In the biography “Wild and Crazy Guys” by author Nick de Semlyen, Chase described the accident that took place in 1976 on the September 18th episode of “SNL” hosted my Lili Tomlin, with musical guest James Taylor waiting in the wings. The skit, featuring Aykroyd as Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter and Chase as President Ford, went awry at the very end of their mock debate when Chase toppled over his prop lectern, sending him head first into a block of wood. “The prop guy, his name was Willy Day and he was about eighty-eight, and he’d forgotten to take out a middle portion of the lectern,” recalled Chase. “So when I fell into it, I went right into a board. It hit me right in the tonsils. I was in the hospital for a week, peeing blood.” Ouch.
Whether or not Willy Day, the all-time prop man in Studio 8H, was a little absent-minded or the board didn’t break away at a crucial moment remains to be seen. Chase would go on to win two Emmys for his work on “SNL,” but the accident may have contributed to him leaving the show. Chase’s last appearance was on October 30th, 1976, just a little over a month after the accident. Interestingly, the late Buck Henry would host that night and suffer an injury after Belushi accidentally sliced his head open with a katana sword in the infamous “Samurai Stockbroker” skit. Later on in the episode, the entire cast, as well as Chase, wore head bandages in a show of solidarity and support for Henry who insisted on going on with the show.
“Saturday Night Live” returns next week with host Aubrey Plaza on January 21 and Michael B. Jordan on January 28.