SNL Golden Boy Chevy Chase: Clark Griswold, Fletch, And A Complicated Legacy

Saturday Night Live - Season 1 -- Pictured: Chevy Chase during 'Weekend Update' -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

With performances in Caddyshack (1980), National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), and Fletch (1985), Chevy Chase became an American comedy institution, making endlessly re-watchable and quotable movies that have their own genre -- they're Chevy Chase movies. Chase is a gifted physical comedian who gives calmly absurd performances, and during his years on top it served him well. 

Chevy Chase's persona also served him well on Saturday Night Live -- while it lasted. On the inaugural 1975 season of Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase was the biggest presence, usually delivering the line "live, from New York, it's Saturday night!" and hosting Weekend Update. In Rolling Stone's estimation, Chase was the most crucial performer from the get-go: "It took him only one season to define the franchise…without that deadpan arrogance, the whole SNL style of humor would fall flat."

Chase was also known for having a big ego, but that's the push-and-pull of being Chevy Chase. He was praised as the funniest man in America during that first season, he was hailed as the next Johnny Carson, and he won two Emmys and a Golden Globe for his writing and acting on SNL. Yes, Chevy Chase had a high opinion of himself... he also had reason to.

Chevy Chase is a successful actor who did era-defining work in the '70s and early '80s.