Chevy Chase Charms Christmas Vacation Fans at The Palace
ALBANY — A few thousand Nippertown residents took a break from the most wonderful time of the year to brave the rain so they could watch the cult favorite film “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” together at The Palace Theatre on Wednesday, December 15th. Fans were treated to a question and answer session after the film with comedian Chevy Chase, who sweetly answered questions about the movie, his career and life.
The Palace Theatre was filled with fans wearing shirts celebrating lines from the film and hockey shirts claiming team Griswold. Even before the lights dimmed, there was a vibe among the full group that felt like we were embarking on a family holiday together, with folks sharing laughs and knowing inside jokes. And everyone here had clearly seen the film before, many multiple times. The thirty-two-year-old classic is often declared a holiday favorite for its brutal honesty about the stressors and love of a family holiday.
When the lights dimmed and the film started, there was a reverence felt among the crowd for Clark Griswold: his love of all things Christmas, his “over the top” passion to make his family’s experiences amazing, his hysterical facial expressions. As the family on the film drove to get their Christmas tree, the crowd swayed to the carols sung by Chase and mused over their own love of the holiday.
The crowd repeated lines like “Looks great. Little full, lotta sap” as Chase did in the movie, but not obnoxiously so. A hint reminiscent of “Rocky Horror Show,” the film inspired audience members to sing and talk along with reverence. Favorite scenes, such as the lighting of the Christmas lights and squirrel scenes, were well received with anticipatory joy. The laughter didn’t overwhelm so that others couldn’t enjoy the show, though; The Palace managed the crowd, volume, and lighting quite well.
When the lights came up, the crowd waited to see Chase in person. The seventy-eight-year-old came out after the mediator and Chase’s wife first came on stage. Chase was then pushed in a wheelchair before he stood on stage. Clearly touched by the fans’ presence, he repeatedly remarked that the theatre’s full status was amazing to him. “You know the thing about people who make these movies is that we often don’t get to meet the people we make them for,” he gushed with joy. He even remarked at the numbers of fans in the balcony, shocked by his own popularity.
Chase benefitted from having his wife on stage helping with his memory, and sweetly shared some happy memories from making the film. Chase recalled the idea of having different actors play the children in each family vacation as his own, somewhat to hold the Griswold family still in time.
He also shared some fun moments from his SNL days. Chase was the first on SNL to offer “Weekend Update,” and mused about some of his favorite repeated skits like answering the phone mid report. He also disclosed his favorite cast member was Dan Akroyd, or “Danny” as he mused.
In a very authentic moment, Chase and his wife remarked they are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary this year. He kissed her then, and throughout the night was touching her hair lovingly. Chase revealed himself to be a true family man, looking forward to his grandchild’s birth and another child’s wedding this summer. The couple’s loyalty to one another was only further illuminated when they called their youngest child, Emily, on stage. She beamed as she thanked fans for loving her father “as much as I do,” and noted that these shows are so important to the family.
Chase lost his train of thought a few times, and a few other times seemed genuinely confused by the questions offered by fans. But he maintained his sense of humor, and a bit of Clark Griswold’s character shone through Chase’s own family man identity, which his wife confirmed was in fact very real.
Unlike a lot of holiday shows, “An Evening With Chevy Chase” held close to the spirit many of us look for under the mania of the holidays: genuine family love. Chase’s family vibe infected the audience deeply, many of whom offered gentle patience as Chase stumbled over words because the words themselves weren’t what was important. Chase’s presence, his awareness of the fans’ love for him, and the fans’ experiencing Chase’s humility and surprise at their presence, was the sweetest, most charming moment of the night.