Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
SUBSCRIBE
/ Source: TODAY
By By John Springer

He's Chevy Chase, and you're not, but he may not be the Chevy Chase you think you know.

The actor-comedian who found fame in the inaugural season of "Saturday Night Live" in 1975 tells all in a new authorized biography, including the real reason he left SNL and the years of abuse he claims he suffered as a child at the hands of his mother and step-father.

"It was not good," Chase, 63, said of his childhood during an appearance Friday on TODAY.

The biography, "I'm Chevy Chase and You're Not," chronicles the amazing career and extreme highs and lows of a life of the man New York magazine once labeled the funniest man in America. Authored by Rena Fruchter, the profile clears up many myths about Chase's life, including some his early business handlers permitted to go on because they thought they were good for his persona.

"It was an amazing process. Chevy was really forthcoming with many aspects of his life that people before had not known about," Fruchter told TODAY. "He set the record straight in a lot of areas."

One area was Chase's decision to become the first major cast member to leave SNL in 1976. Chase was the show's first "Weekend Update" anchor, a parody of news of the day. Chase opened each hilarious faux news report with "I'm Chevy Chase, and you're not."

Chase said his reason for leaving was simple.

"I left for a girl that I was in love with," Chase said. "It had nothing to with lucrative film deals awaiting me. I didn't make a movie for three years. It was just a lot of bunk ... I was very much in love with a girl who just would not leave California."

Chase got the girl, actress Jacqueline Carlin, and they married in 1976. They divorced four years later.

Childhood abuse

Chase's and his current wife, Jayni, are raising three daughters. He joked that he “throws stones” at the children, but adds seriously that his daughters’ childhoods are very different than the one he had growing up.

In the book, Chase recounts his own abusive childhood. He recalls being locked in his room and being constantly slapped, and sometimes being struck with a hairbrush.

"I had a very unstable mother, who also had a very unstable childhood," Chase said. "I was not a dummy. I was able to figure out, even as a kid, what some of the root causes of my mother's and my stepfather's issues were."

As a father, Chase said he and his wife do not believe that hitting children is an effective way to get them to learn.

"My wife and I are not in any way corporal, except with each other," he deadpans. "I don't believe in hitting a child at all. It just causes fear, and it doesn't discipline them at all in any fashion. You discipline by example, and you love them."