We all love Amy Schumer, everyone knows how brilliant Key & Peele are, and you’ve watched Will Ferrell’s classic SNL sketches countless of times. But in this weekly column Sketchy MVPs, The Laugh Button shines a light on comedians from our favorites shows and troupes who don’t often get rightful credit for their contributions to sketch comedy.
Yes, Dana Carvey’s contributions to Saturday Night Live are legendary. He’s literally only one of three cast members to have actually won an Emmy for his work on the show. Hell, his celebrity impressions had as many beloved catchphrases as his original characters did.
But in 1996, a few years after he left SNL as a cast member and also while feeling cynical about the movie industry (after scoring big hits with the Wayne’s World films), Carvey and Robert Smigel were given a unique opportunity by ABC; to create their own sketch comedy show. Not only did it bring Carvey back to TV, but also gave Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert their first big breaks on TV as cast members, while also giving Louis C.K. a gig as head writer (in fact, you should watch C.K. recall the time he purposefully blocked Jimmy Fallon from being on the show).
You’d think that a comedy show with so much amazing talent attached to it would’ve been a huge success, even before most of those talents became household names. However, as it turns out it wasn’t. In fact, The Dana Carvey Show was cancelled after only seven episodes (even though they were picked up for ten). GQ did a very in-depth oral history about the show and how it came to be (and end). In short, part of the problem was that many of The Dana Carvey Show’s sketches were simply ahead of their time… and the other (and possibly bigger culprit) being the controversy that arouse from a sketch involving Bill Clinton breast feeding… more on that in a bit. As short-lived an as it may have been, and time wasn’t a critical darling, The Dana Carvey Show is still a shining example of Dana Carvey’s gift as a sketch comedy performer.
Carvey is set to make his return to TV on May 10th as a “mentor” on USA Network’s First Impressions competition. With that in mind, check out a few of our favorite moments from the time Carvey made a return to sketch comedy in 1996.
“President Bill Clinton, Mother And Father To The Nation”
It’s the infamous sketch that both set the tone for The Dana Carvey Show and possibly doomed it. This sketch the literal first one aired on the show and presents the visual of President Bill Clinton breastfeeding babies, puppies and kittens. It was so horrifying to 1996 audiences – tuning in to see family friendly comedy shows on ABC – that PepsiCo pulled its Taco Bell and Pizza Hut advertisements from future episodes. As one could imagine, the fact the show lost so much money from its first episode didn’t sit well with ABC. And to think, it was all over a breastfeeding President.
“Skinheads From Maine”
Something about hearing a racially intolerant duo spewing hateful views in a mild-tempered New England accent is just so darn funny. We shouldn’t laugh when Carvey and Colbert’s Skinhead characters talk about taking a walk and sucker-punching a queer before turning in, but you have to admit, it just sounds so darn silly.
“Germans Who Say Nice Things”
Carvey and Carell say very nice things in very stereotypically harsh German accents… do you really need any more convincing to watch this?
“Leftover Beatles Memories”
At the time of the show, The Beatles were once again dominating mainstream media, thanks in part to the ABC mini-series documenting The Beatles Anthology reissues. The truth is, though, this sketch about “left over” scenes from said documentary is just an excuse for us to witness Carvey’s fantastic Paul McCartney impersonation one more time… so really a win for everyone.
Bonus – “Tom Brokaw Pre-Tapes Gerald Ford’s Obituary”
This bit, where Tom Brokaw has to assume the most ridiculous scenarios when pre-taping Gerald Ford’s obituary, might be one of the best things to come from Carvey’s hosting appearances on SNL… only it’s actually a bi-product of The Dana Carvey Show! The sketch was originally a part of an unaired episode from The Dana Carvey Show, but then re-shot and aired during Carvey’s SNL hosting gig in 1996. Smigel still voices the scene’s off-camera director, while Colbert (who wrote the bit) actually got a short term writer’s gig out of it. It’s the second best contribution The Dana Carvey Show gave to SNL… the first being The Ambiguously Gay Duo.