When it comes to Dana Carvey, the question most people ask isn’t “What’s your favorite Dana Carvey impression?” or “Is Wayne’s World 3 still happening?” It’s “What the hell happened to Dana Carvey?” The former Saturday Night Live star has kept a rather low profile since his 2002 bomb, The Master of Disguise. But now he’s back in the spotlight thanks to his Netflix special, Straight White Male, 60. Here are five quick facts about the comedian to catch you up on his multi-decade career. Party on, Dana.
1. HE HAD SMALL PARTS IN HALLOWEEN II AND THIS IS SPINAL TAP.
Before Dana Carvey landed his star-making gig on Saturday Night Live in 1986, he racked up a few film credits in blink-and-you'll-miss-him roles. His first movie was Halloween II, in which he played a news crew assistant with zero lines. At least he got more to do in Rob Reiner’s definitive mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap. That time, he appeared as a mime waiter alongside Billy Crystal. Watch them gripe outside the kitchen in the clip above.
2. HE AUDITIONED FOR SNL WITH ROBIN WILLIAMS AND JIMMY STEWART IMPRESSIONS.
Carvey is famous for his impressions, and they certainly helped him win over Lorne Michaels in his audition for Saturday Night Live. As you can see in the above video, he warmed up with his take on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous host Robin Leach before moving on to Jimmy Stewart, “senile” Robin Williams, and John Travolta. You can also see flashes of Wayne’s World co-host Garth Algar in his impersonation of his brother Brad, who inspired the character.
3. HIS SHORT-LIVED SHOW HELPED LAUNCH THE CAREERS OF LOUIS CK, STEPHEN COLBERT, AND STEVE CARELL.
After leaving SNL in 1993, Carvey made a few movies, like Clean Slate and Trapped in Paradise. Then, in 1996, he debuted his own sketch show—The Dana Carvey Show. The series featured an insane slate of comedic talent: Saturday Night Live veteran Robert Smigel co-created the show, Louis CK was the head writer, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell wrote and performed on the show, and the writers room was populated with future showrunners and screenwriters like Robert Carlock (30 Rock) and Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Still, the show struggled with ratings, so ABC canceled it before the eighth episode even aired. The Dana Carvey Show enjoys a cult status among comedy nerds today, particularly for skits like Carell and Colbert’s “Waiters Who Are Nauseated by Food.”
4. HE TURNED DOWN HOSTING NBC’S LATE NIGHT.
Before Carvey developed his failed series, he was approached with an intriguing offer. David Letterman’s jump from NBC to CBS left a hosting vacancy on the Late Night show. Carvey was offered the job, but turned it down because he thought it was too big of a commitment. So instead, the hosting spot went to another SNL alum (albeit in the writing department): Conan O’Brien.
5. HIS WORK WAS REFERENCED AT GERALD FORD’S FUNERAL.
Many public figures bristle when an SNL actor impersonates him or her on TV. But not George H.W. Bush. The former president was a huge fan of Carvey’s impression of him. He invited the comic to stay at the White House, and the two even exchanged letters. But perhaps Bush’s most public endorsement came during Gerald Ford’s funeral. In the middle of his remarks, Bush observed, “[Ford] had a wonderful sense of humor, and even took it in stride when Chevy Chase had to make the entire world think that this terrific, beautifully coordinated athlete was actually a stumbler. Ford says it was funny. He wrote that in his memoir. I remember that lesson well, since being able to laugh at yourself is essential in public life. I'd tell you more about that, but as Dana Carvey would say, ‘Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent.’”