Dana Carvey

Active - 1981 - 2019  |   Born - Jun 2, 1955 in Missoula, Montana, United States  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Comic actor Dana Carvey led a near-monastic existence while growing up in Montana, not out of choice but because the truly popular kids were bigger and better-looking. "I was a fetus in shoes" commented Carvey on his high-school years. While attending San Francisco State University, Carvey launched his career as a stand-up comic. The going was rugged for a while, but by 1981 Carvey had built up enough of a reputation to earn second billing on the Mickey Rooney TV sitcom One of the Boys. Though the show was cancelled by mid-1982, Carvey was now on a roll. In 1984, he showed up as a regular on the TV police adventure series Blue Thunder, and was spotlighted in the parody rockumentary film This is Spinal Tap; two years later he was signed as a regular on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Carvey's gallery of comic characterizations is too vast to fully recount here, but his greatest popularity rested on two recurring characters. As "The Church Lady" (an amalgam of all the well-meaning pious neighbors Carvey had known while growing up), Carvey entered the Catchphrase Lexicon with his oft-repeated "Isn't that special?" and "Could it be....SATAN?" And as mop-topped teenage couch potato Garth (again drawn from life--this time based on Dana's brother Brad), Carvey was teamed with Mike Myers in a flawless on-going parody of cheap cable-access television. After a misfire movie vehicle, 1990's Opportunity Knocks, Carvey became a major box-office commodity by co-starring with Mike Myers in the megahit Wayne's World (1992). While the 1993 sequel Wayne's World 2 didn't quite match the take of the original, Carvey was artistically satisfied that same year with an Emmy award for his performance as H. Ross Perot (among others) on TV's Saturday Night Live Presidential Bash. Undaunted by the lack of response to Opportunity Knocks, Carvey once again took a stab at solo success with the similarly panned Clean Slate in 1994. After appearing in a pair of supporting roles (Trapped in Paradise and The Road to Wellville (both 1994)) and a cameo (1996's The Shot) shortly thereafter, Carvey disappeared almost entriely from the public eye until resurfacing in the 1999 Saturday Night Live; Presidential Bash and once again taking a small role in Adam Sandler's Little Nicky (2000). Eager to resume his once lucrative career and make a feature that his children could enjoy, Carvey returned to the silver screen as an Italian waiter who takes the art of mimicry to new and uncharted heights in The Master of Disguise (2002).

In 1997 he underwent a heart operation that was bungled to such a degree that he was awarded millions in a lawsuit, and had to undergo multiple procedures to correct the problems caused by the initial incident. He finally reappeared on big-screens in 2011 in the Adam Sandler comedy Jack and Jill.

Movie Highlights

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  • Won the San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition in 1977.
  • Made his film debut in 1981's Halloween II.
  • Had a role in a 1982 sitcom, One of the Boys, which also featured Mickey Rooney, Nathan Lane and Meg Ryan.
  • His brother Brad was the inspiration for his Saturday Night Live character Garth.
  • Other than that hysterical Wayne's World guy, also famed for such unforgettable SNL characters as the Church Lady and Hans (from Hans and Franz).
  • Former President George H.W. Bush, subject for another one of Carvey's SNL brilliant impersonations, paid tribute to the comic actor on the occasion of Gerald Ford's 2007 funeral, noting Ford's having to deal with Chevy Chase's take on Ford on SNL in the 1970s. Bush, borrowing Carvey's immortal Bush-spoofing phrase , said, "I'd tell you more about that, but as Dana Carvey would say, 'Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent.' "
  • Underwent a double-bypass operation in 1998 and filed a malpractice lawsuit when his surgeon bypassed the wrong artery; settled for an undisclosed sum, which Carvey donated to charity.
  • Is an avid runner who has been profiled in such magazines as Runner's World.
  • Honored by Comedy Central as among the greatest stand-ups of all time.
  • In 2010, took part in a Ron Howard-directed video spoofing U.S. presidents on the Funny or die Web site; he took on Bush Sr.