Embattled former Saturday Night Live star Chevy Chase was the one who convinced NBC News anchor Brian Williams to let his guard down, let us in, and have a little fun.
Speaking with Alex Baldwin on the actor's WNYC podcast "Here's the Thing," Williams explained how SNL's original breakout star was the one who convinced him to first guest host the show, back in 2007, before he became a regular guest in our funny lives. He had been mulling the decision for six whole months, and was on the way to talk with
the godfather Lorne Michaels when he ran into Chase. Williams was worried about flushing "25 years of... my credibility down the toilet," before speaking with Chase and Michaels that day.
"[Chevy] said, I watched Dan Rather for 20 years, and the day he retired, I was no closer to knowing who he was than he was the day he started. I think you should do it," Williams recalls. "And so Chevy, in a way that he does not yet know, decided that, and that was a big—that was a big dam to break in my life. The courage it required, that is not my trade."
So that's what led to Williams saying yes. He wanted to be friends with us. He knew he could be loved, if he let us see the real him. But he was still nervous, and Lorne still needed to convince Williams to go out on stage.
Williams almost got cold feet after the show's dress rehearsal, but before Don Pardo's signature introductions started the show. He appealed to Williams' catholic school roots. "Lorne gave me a great locker room speech, between dress rehearsal and the live show," he said. "'Mr. Williams, I think you said you went to a Catholic high school. Is that correct? Did you have a talent night with say, the parish priest, wearing a coconut bra, just making a fool of himself wearing a coconut bra?' I said, 'Well, we didn’t have an actual coconut bra like Bloody Mary in South Pacific, but we had a night like that. Yes, Lorne.' 'I need you to be that priest. I need you to show these people you’re willing to make a fool out of yourself, and be a good sport.'"
And thankfully, Williams kept up the funny long after his time as SNL host. He told Baldwin earlier in the conversation that things have changed for news anchors. They "have to be more accessible," Williams said. He became everyone's favorite Weekend Update cameo, and everyone's favorite 30 Rock guest. Chevy was right: if he let us love him, we would. Also, his Lorne Michaels impression is top notch, and really should be heard. It's just another reason to like the guy.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.