Dana Carvey

Dana Carvey
Dana Carvey

Dana Carvey, September 1987
Birth name Dana Thomas Carvey
Born June 2, 1955 (1955-06-02) (age 56)
Missoula, Montana, U.S.
Medium Stand-up, television, film
Nationality American
Years active 1978–present
Genres Character comedy, improvisational comedy, observational comedy, satire/political satire
Subject(s) American politics, everyday life, sex, self-deprecation
Spouse Leah Carvey (1979–80; divorced)
Paula Zwagerman (1983–present)

Dana Thomas Carvey (born June 2, 1955) is an American actor and stand-up comedian, best known for his work as a cast member on Saturday Night Live and for playing the role of Garth in the Wayne's World movies.


Early life

Dana Carvey was born in Missoula, Montana, the son of Billie, a schoolteacher, and William Carvey, a high school business teacher.[1] Carvey is the brother of Brad Carvey, the engineer/designer of the Video Toaster. The character Garth Algar (from the movie Wayne's World) is a loosely based portrayal of Brad. Carvey was raised Lutheran.[2] When he was three years old, his family moved to San Carlos, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. He received his first drum kit at an early age. He attended Tierra Linda Junior High in San Carlos, Carlmont High School in Belmont, California (where he was a member of the Central Coast Section champion Cross Country team),[3] College of San Mateo in San Mateo, California, and received his Bachelor's degree in communications from San Francisco State University.[4]


Early career

He had a minor role in Halloween II, and co-starred on One of the Boys in 1982, a short-lived television sitcom that also starred Mickey Rooney, Nathan Lane, and Meg Ryan. In 1984, Carvey had a small role in Rob Reiner's film This Is Spinal Tap, in which he played a mime, with fellow comedian Billy Crystal (who tells him "Mime is money!"). He also appeared in the short-lived movie-based action show Blue Thunder.

Saturday Night Live

In 1986, Carvey became a household name when he joined the cast of NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL). He, along with newcomers Phil Hartman, Kevin Nealon, Jan Hooks, and Victoria Jackson, helped to reverse the show's declining popularity and made SNL "must-see" TV once again. An important part of the show's revival was Carvey's breakout character, The Church Lady, the uptight, smug, and pious host of Church Chat.[5] Carvey said he based the character on women he knew from church while growing up, who would keep track of other churchgoers' attendance. He became so associated with the character that later cast members like Chris Farley referred to Carvey simply as "The Lady."[citation needed]

Carvey's other original characters included Garth Algar (from "Wayne's World"), Hans (from "Hans and Franz"), and The Grumpy Old Man (from Weekend Update appearances).

During the 1992 US presidential election campaign, Carvey did an impression of independent candidate Ross Perot; in a prime-time special before the election, Carvey played both George H. W. Bush and Perot in a three-way debate with Bill Clinton, played by Phil Hartman. As Perot—prerecorded and timed to give the appearance of interacting with the live Bush and Clinton—Carvey eschewed the show's signature "Live from New York" opening line, telling Bush "Why don't you do it, live-boy?" Carvey left SNL in 1993 but almost rejoined the cast in 1994, before the show's 20th season.[6]

In 1992, Carvey joined Mike Myers in Wayne's World, the movie. A sequel, Wayne's World 2, was filmed and released in 1993.

Carvey's SNL work won him an Emmy in 1993 for "Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program." He has a total of six Emmy nominations. Carvey has returned to host SNL four times, in 1994, 1996, 2000, and 2011.

Celebrity impersonations

After SNL

NBC executives hoped to get Carvey to take over the 12:30 a.m. (ET) weeknight spot in the network's lineup in 1993 when David Letterman left his show, Late Night with David Letterman, for an 11:30 p.m. (ET) show on CBS. A big Letterman fan, Carvey rejected the offer, causing embarrassment for the network, which had publicly floated his name.[citation needed] The 12:30 spot eventually went to Conan O'Brien.

In 1994, Carvey starred in the film Clean Slate. The following year, in 1995, Carvey filmed his first HBO stand-up special, Critic's Choice. The show featured Carvey doing many of his SNL impersonations, as well as making fun of the premium channel's name, pronouncing it "huhbo."

He reprised many of his SNL characters in 1996 for The Dana Carvey Show, a short-lived prime-time variety show on ABC. The show was most notable for launching Robert Smigel's cartoon "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" as well as the careers of Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert.

In 2002, he returned to films in the comedy The Master of Disguise, which was panned by critics but managed about $40 million at the North American box office. Carvey has not appeared in a feature film since.

He is number 90 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.[7]

Carvey eventually withdrew from the limelight to focus on his family. He later said in an interview that he does not want to be in a career in which his kids would already be grown with him having neglected spending time with them.

At the January 2, 2007 funeral of Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush reminisced in his eulogy about how Ford took it in stride when SNL's Chevy Chase made Ford the object of impressions. Bush cited this as a valuable lesson in learning to laugh at one's self as a part of public life. "I'd tell you more about that," Bush continued, "but as Dana Carvey would say, [imitating Carvey imitating him] 'Not gonna do it! Wouldn't be prudent!'".

Carvey made an appearance at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards, reprising his SNL character Garth Algar with host Mike Myers for a Wayne's World sketch. On June 14, 2008, Carvey filmed a second HBO stand-up special, the first in 13 years, entitled Squatting Monkeys Tell No Lies.

In 2010, Carvey appeared in the Funny or Die original comedy sketch, "Presidential Reunion." He played the role of President Bush alongside other current and former SNL president impersonators.

In early 2010, Carvey and comedian/writer Spike Feresten created and starred together in Spoof, a sketch comedy pilot for Fox. This included a sketch of a trailer for "Darwin", a mock movie in which he played the evolutionary biologist, as well as a spoof of the hit show Lost. Both of these sketches can be seen on the video website YouTube.[8][9] On the animated TV series The Fairly OddParents, Carvey voiced Cosmo Cosma's con artist brother, Schnozmo.

Personal life

In 1979, while performing at the The Other Cafe in San Francisco, he met Paula Zwaggerman, who would later become his wife. Soon after returning to the Bay Area in 1980, Dana and Paula were engaged. They have two sons together, Dex and Thomas, who were born in 1991 and 1993 respectively.


In 1997, he underwent heart-bypass surgery for a blocked coronary artery, but the surgeon operated on the wrong artery. The blocked artery was deeply buried in muscle and thus hard to find; another artery, though not blocked, was clearly accessible, so the surgeon bypassed it. Carvey, later suffering from angina pectoris, sued for medical malpractice and was awarded $7.5 million. He has had to undergo a total of five medical procedures (four angioplasties and one surgery) to correct his heart problems. Carvey stated in an interview with Larry King that he donated all the money awarded to him to charity.



Year Film Role Notes
1981 Halloween II Assistant
1984 This is Spinal Tap Mime Waiter
1984 Racing with the Moon Baby Face
1986 Tough Guys Richie Evans
1988 Moving Brad Williams
1990 Opportunity Knocks Eddie
1992 Wayne's World Garth Algar
1993 Wayne's World 2
1994 Clean Slate Maurice L. Pogue
1994 The Road to Wellville George Kellogg
1994 Trapped in Paradise Alvin Firpo
1995 The Shot Dana Carvey
1996 Fire On The Track: The Steve Prefontaine Story Himself Interviewee
2000 Little Nicky Referee
2002 The Master of Disguise Pistachio Disguisey Also Writer
2010 Presidential Reunion George H.W. Bush Short Film
2011 Jack & Jill "Crazy Puppeteer"[10]


Year Show Role Notes
1982 One of the Boys Adam Shields 13 Episodes
1984 Blue Thunder Clinton 'JAFO' Wonderlove 11 Episodes
1986–1993 Saturday Night Live Various Roles 134 Episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program
4 Other Nominations for Primetime Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program
Hosted episodes in 1994, 1996, 2000 and 2011.
1992–1997 The Larry Sanders Show Himself 3 Episodes
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
1996 The Dana Carvey Show Host/Various Roles 6 Episodes
Also Writer
Also Executive Producer for 1 Episode
1998 Just Shoot Me! Oskar Milos 1 Episode
1998–1999 LateLine Senator Crowl Pickens 2 Episodes
2009 The Fairly OddParents Schnozmo Cosma 1 Episode
Voice Only
2010 Spoof Various 1 Episode
Pilot for Fox Network (with multiple sketches). Never aired on television. Certain sketches are currently available online.
2011 The Oprah Winfrey Show Himself 1 Episode
Appeared as a guest for a Saturday Night Live reunion on the show, which had an SNL theme that episode.
2011 Saturday Night Live Himself/Host/Various Roles 1 Episode
Appeared as a guest host on Season 36 of Saturday Night Live On February 5, 2011.
2011 Live with Regis and Kelly Himself 1 Episode
Appeared as a special guest for Regis Philbin's farewell season on the show. Also on the show was Adam Sandler who was promoting the film Jack and Jill , in which both Philbin and Carvey shared a cameo appearance.

See also


External links

Preceded by
Arsenio Hall
MTV Video Music Awards host
Succeeded by
Christian Slater

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