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Chevy Chase Used to Tell Racist Jokes on ‘Community’ Set Because Donald Glover Was Funnier Than Him

Donald Glover is a huge star, and he’s only getting huger. The only reason he isn’t at the top of his profession is that he’s a bit of dilettante and has moved between stand-up, writing, acting and music over the course of his career. Of course, the reason for this is that Glover is so talented that he’s excelled at all of these things, and has been a part of two beloved cult hit sitcoms, 30 Rock and Community.

Glover was an actor on Community, where he played Troy Barnes, a character who evolved from being the guy who wears his high school letterman jacket in college to being a pop-culture obsessed nerd and the savior of the air conditioner repair annex. He worked with Chevy Chase on the show, and though the two were originally written as a duo, it quickly became clear that Glover had more on-screen chemistry with Danny Pudi’s Abed Nadir than Chase’s Piece Hawthorne and Troy and Abed became the headlining duo of the show and Chase’s character was written as being jealous of their close friendship.

According to comments by showrunner Dan Harmon in a New Yorker profile of Glover, this dynamic was also playing out behind the scenes and lead to Chase making racist jokes to try and disrupt Glover’s acting, which didn’t work.

Chevy Chase, one of Glover’s co-stars, often tried to disrupt his scenes and made racial cracks between takes. (“People think you’re funnier because you’re black.”) Harmon said, “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. 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.’ ”

You may remember one incident where Chase, who had grown tired of being portrayed as a barely-tolerated racist uncle, said to Harmon in front of the entire cast and crew “Why don’t I just call him a n*****?” about the dialogue his character was given. It turns out that, somewhat unsurprisingly, that Chase’s character’s behavior was based on Chase’s behavior.

Community fans probably pieced that together after seeing the season 2 episode “Celebrity Pharmacology” in which Pierce constantly gives Annie notes on the script for her anti-drug play aimed at middle school students, insisting she make him the star, expand his part and makes up catch-phrases and hackey jokes. It was a funny episode, but a little over a year later we found out Harmon clearly wrote the episode about the way Chase acted backstage.

Glover wasn’t bothered by Chase, as he expressed to The New Yorker:

Glover told me, “I just saw Chevy as fighting time—a true artist has to be O.K. with his reign being over. 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.” (Chase said, “I am saddened to hear that Donald perceived me in that light.”)

Community was clearly Chevy Chase’s last high-profile gig, and instead of the young genius who headlined Saturday Night Live’s first season, his career is ending with him as a bitter old man who failed to adapt to the changing world of comedy around him. Glover’s time on Community was just the start of what will be a long and successful career in the comedy zeitgeist he had such a large hand in crafting.

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