Saturday, March 19, 2011

Paul Simon's Prophecy: Chevy Chase, Community, and circular logic

Paul Simon's Graceland is one of the greatest albums of all-time. It was released in August of 1986, about a year and a half after I was born, and a Sherwin family copy of the tape kept me company through the majority of my childhood. Like Dad's Steely Dan, Rod Stewart, and T. Rex albums, Graceland sticks in my brain as a cultural landmark.

The classic video for "You Can Call Me Al," one of the album's megahits, features Chevy Chase lip-syncing while Paul Simon looks really, really bored. In 1986, Chase was riding high, having had the brilliant Three Amigos released that year, and the masterworks Fletch and Spies Like Us released the year prior.

The last song on Graceland, "All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints," has the following lyric:

Over the mountain, down in the valley
Lives a former talk show host
Everybody knows his name

Seven years after the album's release, Fox hired Chevy Chase to host a new late-night talk show, which bombed after only five weeks like it had a lit fuse attached to it. Chase's failure has become something of a cultural milestone, eventually becoming the frequent jokes on The Simpsons and Family Guy.

Simon's 1986 lyric clearly predicts Chase's 1993 talk show downfall. Accordingly, Paul Simon should be viewed as not only a genius and one of the greatest songwriters of all-time (as well as one of the best parts of Annie Hall). The man is a visionary in the most literal sense of the word.

Or Simon hated Fletch Lives so much that he utilized supernatural powers to destroy the career of his video's co-star less than a decade later. And, frankly, you can't blame him. Fletch Lives is really, really crappy.

Good thing Chase has begun to redeem himself with Community. I'd watch a talk show hosted by Pierce Hawthorne, Chase's character, but it's worth bringing up that one could read Pierce's history as a lift from Chase's.

From Community's Wikia page:

"Pierce Hawthorne is an over-the-hill baby-boomer who invented and became wealthy off Hawthorne Wipes. He is currently attending Greendale Community College because he wants to become a Jack-of-all-trades and because he has no one else to spend his time with."

Like Pierce, Chase blazed an industry trail (Hawthorne: handwipes, Chase: televised comedy [one of the original cast members of SNL]), has had multiple marriages (Hawthorne: 7, Chase: 3), and is now slumming at an institution to which others of his financial/cultural status would largely think themselves superior (Hawthorne: Greendale Community College, Chase: a network sitcom [albeit the best one in many years]).

Regardless of all else we ever get from Chase, we'll always have Dirty Work.


Sibyl Vane said...

Only twenty four more days until the new Paul Simon CD...

Meg said...

I feel like I need an education on music. I was teethed on classical, and have yet to own a Paul Simon cd. :/

Robynn said...

I was worried where they were taking Pierce's character this year...but I think he's redeemed himself.

For the record, Graceland is in my top ten as well. It also was the soundtrack for my childhood.

Dave J. said...

Cool recent vid of Paul.

Will check out Community!