When Alex Perdikis says his hometown is Chevy Chase, Maryland, people unfamiliar with the area chuckle. For most Americans, Chevy Chase brings to mind the famous comedian, actor and writer who has appeared in numerous films and television shows. Alex enjoys the joke. He is, after all, a fan himself.
Cornelius Crane Chase, dubbed “Chevy” by his grandmother, was born in 1943 and raised in New York. Born into an affluent family, divorces and remarriages provided an unstable home environment in which Chevy struggled. He discovered his knack for slapstick comedy and hilarious pratfalls while in college. Musically gifted with perfect pitch, he played drums in a college band with future Steely Dan founders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Chevy’s real calling was comedy, however. In 1967 he co-founded an underground comedy group called Channel One. He also wrote for Mad Magazine. In the early 1970s, he landed a writing job for the “Smother Brothers” comedy show. Moving to comedy full time in 1973, he became a National Lampoon Radio Hour regular. In 1975 he was cast as one of the original members of “Saturday Night Live.”
Chevy Chase left “Saturday Night Live” after one season. His first major film role was in 1978’s “Foul Play,” with Goldie Hawn. Chase was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his performance. Hawn and Chase reunited in the film “Seems Like Old Times” two years later.
An electrical accident during the filming of the 1980 film “Modern Problems” left physical and emotional scars. Chase battled depression and drug addiction. The 1983 year was a turning point, however, when Chase was cast in arguably his most iconic role, Clark Griswold, in the first “National Lampoon’s Vacation” film. Written by John Hughes and directed by Harold Ramis, the film starred Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, John Candy, Anthony Michael Hall, Christie Brinkley, Randy Quaid and Dana Barron. The film was a huge hit with both critics and audiences, earning more than $60 million in the United States alone. The film was the first in a series and critics consider it the best.
Chase has appeared in numerous other films, including “Fletch,”” Spies Like Us,” “The Three Amigos,” and “Funny Farm.” He has also narrated documentaries and voiced animated characters. He hosted the Academy Awards twice. At the peak of his career, he earned approximately $7 million per film.
The 1990s were not as kind to Chase. He starred in three films, “Nothing but Trouble,” “Memoirs of an Invisible Man” and “Cops & Robbersons,” none of which were successful. It was television that would revitalize his career, however. In 2006, Chase appeared as a murder suspect in an episode of “Law & Order,” had a recurring role in “Chuck” and voiced a character on “Family Guy.” He starred in the sitcom “Community” from 2009 to 2012.