Two of the most successful Saturday Night Live cast members ever are Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, who had a huge hit movie in Wayne’s World (and its sequel) and years of success on the show. Today, however, both have faded considerably from the limelight. Myers resurfaced last year to promote a documentary he directed (and to talk about nearly quitting Wayne’s World because the studio demanded he replace “Bohemian Rhapsody.”) Meanwhile, both Carvey and Myers were at the SNL 40 anniversary, but — aside from some Hans and Franz commercials — we still don’t hear that much from Carvey?
Why? Where did he go? What happened to the career of one of the best all-time members of SNL?
He was on the Pete Holmes podcast a few months ago, and he spoke at length about his career on SNL and after. It’s a nearly three-hour podcast (which is why I’m only just now getting around to it), and it’s definitely worth listening to in its entirety, if you have three hours to spare and you want to hear Carvey talk about his process and his philosophy in comedy. If you don’t have the time, however, here were the highlights, including details about why he left show business.
— He talked about his friendship with Phil Hartman, Their families lives close by, and they spent a lot of time together. Carvey says that he still has dreams about Hartman.
— He talked, at length, about the surreal experience of staying in Lorne Michaels house for weeks and meeting Paul McCartney, who would come over for five or six hour dinners. McCartney and Carvey bonded and became friends at those dinners.
— When he was 42, Carvey had to have a bypass surgery on his heart. Unfortunately, the doctor bypassed the wrong artery. Carvey sued him, not because of the money (he donated the $7.5 million settlement to charity), but because he felt it was necessary so that the doctor would admit he was wrong so that he couldn’t hurt anyone else. Carvey says that he’s still giving the money away. “I built a city in Tanzania, basically.”
— In a strange twist of fate, for his bypass surgery, Carvey was in the same hospital on the same day that Frank Sinatra died. Sinatra died just down the hall from where Carvey was.
— He said that on SNL, though he didn’t know it at the time, Lorne Michaels worked very hard to “protect him.” Michaels always ensured that Carvey appeared frequently during SNL episodes, which did create some resentment with other cast members.
— I didn’t know this, but Carvey said that the first time he did the Church Lady on SNL, it was the last sketch of the show in rehearsal. However, it killed so much at rehearsal that Lorne Michaels moved it to the top of the show. In that same episode, they filled the last slot with “Choppin’ Broccoli.” Can you imagine? The Church Lady and Choppin’ Broccoli introduced in the same show? That must have been one of the best episodes ever.
— Carvey also said that, on the show, some of the guests used to think he was gay, including Mickey Rooney, who used to put his arm around Nathan Lane and say to Carvey, “I’m just glad I like girls.”
— After Saturday Night Live, Carvey was offered Letterman’s job on Late Night, when Letterman moved from NBC to CBS. He turned it down because he didn’t want to commit his life to the business, and he wanted to be close to his kids. Carvey wasn’t run out of the business. He left.
— Carvey didn’t talk about Mike Myers or their falling out and subsequent reconciliation. He did say, however, that he frequently talks with Dennis Miller (and he did a lot of Dennis Miller impressions).
— As Carvey describes it now, at his age (59), his biggest fear is being irrelevant. “It’s almost like in show business, you want to back out of the room very slowly. It’s almost like a saloon on a Western. And just put your gun down and say, ‘I’m leaving now. You guys fight it out. I had a good time.'” Carvey describes his situation as a “half-way Rick Moranis.” He’s out, but he’s not totally disconnected. Anyway, he says, “You can’t leave show business now, unless you really, really want to.”
— He talked frequently about supporting his two sons, who are also both aspiring stand-up comedians. Here’s his son Dex (a dead ringer for a young Carvey):
Here’s his other son, Tom Carvey:
— Carvey also talks about how being semi-famous is a double-edged sword for his kids. He’s out of the game, basically, but he’s still recognizable, which means that his kids are still too often thought of as “Dana Carvey’s sons.” That helps him to open some doors for them, but it also makes it a little more difficult for them to distinguish themselves. In either respect, name recognition doesn’t really help them in their stand-up careers. They have to earn that themselves.
— Nevertheless, Carvey is happy with the way things turned out in his life.
“I can look back now at 59, and look at the way I raised my kids and what I’m doing with them now. And my marriage. And the way I have helped my family. I feel a sense of contentment that I didn’t f*ck up. I didn’t become an alcoholic. I didn’t panic. I didn’t have a divorce that was unnecessary. I have no regrets about what I tried to do as a father. I wasn’t perfect. I met so many guys that regretted that they just weren’t there. [But mine is] another kind of happiness that is disconnected from a hit movie.”
— Speaking of “regret,” he said that Anthony Hopkins said to him, the year before Silence of the Lambs: “‘I wonder what it would be like to be in a big hit movie?'” And then he did it. And it happened. And he got the Oscar. And he looked at the marquee — ‘Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs‘ — and he said he felt nothing.
— There’s no reason to worry about Carvey’s career or financial situation, however. In addition to the $7.5 million he is still giving away and the checks he frequently writes for his family members, he still performs. In fact, he said that his standard of living is basically $100,000 a month.
In other words, Dana Carvey is doing just fine, everyone. He’s living the life he wants to live. The life he chose for himself, and the life that makes him happy.
Source: You Made It Weird