Or at least another season, anyway.”
  • Image about Chevy Chase
Chase pioneering the Saturday Night Live staple “Weekend Update” segment
Courtesy Everett Collection

So, to put it bluntly: What made Chase want to sign on to a show about a ­moist-towelette mogul and his unlikely group of community college friends, after having it pretty easy at this stage? More than the pilot itself, it was the understated and witty attention to detail that caught the actor’s eye.

“It was my introduction in the pilot that made me want to play this guy, because he introduced himself to Jeff [played by Joel McHale] and said, ‘Jeff: Pierce Hawthorne, and, yes, that is Hawthorne as in Hawthorne Wipes, the award-winning moist towelette.’ We’ve never really used it ever since then; that’s why it’s so rich.”

Or, perhaps, maybe it’s all just very … Chevy.

That seems to be the opinion of ­Newsweek/The Daily Beast television columnist Jace Lacob, who says Chase has pulled off the difficult trick of reinventing himself for a new generation of fans. “To many people, Chevy Chase will always be associated with Fletch, or their own memories of growing up and watching Clark Griswold. But for those who watch NBC’s Community, Chase is nearly inseparable from his role as megalomaniacal hand-wipe mogul Pierce Hawthorne,” Lacob says.

If that starts to sound like maybe Lacob is making a larger point about Chase’s on-set persona, first, Lacob wouldn’t be the first critic to make that comparison; and second, the last person it’s going to bother is Chase himself. “I’m the original ‘I don’t give a crap’ guy,” he says matter-of-factly.

Anyway, Chase has a bit of a different viewpoint on his Pierce-ness, taking pains to point out how unique this Community role really is for him. “You know, this character in Community is so different from anything that I’ve been associated with in the past. … It’s a character that’s going to change probably even this year, a bit. I look at it and I see, quite frankly, that if I were watching the show, I wouldn’t be too interested in that guy.”