On the eve of Community’s fourth season premiere (tomorrow at 8 pm ET on NBC!), Joel McHale visited the Howard Stern Show on SiriusXM, and revealed a great deal about Chevy Chase and the controversies surrounding his behavior on set of the cult hit— namely Chase’s use of the N-word and the time McHale dislocated the 69-year-old’s shoulder.
McHale pointed out that since Community was shot out of order this season, Chase’s character, Pierce Hawthorne will be seen on every episode, despite the fact that Chase has left the show and will not appear in “next season.” It probably doesn’t mean anything, but McHale did say “next season” and never qualified it with “if there’s a next season.”
Although he told Stern he and Chase are still cordial – they text each other – McHale wasn’t exactly complimentary throughout the interview this morning. His overall take on Chevy went like this:
“Everyone grew up with Chevy. America loves the man…He was the highest paid comedic movie actor of the ‘80s and he came on [Community] and…he didn’t want to be there. I think he wanted to be there the first year, but then there was so many interviews he did where he said he hated the writing and the hours were too long…” But McHale went on to say that Chevy’s character Pierce was one of the best written characters on the show and got to say some of the funniest lines.
On first meeting Chevy on the set of Community, Mchale says, “When I first met him, he wasn’t hostile…. I said, ‘Hi my name is Joel’ and he just shook my hand and looked at me.”
Stern asked McHale if it was true that Chase, at times, didn’t bother to learn his lines. “The schedule was always crazy and we had to use cue cards sometimes,” McHale says. “But that happened to a lot of us… I feel like he just didn’t want to be there.”
There were times, McHale said, where he tried to have a heart-to-heart with Chase, but it didn’t work. “When I tried he just wanted to fight me,” McHale says. “He physically wanted to fight me… I’m saying this from a place where it’s like, ‘America loves you, dude. You’ve won. You’ve got a great role. You should be thrilled.’” And speaking of fighting, there was the time where Pierce was teaching Jeff (McHale’s character) how to fight. It seems Chase wasn’t thrilled with the effort McHale was putting in. Between takes, things got interesting:
I punched him…he was holding up those pads. He was teaching my character how to box, and he kept going, like, ‘Is that the hardest you can hit me?’ And I’m like, ‘It is not the hardest I can hit you; we are pretending.’ And he was like, ‘Hit me as hard as you can.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m not going to hit you as hard as I can. I don’t need to hit you as hard as I can.’ And he’s like, ‘You’re such a pussy. Hit me as hard as you can.’ ‘Alright. I’ll give you a hard one. I’ll hit you with the left.’ And I threw a left and that’s when I separated his shoulder. He went down and he had to go to the doctor.
And then there’s the N-word, which McHale explains Chase used while he was protesting his character’s racism. “You shouldn’t be throwing that around on set. He used it and I said, ‘Well we are now at Defcon 1.’”
He didn’t like the way his character Pierce was going. But Pierce had always been that way, like Archie Bunker or like Ed O’Neill on Married with Children. There was never any flack he got from that. That character was beloved. We did an entire show based on Dungeons and Dragons about a fat kid in our school that was going to kill himself, and Chevy should’ve won an Emmy for his performance. He was great.
So he was protesting being racist and so he threw that out…he was looking at his lines that were on these cue cards and he was like, ‘Why don’t I just have Donald [Glover] and Yvette [Nicole Brown] come over here and sit on my lap and I’ll call them the [the N-word] for a while…’ He had also said in the past that Richard Pryor told him it was ok for him to call him that. And I was like, ‘Well he is not here to give you the N-word card.’”
And there you have it. Fun times on set. No matter. Community is back tomorrow!