These days, it feels like Dana Carvey doesn’t get enough credit for how utterly hilarious he was on Saturday Night Live. Perhaps that’s because he didn’t have the epic film career of Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, or his Wayne’s World partner Mike Myers, but from 1986 to 1993, he was the king of Rockefeller Center. These seven signature and perfect sketches show why:
Massive Headwound Harry
On Family Guy, Glenn Quagmire told us that women were like Saturday Night Live sketches, and that you’ll meet the girl one day who’s as perfect as Massive Headwound Harry. He might not be the best guy to take advice from about women, but he’s certainly right about this sketch. It takes a pretty simple premise — a guy has a massive head wound and grosses everyone out at a party — and plays it brilliantly.
The McLaughlin Group
Carvey says that word something like 100 times in this sketch, and it never stops being hilarious. As the host of The McLaughlin Group, Carvey’s John McLaughlin is overly controlling and possibly insane. As the sketch goes on, he gives us increasingly obtuse topics like “What number am I thinking of?” and “What did you have for breakfast this morning?” There are a few times during this sketch where it really looks like Carvey, or one of the cast members is about to lose it, but they manage to pull through, giving us a flawless four-and-a-half-minute sketch.
The Church Lady might be Carvey’s most famous SNL character, and it’s not difficult to see why. She was the epitome of the judgmental women at your local church who would find a way to shame you for just about everything. As we see in this sketch, though, she’s not without her principles, as she often called people like Pat Robertson and Jimmy Swaggart out on their hypocrisy. She wasn’t the most pleasant person to deal with, but she was always honest. And isn’t that special?.
George H. W. Bush
Did Carvey’s impersonation of the 41st President of the United States actually sound anything like him? Not really, but it didn’t need to. Some of the best impersonations live in the absurd and shine because of one small trait that’s been blown up to the extreme to get laughs. In this particular sketch, Bush reveals that he might not be able to follow through on his “read my lips, no new taxes” promise, and he goes into convulsions before admitting he’ll have to tax somebody. Darrell Hammond’s Bill Clinton was more accurate, but Carvey’s Bush was consistently one of the best parts of the show in its time.
Hans and Franz
At the peak of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ’80s popularity, Hans and Franz captured the Austrian bodybuilder mentality perfectly. In this sketch, they compliment Patrick Swayze on being “one of the best non-Arnold actors” working today, while also chastising his character in Ghost for being too flabby. Would we expect anything less?
Carvey will forever be tied to the role of Wayne’s sidekick Garth, a role he reprised to close out #SNL40. In this 1990 sketch, Wayne and Garth read off their Oscar picks, which is funny, but also a cool continuation of an SNL tradition that Bill Murray had made his own on the show.
Feel the emotions. This is a song about a lad-eh. A song about meal prep and pain. This is the apex of ’80s SNL weirdness.