Dana Carvey

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Dana Carvey
Dana Carvey, September 1987
Birth nameDana Thomas Carvey
Born(1955-06-02) June 2, 1955 (age 58)
Missoula, Montana, U.S.
MediumFilm, television, stand-up
Years active1978–present
GenresCharacter comedy, improvisational comedy, observational comedy, satire/political satire
InfluencesRoss Martin, Billy Crystal[1]
InfluencedFrank Caliendo,[2] Jimmy Fallon[3]
SpouseLeah Carvey (1979–80; divorced)
Paula Zwagerman (1983-present)
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Dana Carvey
Dana Carvey, September 1987
Birth nameDana Thomas Carvey
Born(1955-06-02) June 2, 1955 (age 58)
Missoula, Montana, U.S.
MediumFilm, television, stand-up
Years active1978–present
GenresCharacter comedy, improvisational comedy, observational comedy, satire/political satire
InfluencesRoss Martin, Billy Crystal[1]
InfluencedFrank Caliendo,[2] Jimmy Fallon[3]
SpouseLeah Carvey (1979–80; divorced)
Paula Zwagerman (1983-present)

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

Early life[edit]

Dana Carvey was born in Missoula, Montana, the son of Billie Dahl, a schoolteacher, and Bud Carvey, a high school business teacher.[4] 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 has Irish and Norwegian ancestry, and was raised Lutheran.[5][6][7] 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),[8] College of San Mateo in San Mateo, California, and received his bachelor's degree in broadcast communications from San Francisco State University.[9]


Early career[edit]

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[edit]

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.[10] 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") who was based on his brother,[11] 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—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.

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[12] nominations. Carvey has returned to host SNL four times, in 1994, 1996, 2000, and 2011.

Celebrity impersonations[edit]

After SNL[edit]

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. 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 "hobo."

He had to turn down a role in Bad Boys because he felt overwhelmed as a new father.[11]

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) movie 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, aggregate review website Rotten Tomatoes ranked the movie as the 18th worst-reviewed movie of the 00's decade, with a 1% fresh rating.[13] Comedian and former Mystery Science Theater 3000 host Michael J. Nelson named the film the third-worst comedy ever made.[14] Carvey did not appear in a feature film again until Jack and Jill.

He is number 90 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.[15]

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.[16][17] On the animated TV series The Fairly OddParents, Carvey voiced Cosmo Cosma's con artist brother, Schnozmo.

Personal life[edit]

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.

He votes independent.

He enjoys playing basketball, as well as the guitar and drums. He also paints.


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 $8 million in damages. He has had to undergo additional surgery to correct his heart problems. Carvey told Newsday that while he was in the hospital for his final angioplasty Frank Sinatra died in the room adjacent to his.[11] Carvey donated all the money awarded to him to charity.[18]


1981Halloween IIAssistant
1984This is Spinal TapMime Waiter
1984Racing with the MoonBaby Face
1986Tough GuysRichie Evans
1988MovingBrad Williams
1990Opportunity KnocksEddie
1992Wayne's WorldGarth Algar
1993Wayne's World 2
1994Clean SlateMaurice L. Pogue
1994The Road to WellvilleGeorge Kellogg
1994Trapped in ParadiseAlvin Firpo
1995The ShotDana Carvey
1996Fire On The Track: The Steve Prefontaine StoryHimselfInterviewee
2000Little NickyReferee
2002The Master of DisguisePistachio DisguiseyAlso Writer
2010Presidential ReunionGeorge H.W. BushShort Film
2011Jack & JillCrazy Puppeteer[19]


1982One of the BoysAdam Shields13 Episodes
1984Blue ThunderClinton 'JAFO' Wonderlove11 Episodes
1986–1993Saturday Night LiveVarious Roles134 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.
1988"Superman 50th Anniversary Special"Himself1 Episode
1992–1997The Larry Sanders ShowHimself3 Episodes
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
1996The Dana Carvey ShowHost/Various Roles8 Episodes
Also Writer
Also Executive Producer for 1 Episode
1998Just Shoot Me!Oskar Milos1 Episode
1998–1999LateLineSenator Crowl Pickens2 Episodes
2003Power Rangers Ninja StormAdditional Voices1 Episode
2009The Fairly OddParentsSchnozmo Cosma1 Episode
Voice Only
2010SpoofVarious1 Episode
Pilot for Fox Network (with multiple sketches). Never aired on television. Certain sketches are currently available online.
2011The Oprah Winfrey ShowHimself1 Episode
Appeared as a guest for a Saturday Night Live reunion on the show, which had an SNL theme during that episode.
2011Live with Regis and KellyHimself1 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.
2012Live with KellyHimself3 Episodes
Appeared as a guest host.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pollak, Kevin; Carvey, Dana (May 31, 2009). Kevin Pollak's Chat Show. Interview with Kevin Pollak. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJjxiZzSW8Y.
  2. ^ Miller, Dennis; Carvey, Dana (2009-02-13). The Dennis Miller Show. Interview with Dennis Miller. http://www.dennismillerradio.com.
  3. ^ Fallon, Jimmy; Carvey, Dana (September 2011). Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Interview with Jimmy Fallon. http://thecomicscomic.com/2011/09/21/jimmy-fallon-and-dana-carvey-trade-impersonations-for-an-evening/.
  4. ^ "Dana Carvey Biography (1955-)". FilmReference.com. Retrieved September 3, 2011. 
  5. ^ "CNN Transcript – Larry King Live: Dana Carvey Lives to Tell About Mistaken Bypass Surgery – June 29, 2000". CNN. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ "CCS Finals – 1971". Dyestatcal.com. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  9. ^ "Dana Carvey". Montana Kids. Montana Office of Tourism. Retrieved August 6, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Saturday Night Live Backstage". 2011-02-20. NBC.
  11. ^ a b c "Dana Carvey does stand-up at the Paramount" Newsday May 2, 2013
  12. ^ "Dana Carvey Emmy Nominated". Emmys.com. Retrieved 2012-07-17. 
  13. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-07-17. 
  14. ^ Nelson, Michael J. "Inoperable Humor: The 5 Worst Comedies of All Time". Cracked. Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  15. ^ "Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of all Time". Everything2.com. 2004-04-18. Retrieved 2012-07-17. 
  16. ^ "Dana Carvey is "DARWIN"". YouTube. 2007-06-16. Retrieved 2012-07-17. 
  17. ^ "Dana Carvey's LOST Spin-off". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-07-17. 
  18. ^ Henerson, Evan (2002-08-04). Zest. "Carvey not laughing - this time". Houston Chronicle (2 Star edition ed.). Chron.com. p. 12. Archived from the original on 2012-10-21 21:05. Retrieved 2012-07-17. 
  19. ^ "Dana Carvey to Make His Comeback in Jack and Jill?". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved 2012-07-17. 

External links[edit]

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