Dana Carvey

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Dana Carvey
Carvey at a USO fundraising following the 2009 Fort Hood shooting
Birth nameDana Thomas Carvey
Born (1955-06-02) June 2, 1955 (age 69)
Missoula, Montana, U.S.
MediumStand-up, television, film
EducationCollege of San Mateo
San Francisco State University (BA)
Years active1978–present
GenresImprovisational comedy, sketch comedy, character comedy, impressions, surreal humor, satire
Leah Carvey
(m. 1979; div. 1980)

Paula Zwagerman
(m. 1983)

Dana Thomas Carvey (born June 2, 1955) is an American comedian, actor, screenwriter, and producer.

Carvey is best known for his seven seasons on Saturday Night Live, from 1986 to 1993, which earned him five consecutive Primetime Emmy Award nominations.

Carvey is also known for his film roles in comedies such as Tough Guys (1986), Opportunity Knocks (1990), Trapped in Paradise (1994), and The Master of Disguise (2002), as well as reprising his role of Garth Algar in the SNL spin-off film Wayne's World (1992) and its sequel Wayne's World 2 (1993).

Early life[edit]

Carvey was born in Missoula, Montana, the fourth of five (with three older brothers and one younger sister[1]) born to Billie Dahl,[2][3] a schoolteacher, and William John (Bud) Carvey,[4][5][6] a high school business teacher.[7] Carvey is the brother of Brad Carvey, the engineer/designer of the Video Toaster. The character Garth Algar is loosely based on Brad. Carvey was raised Lutheran.[8][9]

In 1957, his family moved to Anderson, California, where his father got a teaching job.[10] When he was three years old, his family moved to San Carlos, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area.[11] 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),[12][11] College of San Mateo in San Mateo, California, and received his bachelor's degree in broadcast communications from San Francisco State University.[13] In 1977, he won the San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition.


Early career[edit]

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.[14]

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.[15]

Saturday Night Live[edit]

Carvey in 1989

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.[16] 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". The Church Lady's discontinuation was mentioned in a sketch which satirized the film Misery with host Roseanne Barr playing the role of Annie Wilkes.[17]

Carvey's other original characters included Garth Algar (from Wayne's World), who was based on his brother;[18] Hans (from "Hans and Franz"); the Grumpy Old Man (from Weekend Update appearances); and Ching Chang, a Chinese poultry store owner. 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.

Carvey at the 1990 Emmy Awards

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[19] nominations. Carvey has returned to host SNL four times, in 1994, 1996, 2000, and 2011 in addition to numerous cameo appearances.

After SNL[edit]

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.[18]

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 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.[20] Comedian and former Mystery Science Theater 3000 host Michael J. Nelson named the film the third-worst comedy ever made.[21] Carvey did not appear in a film again until 2011's Jack and Jill.

In 2004, he ranked number 90 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.[22]

After The Master of Disguise[edit]

Video: Carvey in conversation with Jon Lovitz at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, August 2015

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.[23][24]

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.[25][26] On the animated TV series The Fairly OddParents, Carvey voiced Cosmo Cosma's con artist brother Schnozmo.

On April 29 and 30, 2016, Carvey recorded two live performances at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts for a Netflix special released later in the year. His 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.[27] Carvey was subsequently featured in a six episode mini-series of the podcast titled "Deep Dive with Dana Carvey", released in August 2019.[28]

Carvey has regularly done sketch impressions on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert playing, among others, President Joe Biden and former national security advisor John Bolton.

On August 1, 2019, Carvey appeared on the guest panel of the fourth episode of Lights Out with David Spade and also in costume as Tony Montana in a number of later episodes.

In 2021, Carvey began hosting the comedy podcast "Fantastic! with Dana Carvey". The podcast features mini sketches involving Carvey's many celebrity impressions, as well as interview segments with Carvey's family members and other friends from the stand-up comedy world. That same year, Carvey reprised his role of Garth Algar alongside Myers' Wayne Campbell in a series of commercials for Uber Eats. The original spot first ran during Super Bowl LV.[29]

In 2022, Carvey began co-hosting the Fly on the Wall podcast with fellow Saturday Night Live alum David Spade. Guests include former cast members and hosts of SNL.[30]

Personal life[edit]

In 1979, Carvey married his childhood sweetheart Leah. 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 has had two children. The elder son, Dex, died from an accidental drug overdose on November 15, 2023, at the age of 32.[31][32] [33]

In 1995, Carvey had a home in the San Fernando Valley, and his parents relocated to Murrieta, California, to be near his mother's sister, Shirley Miller.[10][34]

In 1997, Carvey underwent heart bypass surgery for a blocked coronary artery. The artery was buried deep in myocardium and difficult to find; the surgeon mistakenly[35] performed the bypass on another accessible artery that was unblocked. As a result, Carvey continued to suffer from angina pectoris and successfully sued for $7.5 million in damages, which he donated to charity;[36][37] he later underwent additional corrective surgery.[38] He told Newsday that, while he was in the hospital for his final angioplasty, Frank Sinatra died in the room adjacent to his.[18] In the late 1990s, Carvey took a break to raise his two sons.[39][40]

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



Year Title Role Notes
1981 Halloween II Assistant Barry McNichol
1984 This Is Spinal Tap Mime Waiter
Racing with the Moon Baby Face
1986 Tough Guys Richie Evans
1988 Moving Brad Williams
1990 Opportunity Knocks Eddie Farrell
1992 Wayne's World Garth Algar
1993 Wayne's World 2
1994 Clean Slate Maurice L. Pogue
The Road to Wellville George Kellogg
Trapped in Paradise Alvin Firpo
1996 The Shot Himself Cameo
Fire on the Track: The Steve Prefontaine Story Himself Documentary
2000 Little Nicky Referee Cameo
2002 The Master of Disguise Pistachio Disguisey Also co-writer
2010 Presidential Reunion George H. W. Bush Short film
2011 Jack and Jill Crazy Puppeteer[41] Cameo
2015 Hotel Transylvania 2 Dana the Camp Director Voice
2016 The Secret Life of Pets Pops Voice
2017 Sandy Wexler Himself
Becoming Bond Johnny Carson Documentary
Too Funny to Fail Himself Documentary
2019 The Secret Life of Pets 2 Pops Voice


Year Title Role Notes
1982 One of the Boys Adam Shields Main cast
1984 Blue Thunder Clinton Wonderlove Main cast
1986–1993 Saturday Night Live Various Roles Main cast
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)
1988 Superman Fiftieth Anniversary Host/Himself Special
1992, 1993
The Larry Sanders Show Himself 3 episodes
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
1994, 1996
2000, 2011
Saturday Night Live Himself (host) 4 episodes
1995 Dana Carvey: Critics' Choice Himself Stand-up special
1996 The Dana Carvey Show Himself / various roles Title role; also co-creator, writer and executive producer
1998 Just Shoot Me! Oskar Milos Episode: "The Emperor"
1998–1999 LateLine Senator Crowl Pickens 2 episodes
2008 Dana Carvey: Squatting Monkeys Tell No Lies Himself Stand-up special[42]
2010 The Fairly OddParents Schnozmo Cosma Voice
Episode: "Double Oh Schnozmo"
2011 Good Vibes Claw Jones Voice
Episode: "Tech Rehab"
Spoof Various Pilot
2012 Live with Kelly Himself (guest host) 3 episodes
2013 Rick and Morty Leonard Voice
Episode: "Anatomy Park"
2014 The Birthday Boys Laurence Eastman Episode: "Snobs and Slobs"
2016 First Impressions Himself Host
Dana Carvey: Straight White Male, 60 Himself Stand-up special
2018 Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Himself Episode: "Na.. Ga.. Do.. It"
2019 Bajillion Dollar Propertie$ Prince Borislav Episode: "Royale Pains"
2023 Mulligan Senator Cartwright LaMarr Voice
Main Cast


  1. ^ Carlmont High School - Yearbook (Belmont, CA), Class of 1976. E-Yearbook. 1976. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  2. ^ "Billie Dahl Carvey - San Mateo Daily Journal". smdailyjournal.com. Retrieved May 24, 2017.[permanent dead link]
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  20. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. August 2, 2002. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
  21. ^ Nelson, Michael J. (March 6, 2007). "Inoperable Humor: The 5 Worst Comedies of All Time". Cracked. Retrieved April 17, 2010.
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  29. ^ Dumenco, Simon (February 7, 2021). "Super Bowl 2021 ad review". Ad Age. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
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  33. ^ Alfred, Mark (November 16, 2023). "Dex Carvey, Comedian and Son of Dana Carvey, Dies of Overdose at 32". The Daily Beast.
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  38. ^ "Cover Story: The Heart of the Matter – Vol. 53 No. 22". people.com. June 5, 2000. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  39. ^ "Why Dana Carvey Says He Left Hollywood in the Late '90s — And What He's Doing Now". People mag. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
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  1. ^ Carvey's oldest son, Dex Carvey, died in November 2023.

External links[edit]