Of the new roster of shows that premiered last fall, one of the few that received critical acclaim was Community, a comedy from Dan Harmon (Monster House) about a band of misfits who attend Greendale Community College including Pierce, portrayed by Chevy Chase.
It’s a subject Harmon knows intimately. “I grew up in Wisconsin. I grew up broke. I went to a community college when I was 32. That’s what this is based on. I can’t think of anything more heroic and noble than an open-admission system in the educational sector.
The campus in the show, Greendale, is a character in and of itself. It is a humble character. I continually compare it to Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. Its ambition exceeds its grasp. And therefore, it is heroic.”
The show’s creator/ executive producer admits “only ten percent [of the series] is based on my experience at Glendale Community College, because even though it was a very limited experience, the emotional punch of that is what made me think this would make a great show, because I was a screenwriter.
I went to this school to try to keep my relationship with my girlfriend alive at the time. We took Spanish together thinking, ‘Let’s force each other to work on something that isn’t sex!”
One of the more mature students attending Greendale is Pierce, portrayed by Chevy Chase. Part of the original cast of Saturday Night Live in 1975, he made his feature film debut in the comedy-thriller Foul Play with Goldie Hawn, and went on to star in such memorable comedies as Caddy Shack, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Fletch.
Community marks his return to a weekly series. “I honestly think that the films lately aren’t as good as most of the stuff on TV,” says Chase. ‘I never thought that I would be involved in a situation comedy until I read the script for Community, and I was delighted to go in and say, ‘Please hire me.’”
“[This series] has really great writing,” Chase continues. “I don’t improvise a lot. None of us really improvise a lot. We add things here and there, but the writing itself is really what distinguishes this show. And it continues to be terrific writing. And every one of these brash young kids is really a fine actor, which makes this fun to do every day.”
Harmon acknowledges it was a coup to get Chevy Chase for the series. “Chevy walked in the door, as he described, hat in hand, begging!
We never actually auditioned anybody for the role of Pierce, Chevy read the script, came in for a meeting, and we landed that whale. My ass will be kicked later [for that remark].”
“I quite literally moved from Milwaukee to Los Angeles for the express purpose of impressing my parents who were focused on TV in the ‘70s, that Chevy Chase was the king of, and this was a great opportunity to find out you can never make your parents love you!”