Dana Carvey

Dana Thomas Carvey (born June 2, 1955) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, screenwriter and producer. He is widely famous for being a cast member on the show Saturday Night Live (from 1986 to 1993), which earned him a Primetime Emmy Award from five consecutive nominations.

Dana Carvey
Carvey at the 41st annual Emmy Awards in 1989
Birth nameDana Thomas Carvey
Born (1955-06-02) June 2, 1955
Missoula, Montana, U.S.
MediumStand-up, television, film
Alma materSan Francisco State University
Years active1978–present
GenresImprovisational comedy, sketch comedy, character comedy, satire
Leah Carvey
(m. 1979; div. 1980)

Paula Zwagerman (m. 1983)
WebsiteOfficial website

Carvey is also known for his roles in the films Tough Guys (1986), Wayne's World (1992) and its sequel Wayne's World 2 (1993).

Early life

Carvey was born in Missoula, Montana, the second of two boys for Billie Dahl,[1][2] a schoolteacher, and Bud Carvey,[3][4] a high school business teacher.[5] Carvey is the brother of Brad Carvey, the engineer/designer of the Video Toaster. The character Garth Algar is loosely based on Brad. Carvey has English, German, Irish, Norwegian, and Swedish ancestry, and was raised Lutheran.[6][7][8] When he was three years old, his family moved to San Carlos, California,[9] 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),[10] College of San Mateo in San Mateo, California, and received his bachelor's degree in broadcast communications from San Francisco State University.[11] In 1977, he won the San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition.


Early career

Carvey had a minor role in Halloween II in 1981, and co-starred in 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 appeared in the music video for the Greg Kihn song "Lucky" in 1985. He also appeared in the short-lived film-based action television series Blue Thunder. His big break came in 1986, when he co-starred opposite Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in Tough Guys. As a lifelong Douglas fan, Carvey threw in an affectionate impression of his mentor, while describing a hairy scene they did together on a moving train.[12]

Carvey was a finalist for the hosting role on the Nickelodeon TV game show Double Dare. He ultimately withdrew his name from consideration after he was cast on Saturday Night Live. The job would go to Marc Summers.

Saturday Night Live

In 1986, Carvey became a household name when he joined the cast of NBC's Saturday Night Live. 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.[13] 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 such as Chris Farley referred to Carvey simply as "The Lady".[14]

Carvey's other original characters included Garth Algar (from Wayne's World), who was based on his brother;[15] Hans (from "Hans and Franz"); and the Grumpy Old Man (from Weekend Update appearances). Throughout the election and presidency of George H. W. Bush, he was the designated impersonator of the president, making him the lead actor of the regular political sketches on SNL.

During the 1992 US presidential election campaign, Carvey also 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—recorded 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.

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

Carvey's SNL work won him an Emmy Award in 1993 for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. He has a total of six Emmy[16] nominations. Carvey has returned to host SNL four times, in 1994, 1996, 2000, and 2011.

After SNL

NBC executives hoped to get Carvey to take over the 12:30 am 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 pm ET show on CBS. The Late Night hosting spot eventually went to Conan O'Brien.

In 1994, Carvey starred in the film Clean Slate. The following year, 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 "hobo".

He had to turn down a role in Bad Boys because he felt overwhelmed as a new father.[15]

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 spy comedy The Master of Disguise. Released a week after former colleague Mike Myers' successful (and similar) film Austin Powers in Goldmember, most critics compared the movies and panned Carvey's effort. However, the movie did manage about $40 million at the North American box office. In March 2007, review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes ranked the film as the 18th worst-reviewed movie of the 2000s decade, with an approval rating of 1% based on 103 reviews.[17] Comedian and former Mystery Science Theater 3000 host Michael J. Nelson named the film the third-worst comedy ever made.[18] Carvey did not appear in a film again until 2011's Jack and Jill. It, too, is considered one of the worst comedies of all time. He had previously appeared in another Adam Sandler film, Little Nicky.[19][20]

He is number 90 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.[21]

After The Master of Disguise

Carvey eventually withdrew from the limelight to focus on his family. He later said in an interview that he did not want to be in a career in which his kids would already be grown with him having neglected spending time with them, a major reason for his declining the hosting spot for Late Night that ultimately went to Conan O'Brien. Carvey has said that he generally prefers stand-up comedy to acting in movies and regularly performs lucrative corporate dates, boasting of "a few million-dollar months" during a 2016 Howard Stern interview.[22][23]

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 George H. W. 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 film in which he played the evolutionary biologist, as well as a spoof of the hit TV series Lost. Both of these sketches can be seen on YouTube.[24][25] On the animated TV series The Fairly OddParents, Carvey voiced Cosmo Cosma's con artist brother Schnozmo.

On April 29 and 30 of 2016, Dana Carvey recorded two live performances at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts for a Netflix special released later in the year. Dana's two sons, Tom and Dex, opened the show for him.

Carvey was a guest on Conan O'Brien's podcast, Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend, on January 27, 2019.[26] Carvey was subsequently featured in a six episode mini-series of the podcast titled "Deep Dive with Dana Carvey," released in August of 2019.[27]

Personal life

In 1979, childhood sweethearts Dana and Leah Carvey were married. During his marriage, while performing at The Other Cafe in San Francisco, Carvey met and became romantically involved with Paula Zwagerman. Subsequently, Leah and Dana divorced in 1980. Dana and Paula became engaged in 1981 and married in 1983. The couple have two children, Dex and Thomas Carvey.[28]

In 1997, Carvey 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. The surgeon mistakenly performed the bypass on this unblocked artery. Carvey continued to suffer from angina pectoris as a result and successfully sued for $7.5 million in damages. He donated the money to charity.[29][30] He has had to undergo additional surgery to correct his heart problems.[31] He told Newsday that, while he was in the hospital for his final angioplasty, Frank Sinatra died in the room adjacent to his.[15]

Carvey and his family currently live in Mill Valley in Marin County, California.



1981Halloween IIAssistant Barry McNichol
1984This Is Spinal TapMime Waiter
Racing with the MoonBaby Face
1986Tough GuysRichie Evans
1988MovingBrad Williams
1990Opportunity KnocksEddie Farrell
1992Wayne's WorldGarth Algar
1993Wayne's World 2
1994Clean SlateMaurice L. Pogue
The Road to WellvilleGeorge Kellogg
Trapped in ParadiseAlvin Firpo
1996The ShotHimselfCameo
Fire on the Track: The Steve Prefontaine StoryHimselfDocumentary
2000 Little NickyRefereeCameo
2002The Master of DisguisePistachio DisguiseyAlso writer
2010Presidential ReunionGeorge H. W. BushShort film
2011Jack and JillCrazy Puppeteer[32]Cameo
2015Hotel Transylvania 2Dana the Camp DirectorVoice
2016The Secret Life of PetsPopsVoice
2017Sandy WexlerHimself
Becoming BondJohnny CarsonDocumentary
Too Funny to FailHimselfDocumentary
2019 The Secret Life of Pets 2 Pops Voice


1982One of the BoysAdam Shields13 episodes
1984Blue ThunderClinton Wonderlove10 episodes
1986–1993Saturday Night LiveVarious Roles127 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program(1993)
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program(1989–1992)
1992, 1993
The Larry Sanders ShowHimself3 episodes
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
1994, 1996
2000, 2011
Saturday Night LiveHimself (host)4 episodes
1995Dana Carvey: Critics' ChoiceHimselfStand-up special
1996The Dana Carvey ShowHost / Various Roles8 episode; also co-creator, writer and executive producer
1998Just Shoot Me!Oskar MilosEpisode: "The Emperor"
1998–1999LateLineSenator Crowl Pickens2 episodes
2008Dana Carvey: Squatting Monkeys Tell No LiesHimselfStand-up special
2010The Fairly OddParentsSchnozmo CosmaVoice
Episode: "Double Oh Schnozmo"
2011Good VibesClaw JonesVoice
Episode: "Tech Rehab"
2012Live with KellyHimself (guest host)3 episodes
2013Rick and MortyLeonardVoice
Episode: "Anatomy Park"
2014The Birthday BoysLaurence EastmanEpisode: "Snobs and Slobs"
2016First ImpressionsHimself (host)6 episodes
Dana Carvey: Straight White Male, 60HimselfStand-up special
2018Comedians in Cars Getting CoffeeHimselfEpisode: "Na.. Ga.. Do.. It"
2019Bajillion Dollar Propertie$Prince BorislavEpisode: "Royale Pains"


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  2. "Billie Dahl Carvey's Obituary on Mercury News". Mercury News. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  3. "Bud Carvey Memorial Website (1924-2016)". www.ilasting.com. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  4. "William John (Bud) Carvey - San Mateo Daily Journal". www.smdailyjournal.com. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  5. "Dana Carvey Biography (1955-)". FilmReference.com. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
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  7. Pearlman, Cindy (1990-04-13). "Dana Carvey grabs at an 'Opportunity'". Chicago Sun-Times.
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  17. "Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
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  21. "Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of all Time". Everything2.com. 2004-04-18. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
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  25. "Dana Carvey's LOST Spin-off". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
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  30. "Dana Carvey Back After Heart Problems". ABC News. 6 January 2006. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  31. "Cover Story: The Heart of the Matter – Vol. 53 No. 22". people.com. 5 June 2000. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  32. "Dana Carvey to Make His Comeback in Jack and Jill?". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
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