The film focuses on the rise and fall of trailblazing humorist Doug Kenney -- the brilliant, but troubled co-founder of National Lampoon magazine and one of Chase's closest friends -- who died at the age of 33 when he fell off of a cliff in Hawaii.
McHale told UPI in a phone interview Tuesday that re-creating some of the memorable moments from the much-loved Caddyshack was actually quite stressful for him.
"I must have watched it 500 times and rehearsed it alone over and over and over to make sure... It would terrify me if it just kind of looked like it. I wanted to make sure that my every step and every move was exactly the same [as Chase's.] It's, obviously, not what the movie is about, but it has to document those scenes, which have become iconic," the 46-year-old actor and comedian explained. "Chevy's performance in that movie is unbelievable in how good it is. I guess I went to the, 'Don't [expletive] it up school of acting.'"
Chase was one of the first people McHale said he reached out to when director David Wain offered him the role nearly two years ago.
"I called him, and he was best friends with Doug Kenney, so he was very happy that Doug was getting the due that he always deserved because Doug Kenney changed comedy in America forever and I think that Chev was really happy that that was happening and then I called him last weekend and said the movie's done and everyone is saying that it is really great and that Will [Forte's] portrayal of Doug is terrific," McHale said.
So, did Chase offer any guidance regarding how to play him?
"I didn't call him to consult," McHale replied. "It's very well-documented what Doug and what the National Lampoon did and Animal House [which Kenney co-wrote with Ramis and Chris Miller] and Caddyshack, and there's literally thousands of hours of footage of Chevy as a young man, so that was all incredibly helpful and the fact that I worked with him for six years was helpful."
"I didn't call him and go, 'Chevy, what kind of pants were you wearing on Feb. 7, 1974?' So, there was none of that. But I think he'll like it and David Wain did a bang-up, [expletive,] great job. He really is a special director."
The decision to sign on to the project was not a difficult one for McHale to make since the movie was about many of the comedy stars he grew up idolizing.
"If Steve Martin and Monty Python and Richard Pryor also appeared in this movie, every person who influenced me with comedy would be covered," he said. "So, when David Wain foolishly offered me the role of Chevy... Because he had no idea I could do it -- or maybe he still thinks I can't -- I was very excited. ... It's from the bottom of my heart when I really, truly say, I'm happy to be a part of this."
Co-starring Domhnall Gleeson, Matt Walsh and Thomas Lennon, A Futile and Stupid Gesture will be available on Netflix Friday after debuting at the Sundance Film Festival.
McHale's horror movie Assassination Nation also screened at the festival and Netflix announced last week that he will start hosting a weekly, topical program called The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale next month.