Five Things That Make "The Dana Carvey Show" Oddly Relevant (and Five That Don't)

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Five Things That Make “The Dana Carvey Show” Oddly Relevant (and Five Things That Don’t)

By Rob Payne | Seriously Random Lists | April 4, 2013 | Comments ()


Even before the mostly 90s nostalgia of this past April Fool's Day, I had recently rediscovered a mostly charming sketch comedy show starring SNL alum Dana Carvey. Kevin Nealon and Nora Dunn may be the only surviving members from the late 1980s/early 1990s era of "Saturday Night Live" who can seemingly do no wrong -- quite unlike Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Chris Rock, Dennis Miller, Victoria Jackson, David Spade, and Mike Meyers, and all for a variety of reasons -- but there's still room for a spot in my cold, dead heart for Dana Carvey, too. His run at a big screen Hollywood career may have included such turd-burglars as Master of Disguise and Opportunity Knocks, but Clean Slate, Trapped in Paradise, and both Wayne's Worlds (which ought to be undisputed classics) are there, as well. In the midst of all that, Carvey got a chance to create his own series and he did not take the opportunity lightly.

In 1996, ten years after the performer started on SNL, "The Dana Carvey Show" premiered on ABC to generally good reviews and dismally low ratings. The easy and lazy argument for why "Dana Carvey" failed to make a connection would be that the sketch show was ahead of its time and mid-90s audiences just weren't ready for its genius -- what with the host taking center stage to monologue and interact with the audience every episode, like "Chapelle's Show," or sketches like the harmless laughing pranksters, which never went on long enough to wear out their welcome. But that rings false, because I watched it, got it, and loved it at the time. (Then again, I also once adored Surf Ninjas.) The pedestrian truth is that primetime sketch comedies have never reeled in the viewers since variety hours went the way of the radio play, unless it's election season and Tina Fey is using her best Fargoian accent to lure us in. Failure here ought to be have been a foregone conclusion.

Despite its unfortunately short run and lack of cult status, though, "The Dana Carvey Show" holds up surprisingly well an astonishing 17 years later. Ultimately, the show feels like a strangely sweet blend of Carvey's SNL and "The Kids in the Hall," but with a singular star for the series' considerable talents to orbit around. There are times when the jokes don't land, of course, as even the funniest SNL sketches from our favorite years tend to have expiration dates and timeliness issues. But the ones that still work and work well, really, really work. I've compiled a list of Five Things That Make "Dana Carvey" Oddly Relevant and Five Things That Do Not (but can still be funny). Enjoy!

Bill Clinton mocking Republican nominees as a "freak show" during the 1996 primaries, a Republican operative refusing to accept defeat despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Hillary Clinton as the humorless shrew of a wife to a charming, libidinous rube.

The burgeoning comedy of Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell... well as a very young Louis C.K. are on full display.

(Not to mention Charlie Kaufman and Dino "Alex 'Starburns' Osborne" Stamatopoulis.)

Pandering to the baby boomer generation and in particular, the constant references to The Beatles, but boasting "edginess" and joking about inevitable cancellation don't wear well over time, either.

O.J. Simpson basically admitting publicly that he killed his wife and her boyfriend, which he actually he did in real life only a few years ago.
(Click on the pic for a link to an entire episode, starting at the appropriate sketch.)

Every single other O.J. Simpson and Trial of the Century joke.
(Click on the pic for a link to an entire episode, starting at the appropriate sketch.)

The unceasing incessancy of celebrities-who-are-better-than-you culture.

Carvey's reliance on his SNL characters and history (but good for a little nostalgia, though).

Integrated marketing, sponsorship, and product placement in the episode titles and the related musical numbers.
(Click on the pic for a link to an entire episode, starting at the appropriate sketch.)

Comedy Central as a source for an endless stream of actual stand-up comedy.

If you've got the time and the inclination, regardless of relevancy, I cannot recommend "The Dana Carvey Show" enough. And with only eight episodes, your commitment issues shouldn't matter.

Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. His favorite SNL cast member will always be Phil Hartman.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • hobo_jim

    i think the beatles were only so relevant again at the time because the Anthology had just come out. I wouldn't call it pandering to baby-boomers, rather just reflecting the TV landscape of the time.

  • AudioSuede

    My friends and I still reference "Skinheads from Maine."

    "The Henderson queer....he's a good'n."

  • Jebus

    How dare you speak ill of Surf Ninjas!

  • Pepper Fish

    Surf Ninjas? Oh, no, I'm going to have to investigate this one.

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