Reliving the All Too Brief Run of The Dana Carvey Show


"If we were doing it just so that we could be written about on years later, then we completely succeeded. I think our goal at the time was to stay on the air—so I think we f***ed up."
—Robert Smigel

Some of the most brilliant, hilarious and innovative comedic television shows of all-time are also some of the most short-lived. The Ben Stiller Show lasted just 12 episodes. Freaks and Geeks managed just one 18 episode season. More recently, rabid fans of Arrested Development and Party Down continue to keep hope alive for a big screen adaptation for the characters they miss so dearly.

Another show that belongs on this list is The Dana Carvey Show (Or, more accurately, The Taco Bell Dana Carvey Show, The Mug Root Beer Dana Carvey Show, The Szechuan Dynasty Dana Carvey Show, or one of the other weekly titles it was known by), which aired just 8 episodes during its brief run in 1996.

Despite such an abbreviated life, the show has gone onto claim a spot in the hearts of many comedy fans over the last 15 years—based in part on the fact that it contained the work of some many now-famous and well-accomplished comedians. The cast included Steve Carell (The Office), Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report), Louis CK (Louie) and Robert Smigel (creator of Saturday TV Funhouse characters like the Ambiguously Gay Duo; Conan fans will also know him as the voice of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog).

To celebrate/mourn/dissect the 15-year anniversary of the show, GQ put together a fantastic piece called "Teats Out: An Oral History of the Rise and Fall (and Rise) of The Dana Carvey Show." The title of the article refers to the now infamous sketch that kicked of the show’s premiere episode, which featured Carvey as then-President Bill Clinton showing off his compassion by feeding a litter of puppies from a set of biogenetically grown breasts.

That sketch, coupled with the show’s position as the follow-up to the hit ABC family comedy Home Improvement, was the beginning of the end. Writer Robert Carlock offers his memory of the incident this way:

I had heard there was some pressure to not lead with that and Robert, Dana, and Louis said, "This is the show we want to do and this is what we promised you." And to sort of prove their point, ABC paid Nielsen extra to get a rating graph broken down minute by minute. At around that two-minute mark when the breast came out, like six million people changed the channel. I didn't know much about television, but I knew that was bad.

If you haven’t seen the sketch, feel free to take a look here in all its NSFTTSAHI (Not Suitable For The Time Slot After Home Improvement) glory:

The whole article is fantastic and offers some really funny and insightful thoughts on the show and the business of comedy in general – made all the more intriguing by the fact that nearly every single person involved with the show has gone on to be a huge success.

If you’d like to watch all eight episodes of the show, they are all available now on Hulu.