How Harold Ramis Helped Chevy Chase Find Clark Griswold For National Lampoon’s Vacation Series

Chase is quick to give Ramis his flowers, both as a “very, very funny guy” and as an actor in the likes of “Ghostbusters,” “Stripes,” and nearly 30 episodes of “Second City Television.” Ramis never shared stage time with Chase on “SNL,” in a pivotal judgment call that saw the Chicago-born multi-hyphenate leaving the 1973 stage show “National Lampoon’s Lemmings,” which he co-wrote (the show that led to Lorne Michaels hiring Gilda Radner and John Belushi for his late-night sketch series) and opting for the “SCTV” crowd instead as both performer and head writer. 

His lengthy resume and comedy experience came into play when Chase approached him for some direction. In the interview with Entertainment Focus, Chase continued, saying:

“He was one of the most creative guys I’ve ever known, and also one of the nicest and best. So when we first started shooting, I said to Harold — and I remember this very well — ‘Well, how do you think I should do it?’ And he just did it. He did one or two lines and gave me this guy in a couple of moments. It immediately resonated with me and I knew just what he meant: ‘Go over the top — be Clark Griswold.’ And it was wonderful. It felt right and I knew it, and for the next five ‘Vacation’ movies, I had it. I’m sure this kind of thing happens all the time between friends or people who are good comedians, but with Harold it was very special.

The guidance, and the tortoise-shell-wearing character that emerged from it, contributed to the financial success of “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” pulling just over $8 million on its opening weekend and grossing over $60 million. It was a new peak of profit and prosperity for Chase, who would soon finesse his leading man status and land his next iconic comedy within two years

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