Dana Carvey was a dominant figure in comedy throughout the 1980s and 1990s. From 1986 to 1993, he served as the undisputed host of Saturday Night Live and was known for his recurring roles as the Church Lady, Garth from “Wayne’s World,” and Hans from “Hans and Franz”. But at the peak of his career, he mysteriously vansihed from the limelight. Join FactsVerse as we uncover why Dana Carvey left hollywood a simpler life.
Family Over Fame
After leaving SNL in 1993, Carvey appeared in a series of films that he describes as terrible, including Trapped in Paradise alongside Nicolas Cage. He did not want to be separated from his two young kids, Dex, who was two years old at the time, and Tom, who was an infant.
Before finally deciding on prioritizing his children over his career, he had a couple of occurrences that acted as a wake-up call for him. One such occurrence was during the production of Wayne’s World 2 in 1993. One of his sons approached him when he was sporting the distinctive long blond wig that makes up his character Garth during filming and said, “Daddy, no funny hair,” before breaking down in tears.
Another wake-up call for him was when he had his kid with him on the set of Trapped in Paradise.
When asked why he decided to bring his children to the Trapped in Paradise production, he remarked that it felt uncomfortable and awkward to deliver his children to a babysitter, so he worked with the only option he had left. While on set, his first son suffered from numerous ear infections while the other son contracted the flu, and that only added more work to his load. During production, he only enjoyed short periods of sleep so he could try to keep his youngest son amused in the basement by dragging him around in a cart.
The two occurrences served as Carvey’s wake-up calls to devote his whole attention to his family. And in response to that, he relocated his wife and children to a small village in northern California, where he claimed to have never had to lock their house.. Dex and Tom Carvey, who are both now in their 20s, are following in their father’s footsteps by pursuing comedic careers.
Dana Carvey was sidelined for some time due to the unfortunate circumstances of having to recover from major surgery and then undergoing the same procedure again due to complications. In the 1990s, medical professionals learned that Carvey experienced excruciating chest discomfort caused by improper blood flow to the heart. The artery was blocked again after each of the three angioplasties, which involve placing and inflating a small balloon to keep the artery open. The ultimate and most dangerous surgical procedure possible to address the condition, a double bypass, was finally performed on Carvey in 1998.
However, the excruciating chest pains persisted unabatedly. In order to determine what was wrong, Carvey saw his surgeon once more. Tests indicated that the physician had bypassed the incorrect artery, which was a horrible error. Carvey was forced to undergo another complicated and painful double bypass surgery, but this time with a different surgeon. Carvey filed a $7.5 million lawsuit against the original heart surgeon, which was resolved out of court in 2000.
Speaking of “million”, Carvey came close to earning that much after leaving SNL, but for some reasons, humbly walked away.
Leaving Money on the Table
Every player in the entertainment industry has once or twice turned down a holy grail, and Caarvey is no different. He could have played a role on late-night television and might even be presenting a program on network TV now, but he didn’t really want to. After 30 years as host of The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson decided to leave the show in the early 1990s, and Jay Leno was hired to take over. Carson’s decision left David Letterman, the host of Late Night, so incensed that he left Late Night vacant and went to CBS to compete with The Tonight Show.
Lorne Michaels, the executive producer and creator of Saturday Night Live, was tasked by NBC with selecting a host, so he turned to his SNL ensemble. The position was offered to Carvey, who had become one of the cast members with the most popularity in recent memory. As Letterman’s likely successor, NBC handed him $1 million, along with a Beatles album autographed by all four Beatles and valued at $400,000, only to evaluate the offer. Carvey debated doing Late Night for a year before deciding against it because it is exhausting to host a show every night. He considered it an enormous slog, and to spend years only as a late night host was a major decision for him. He added that it took lots of emotional energy to be on TV that much, which he didn’t think he had at the time. While he hasn’t explicitly expressed that as a regret, it’s easier to see why he would do so privately, given the failure of his show.
Better Luck Next Time
In 1996, Carvey returned to television with The Dana Carvey Show, just three years after departing the cozy confines of Saturday Night Live’s sketch comedy program. It was a commercial failure, even though it received excellent reviews and became a famed cult success among comic nerds. It was slated by ABC to premiere just after the family-friendly smash hit Home Improvement. With Disney’s planned purchase of the network, everyone must have assumed that they’d be getting the mild-mannered version of Carvey—the Church Lady, Garth, and George Bush. Instead, they received something bizarre, quirky, and crazy.
For instance, Carvey played President Bill Clinton in the first sketch of the first episode, displaying his “tender side” by exposing a large set of breast and nursing a number of puppies. Other standout pieces were “The Nauseous Servers,” in which waiters gagging while delivering the specials; and “Skinheads from Maine,” in which men speaking in a heavy New England accent scream racist things. Despite being a commercial failure, many of the most significant comedy writers and entertainers of the past 20 years developed their skills on the show. Oscar-winning writer of Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Charlie Kaufman, The Office co-creator Greg Daniels, Dino Stamatopoulos, 30 Rock co-creator Robert Carlock, and showrunner Louis C.K. were among the writers on the program. Steve Colbert and Stephen Carell portrayed the squeamish servers who were disgusted by the cuisine. The Dana Carvey Show was discontinued after seven weeks due to declining viewership following the first episode.
Well, he tried and failed, no big deal. But the subsequent sketches didn’t see the light of day. After his first show failed, it took Carvey almost 15 years before he tried sketch comedy once more. He co-created the Fox television series Spoof in 2010 with Spike Feresten, writer for The Dana Carvey Show. This TV sketch show by Carvey was entirely pre-recorded and did not include any in-studio segments or a live audience. Fox purchased a pilot but decided against ordering a full season. Two of the segments from Spoof’s one and only episode, which was set to focus on parodies of movies and TV series, have been made public online.
The first, Weird Island, is a Lost parody, and the second, Charles Darwin: A Game of Shadows, is an action film in the Sherlock Holmes tradition.
He has returned to stand-up and primarily does voice work.
He returned in 2002 with movies like The Master of Disguise, but after that, he disappeared until 2010. He attempted to produce a second sketch comedy program called Spoof, but it was never shown, so he switched to voice acting.
He provided the voices for several television series, including The Secret Life of Pets and its follow-up, Hotel Transylvania 2, Ricky and Morty, and The Fairly Odd Parents. Regarding the latter film, Carvey commented that it was an awesome experience to be in a really terrific animated picture franchise that has its own identity. Surprisingly, “Late Night” wasn’t the only gig he turned down. He humbly turned down Ratatouille and Madagascar. He claimed to have been busy with his kids.
In 2017, he picked up a trade from his past, stand-up comedy. He shared the title of comic-in-residence with Jon Lovitz at The Foundry in Las Vegas, where he performed stand-up, comedic sketches, and musical numbers in 20 concerts during 2017. Some of his specials include Squatting Monkeys Tell No Lies, Critics Choice and Dana Carvey: Straight White Male, 60,
He recently collaborated on a project with his adult sons, went back to stand-up, and started creating podcasts.
He and Myers already reconnected at SNL’s 40th anniversary in 2015 and the Oscars in 2019, but this time they are revisiting their Wayne’s World identities for a Super Bowl teaser commercial. The Uber Eats commercial premiered during the most recent SNL show and hinted at additional material to be included in the game. Even though it’s not quite the reunion we had hoped for, we’ll take it. Simply put, it’s nice to see Carvey back.
According to Garvey, portraying Garth was initially constricting, but after a while, it has become a part of him, like receiving a new pair of underwear.
There you have it. It’s now time to hear from you. Do you think Carvey made a mistake by declining NBC’s Late Night offer? What would you do if you were him at that moment?