Chevy Chase reportedly told racist jokes in front of Donald Glover often on the set of Community, and those around him believe it was an attempt to "disrupt" the burgeoning genius's magnetic energy.
Glover, now a beloved and influential artist in a number of fields, got on TV for the first time through Community. Chase, on the otherhand, is an entertainment veteran. In a recent profile on Glover published in The New Yorker, the show's creator, Dan Harmon, commented on that dynamic.
“Chevy was the first to realize how immensely gifted Donald was, and the way he expressed his jealousy was to try to throw Donald off,” Harmon said. “I remember apologizing to Donald after a particularly rough night of Chevy’s non-P.C. verbiage, and Donald said, ‘I don’t even worry about it.'”
Chase's chastisements reportedly included jokes like, “People think you’re funnier because you’re black.” Ironically, this kind of attempt at humor is precisely in line with Chase's character, Pierce Hawthorne, the bumbling baby boomer who always has his foot in his mouth. Harmon went on to say that writing for Glover was an exercise in relinquishing control.
“By the end of Season 2, I literally was writing scenes that ended ‘and then Donald says something to button the scene,'” Harmon said. “I’m a pretty narcissistic guy, so for me to do that I had to know that, one, he was more talented than I was and, two, he was a better person than I was, that he wouldn’t misuse his power over me.”
Glover himself was never particularly phased by Chase's brand of off-color humor.
“I just saw Chevy as fighting time — a true artist has to be O.K. with his reign being over,” Glover said in the profile. “I can’t help him if he’s thrashing in the water. But I know there’s a human in there somewhere — he’s almost too human.”
When reached for comment, Chevy Chase said he was “saddened to hear that Donald perceived me in that light.”1comments
Harmon has shared anecdotes about trying to mediate between Glover and Chase many times on his podcast, Harmontown. He always recalls Glover dealing with the interactions more gracefully than he himself could. He himself had a public feud with Chase, as the two were constantly at odds on set. This culminated with Harmon playing some allegedly drunken voicemails from Chase on the podcast, and soon after being fired from Community.
The profile focuses largely on the upcoming second season of Glover's show on FX, Atlanta, on which he is the head writer, star, showrunner and occasionally director. The show returns to the air on Mar. 1.