Bill Murray and Chevy Chase have a lot of history. Through all the years they’ve known each other, they haven’t always gotten along. The two comedic powerhouses once had a massive fist fight that nearly fractured their relationship for good.
The big fight went down after Chase left the cast of Saturday Night Live to pursue a movie role after only being on the show for its first season. When he returned the next season to guest host the show on February 18, 1978, he wasn’t given a warm welcome. Some in the cast felt betrayed by this move and they somehow convinced Murray, who’d replaced Chase, to confront him.
“Because we all felt mad he had left us, and somehow I was the anointed avenging angel, who had to speak for everyone,” Murray told Empire reporter Nick de Semlyen, author of the book Wild And Crazy Guys, a sort of history of the biggest comedians of the ’80s. The discussion turned heated right away, and soon, the two comedians were throwing punches and insults at each other. Murray was allegedly the one to throw the first punch.
Bill Murray, Celebrity Slap-Boxer
Murray has his own recollection of the fight. “It was really a Hollywood fight, a ‘Don’t touch my face!’ kind of thing,” according to him. Being backstage at SNL meant there were plenty of people to pull the stars apart if things started getting too nasty, which is exactly what happened. “Chevy is a big man, I’m not a small guy, and we were separated by my brother Brian [Doyle-Murray], who comes up to my chest. So it was kind of a non-event.”
“A non-event” is not how director John Landis, who was a witness to the whole ordeal, described the fight when he was interviewed by de Semlyen for Wild And Crazy Guys. “It was a huge altercation. They were big guys and really going at it. They were slapping at each other, screaming at each other, calling each other terrible names.” Landis claims Murray, in the heat of the moment, pointed at Chevy and screamed the infamous insult, “MEDIUM TALENT!”
Regardless of differing accounts, Murray and Chase’s relationship fractured after the incident. “It was just the significance of it. It was an Oedipal thing, a rupture,” Murray recalled. The two funny men didn’t reunite until they both starred in Caddyshack together in 1980. The two were finally able to get over the incident. “Chevy and I are friends now. It’s all fine,” Murray told de Semlyen. It’s a good thing these titans of comedy squashed their beef. There’s nothing funny about comedians fighting.