Since his botched heart surgery in 1997, Dana Carvey has been almost a no-show in show business, following years when the slender funnyman could do no wrong. He hasn’t made a movie since 2002 flop The Master of Disguise. In fact, he hasn’t done anything we can review since that time.
But in 1996 he did TV — again — after six seasons in the cast of Saturday Night Live. It was The Dana Carvey Show — and it showed badly in the ratings. After just six episodes (or seven, according to Shout Factory), the sketch show was canceled.
Now it’s back via Shout Factory’s two-disc DVD set, which also adds an unaired episode to the mix, as well as new interviews and deleted scenes.
It’s a delight to see Carvey again in any vehicle, and this one — despite NBC protests — included some of Carvey’s SNL characters, which he impishly paraded on his own series. They include Church Lady, of course, and there’s also a spot-on Ted Koppel from ABC’s Nightline.
The only trouble is, much of the humor is topical, including material aimed at the 1996 presidential campaign’s primary season. When impersonations are done of, say, Steve Forbes, the in-studio audience reacts knowingly, while most watching on DVD may be Twittering “WTF?”
But staleness aside, the series often sings, largely due to Carvey’s undeniable comic gifts, but also because of the comedians he helped launch. They include Steve Carrell and Stephen Colbert — not too shabby.
Carrell, in fact, co-stars with Carvey in a running joke about two silly guys who tool around in a car and fool around by pulling pranks at drive-up windows for burgers and gas stations. Their trick? They pay for something and then, before receiving it, peel off frantically, burning rubber and laughing wildly at how they fooled the poor gas attendant and McBurgers cashier. Of course, these stunts cost them about $20 each time, a fact they seem to overlook.
As much as I love Carvey’s work — and his impersonation of fellow Houstonian George Bush (41) — it saddens me that due to health problems or other reasons he’s no longer active on the funnyman scene. Well, we’ll just have to cherish what we have — including The Dana Carvey Show, a program which deserved a far better fate than it got.