The moment Bill Murray and Chevy Chase came to blows behind-the-scenes of SNL
We’re digging int the Far Out Magazine vaults to look back at the confrontation between the famed Saturday Night Live cast member Bill Murray and guest host Chevy Chase on one, particularly tense episode. Though it was all — admittedly gritted — smiles while the cameras were on, the disagreement between the two iconic SNL alumni boiled over.
It seems since Saturday Night Live graced our screens on the 11th October 1975 it has been causing controversy, adding to newspaper column inches and now driving social content through the roof. Back in 1978, it was the moment Bill Murray came to blows with former cast member Chevy Chase.
Saturday Night Live arrived as the dangerous side of late-night TV. A chaotic crew of incredible comedians, backed up by musical guest spots, was enlisted by the show’s creator Lorne Michaels. By 1975, Michaels had assembled a talented cast, including Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Michael O’Donoghue, Gilda Radner, and George Coe. It was a tantalising prospect of suprememly talented comedians and one that saw the show become more and more popular, led largely by Chevy Chase.
Chase quickly became a hot property on the show, and his winking smile gathered attention from Hollywood. The New York Magazine even referred to Chase as “the heir apparent to Johnny Carson”—high praise indeed. Chase, was considered the first major star to emerge from the show.
By the beginning of the second series, Chase’s popularity had skyrocketed and he duly left the show in pursuit of cinematic fame and the paycheque that went with it. It was a decision which underpinned the argument between Chase and his replacement.
With a smart pitch, Michaels decided to replace Chase with the then-unknown actor Bill Murray, rather than trying to one-up the audience. However, despite his charisma, Murray fell flat with audiences when he first arrived, working hard for little laughs, and it saw resentment grow. Despite Murray eventually finding his feet the residual negative energy hung on to Murray, if not the entire show, for some time. It was natural then that Murray became the cast’s elected mouthpiece when Chase returned to the show in 1978 as a guest host.
Perhaps it was because being the first former cast member to return as a guest host had gone to his head as well as his wallet. Or perhaps it was because relations had soured since leaving the show, but the cast was unhappy with Chase’s rudeness on set, and it led to Murray confronting the actor an hour before the show began with a reportedly hot temper.
With drug use rampant behind the scenes in the studio and all members of the cast riled up by Chase’s perceived snootiness, the jibes and insults started to fly across the studio. Murray was determined to find a climax to the tension and took shots at Chase, noting his marital problems by screaming “Go f**k your wife, she needs it”. In turn, Chase called Murray’s pock-marked face a site for Neil Armstrong to land on.
Chevy was unsettled by the exchange and after more and more social publications Chase followed his temper and confronted Murray in John Belushi’s dressing room. It was a combustible situation for all involved. Soon enough, the elements in the room mixed in a deadly concoction and exploded.
The pair were scuffling across the room where Belushi managed to pry them apart just moments before Chase would walk on and deliver his opening monologue for the audience.
It remains one of the highest-rated shows in SNL history and shows that as always with late-night television, the real action is in the back.
When Chase returned once more to guest host he addressed the “rumours” of his and Murray’s fistfight and the duo performed an awkward medley for the audience, a clip of which you can see below.