Think of this dick celebrity as a bloated, aging metaphor for the plight of the dick white guy in Donald Trump’s America.
Maybe I started to hate Chevy Chase after reading about his attempts to sabotage other writers during pitch meetings in those early days of Saturday Night Live.
In case you haven’t heard, this Pens and Patron article sums up what I’m talking about:
“As a writer on season one of SNL, Chevy Chase disrespected the long-held notion that writer’s rooms are generally safe spaces for brainstorming. It is a place where people need to feel free and open to discuss ideas that are sometimes vulnerable. Instead of accepting peoples’ ideas, whether they were good or bad, Chevy would viciously attack other writers’ ideas in a mocking, sarcastic way saying, ‘gee, I don’t think that’s very good at all.’ And that was him being nice.“
When he wasn’t acting racist or sexist, Chevy Chase did many other dickish things over the years and I quit respecting him long ago. But when I read about his conduct in SNL pitch meetings, his insecurities and brash-yet-entitled ugliness made a tiny bit of sense.
In my creative travels, I’ve encountered this type. I feel a commonality with the people in those meetings who had to tolerate Chevy Chase’s shenanigans. My earlier professional years were spent in ad agencies, my trade is copywriting. While not an apples-to-apples comparison to writing for a show like SNL, most agencies have something like a writer’s room where pitch meetings happen. When a client gave us a plum project, say…their national print advertising campaign, our bosses would assign three or four creative teams (a creative team consists of a copywriter and an art director) to the job. The aim was to generate a ton of ideas so agency management could narrow it all down to the few most killer concepts, which would be presented to the client.
For the most part, this process was fine and I got the reasoning. Our agency’s clients received a range of thinking about their businesses which solved their strategic aims from a variety of angles.
It worked like this: the three or four creative teams would all get briefed at a start-up meeting, where we learned what needed to be accomplished, what the strategy was, etc. Then we’d go off into our own little creative-worlds to scribble ideas and brainstorm, knowing that a pitch meeting with our creative bosses would be happening a few days later.
When the creative teams working on these projects consisted of copywriters and art directors who I respected, I looked forward to the pitch meetings and enjoyed checking out the various teams’ ideas, how they attacked the assignment, seeing where their minds went and comparing their work to where my and my art director’s minds went.
It’s an awesome feeling when your co-workers are talented. Smart folks inspire you to jam, just because you know they are going to jam. And sometimes in pitch meetings, a person would bring up their vulnerable idea—that strangely-provocative brain-fart that they believed held some merit, even if they couldn’t articulate why. Which was the purpose of those types of spaces, to give raw thoughts a chance, see if those thoughts had heartbeats or not.
Unfortunately…agencies also employ Chevy Chase-types as well.
They show up at pitch meetings and become cutthroat, all Chevy Chase-style. They pull lame, backstabby, weaselly, passive-aggressive bullshit to undermine others. However they can de-rail other teams’ mojo, the goal is to snuff out work at the early stages while they push their work to the top. They do their best to make sure that none of the other teams’ brain-farts have heartbeats, all while touting the brilliance of every one of their own brain-farts. Looking back at my time in this world, there is something very Donald Trump about it all.
These days, however, the Chevy Chase types seem to be freaking out. Even the younger, not-as-bloated fellas who come across like junior versions of Chevy Chase and got his weaselly, grating act down cold. Underneath all of that smirky Schrodinger’s Douchebaggery, white men who spout untrue statements like “white men built this country” look existentially threatened. As they complain about cancel culture and participation trophies, their panic is obvious.
Donald Trump got elected President in 2016 because he appealed to the supremacist fantasies in these types of bros. The “America” in “Make America Great Again” is an America where Chevy Chase at his worst would feel right at home. However he could offend, whoever he could humiliate, wherever he could be inappropriate—Donald Trump promised this type of white guy that their sense of entitled immaturity was making a comeback and everybody else would have to tolerate their entitled immaturity.
Then, in 2020, Donald lost. And now, in just a few short hours, Donald Trump will be leaving the White House.
Yep, the Chevy Chase-bros will no longer have a champion of white male privilege in the Oval Office—wait…what am I talking about? It’s totally, completely, 100% worse than that. The Chevy Chase-bros have to confront an even more terrifying truth: our Vice President is of mixed race and—GASP!!!—is also a woman. Kamala Harris is confident, competent, intelligent, driven, accomplished. The Chevy Chase-bros’ worst nightmare.
I’ll end with another insight, from Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live.
“Chevy Chase was a viciously effective put-down artist, the sort who could find the one thing somebody was sensitive about — a pimple on the nose, perhaps — and then kid about it, mercilessly.”
If you do know guys like this, take heart. They feel increasingly alone, with nothing but corny blonde jokes to keep them company. Underneath the bluster and the wrinkles and the blubber and the nostalgia, the Chevy Chase-bros are coming undone and unraveling more each day. It’s up to us to help them to continue to come undone. Most of them will wise up and join the human race.
And the ones who don’t…who cares?
They’ve never cared about anyone else besides themselves.
Check out my fiction. I have two dark comedies and the first book in a sci-fi series available.