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Dana Carvey Once Denied Robin Williams An Appearance In an 'SNL' Sketch

By Andrew Sanford | TV | June 1, 2023 |

By Andrew Sanford | TV | June 1, 2023 |


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It is hard to break out on SNL. There are backstage politics. Something that works well in dress rehearsal may fall flat during the show. There’s also a chance that your bit or character won’t land with the audience at all. Someone who seemingly did not have a difficult time was Dana Carvey. He blew into Studio 8H like a hurricane of hilarity. However, even he had to be protective.

Carvey had many memorable characters and impersonations. One that was particularly popular was the Church Lady. Carvey would emerge, clad in modest clothing, pointed glasses, and a beehive hairdo that would get progressively more disheveled. Church Lady was a massive hit with fans and Carvey’s friend Robin Williams. Robin liked the character so much that he pleaded with Carvey to make an appearance on Church Chat (Church Lady’s show). Dana declined.

“It was heartbreaking, but you know we got past that, and we were [friends],” Carvey said on an episode of his podcast, Fly On The Wall with Dana Carvey and David Spade. “But in those days, your thing was very precious. I wanted to keep it quasi-real, in a sense.” Carvey held to his convictions, not even budging when Williams called him at 10 AM, the day of the show, asking once again to chat with the Church Lady.

I understand why Carvey wouldn’t want to share this particular spotlight with Williams. While Carvey may have blown in like a comedy hurricane, Williams was more like a monsoon. His boundless energy and penchant for larger-than-life characters would have overshadowed Dana’s big deal. Someone else getting the big laughs in Dana’s sketch could have possibly spelled the end for it.

There is a world where Dana Carvey could have explained his reservations to Robin. There’s a chance that he did. As Kenan Thompson would learn decades later, Williams is perfectly capable of taking the back seat while the star does their thing. Still, reservations are reservations, Carvey did what he thought was best, and the two remained friends regardless.