"Dana is playing Bill Clinton literally breastfeeding puppies—that was our introduction to America."
August 9, 2011 6:48 AM   Subscribe

GQ: Teats Out: An Oral History of the Rise and Fall (and Rise) of "The Dana Carvey Show." "Steve Carell. Stephen Colbert. Louis C.K. Charlie Kaufman. Robert Smigel. Some of comedy's greatest minds got one of their biggest breaks on the short-lived but much-loved "The Dana Carvey Show." Fifteen years later, in this exclusive oral history, the players recount the brief but fertile life of a truly unusual show", all eight episodes of which are available on Hulu. (Previously)

Here's a Single page version of the main article

The show is also available on YouTube, via Crackle's channel. Episodes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
posted by zarq (33 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
The Youtube links are restricted, but can be viewed in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. Hulu links are, I believe, restricted to the US.
posted by zarq at 6:49 AM on August 9, 2011

Forgot the previously link. Sorry!
posted by zarq at 6:50 AM on August 9, 2011

But he wasn't interested in the grind of a talk show, ultimately.

Interview Lindsey Lohan 5 times to unlock the FML acheivement.

Hulu: Is this something I need to be in a failing empire to understand?
posted by furtive at 7:01 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:05 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

You know what this looks like to me? Golden sunshine.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:08 AM on August 9, 2011

I've been digging this style of GQ article (the faux roundtable) since the Goodfellas one last year. Thanks for posting!
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:11 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

When I was five years old my brother and I jamed things down the back of our television and destroyed it. My parents didn't buy a new television until I was in college, so I grew up my entire life without regular access to a TV. However, this was one show I remember so well, despite it being on while I was in highschool and only lasting 8 episodes.

A friend of mine who lived down the block would record every episode for me on VHS, then we rush to my Dad's work and sit in the conference room, watching them ont he company TV.

I haven't seen these episodes since the old VHS copies in the conference room and looking back at them now...

I can't believe the actors who worked on that show! If only old me knew what kind of history I was watching. Thank Jésus for the Internet.
posted by dogbusonline at 7:29 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

What I remember is that Carvey had to do all of this from scratch: Lorne Michaels owned all of his brilliant SNL work, and would not allow any of it to be used outside of SNL.
posted by Danf at 7:41 AM on August 9, 2011

In other news, Elon Gold is pissed at Charles Grodin for continuing to be Charles Grodin.
posted by inturnaround at 7:45 AM on August 9, 2011

What I remember is that Carvey had to do all of this from scratch: Lorne Michaels owned all of his brilliant SNL work, and would not allow any of it to be used outside of SNL.

Well, the Church Lady showed up on the show once. I don't think it's so cut and dried as you put it. Jon Lovitz on his podcast The ABCs of SNL said that he owns the characters he created prior to SNL like Master Thespian and Tommy Flanagan, the Liar. Characters created afterwards, he doesn't.

I think it was more an effort to not do things Carvey had done before, if you read the article. That's why they didn't want to go back to the well to do George HW Bush unless they could make it somewhat relevant.
posted by inturnaround at 7:52 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Y'know, I'm not jealous of Jenny. It's hard to be jealous of someone who's so great!"
posted by Kattullus at 7:54 AM on August 9, 2011

This is a great article, especially the bits about Charlie Kaufman, the madman in the corner. I'm going to dig watching the episodes in full.

Seen some clips on YouTube before. Stephen and Steven working together in Waiters who are Nauseated by Food is one of the funniest and most disturbing things I've seen. (Fair warning: It may get a little uncomfortable near the end there.) Even so, what's great about it is that unlike SNL, they knew just how far to take the joke and what line not to cross. Oh, and also give it a punchline.

If the SNL of that time had done that sketch, someone would have had performed it with a vomit tube up his arm. Man, what a slump.
posted by Spatch at 8:07 AM on August 9, 2011

I remember hearing on the Louis CK WTF him talking about the notorious Clinton Dog Nipples sketch. His story was that since Dana Carvey's Brand was impressions there was a lot of pressure to lead off with an impression oriented sketch and the Clinton dog nipples one was one of the few that was available. I've watched that sketch a couple times, and I love the conceit of it. That president wants to breast feed and you are like "wow weird the president got breasts?" then he opens his shirt and there are animal nipples and it is even weirder than the weird thing you imagined. The idea of the sketch is really funny. The sketch isn't nearly as funny in practice as it is in theory. It's all wrapped up in this not exactly coherent nurturing president angle, and this not terribly effective the president is definitely going to beat Bob Dole so I can do really weird things and still win angle. It has a lot of lame Clinton jokes and much of the humor is supposed to come from the impression itself. And the ending of the sketch isn't effective because a chicken ass is a step backward from dog breasts.

I don't romanticize the Dana Carvey show. It wasn't a great show. It had a ton of excellent people working on it, but together it didn't really add up to a great show. The problem was that the whole thing was pinned around Dana Carvey, who is a really funny talented guy, but his strengths don't really align with doing cutting edge stuff. He does great impressions, and great broad archetypical characters.

The good thing about a sketch show is that even if it wasn't a successful TV show, there are still going to be lots of good things that you can pick out, but the wheat to chaff ratio is not so hot.
posted by I Foody at 8:10 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

No no no, seriously, I Foody, what does that look like to you?
posted by owtytrof at 8:16 AM on August 9, 2011

I can't believe Heather Morgan never had a Wikipedia page before, so I just created one.
posted by Kattullus at 8:46 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Problem is, it wasn't actually very funny.

For a real tragedy, see the fate of The Ben Stiller Show and it's would-be spinoff, Heat Vision and Jack.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:31 AM on August 9, 2011

Short run comedy shows huh? Don't remember The Dana Carvey Show being on in England, but he was great when he was on "Larry Sanders". So anyone got any No Soap, Radio? I remember this from when I was young, and in my (very vague) memory, it was funny. Wonder how it would hold up now.
posted by marienbad at 9:43 AM on August 9, 2011

For a real tragedy, see the fate of The Ben Stiller Show

Here's the thing, though, after re-watching Ben Stiller, that doesn't hold up so well either. It's so dated. Sketches that spoof antiquated Fox shows like Studs and Gap ads and Three Men and a Baby, Rescue 911, and the "guest stars" that would just kind of wander around some location with Ben and the cast and have casual conversation?

Again, a great cast of writers and performers who would go on to bigger things, and in the case of Bob and David, much, much better things.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 10:12 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Steve Carrell's German saying nice things and Stephen Colbert as George Harrison ranting about "the Beatles don't do songs about molluscs" were my two favorite parts. Only saw the show for the first time earlier this year.
posted by ifjuly at 10:21 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I noticed the Ben Stiller show wasn't as funny as I remembered it being too. More so than the Dana Carvey one.

I want to watch the Jon Stewart show again...
posted by ifjuly at 10:22 AM on August 9, 2011

Thanks for providing the Youtube links, zarq. Well, thanks in a "Yikes, now I remember why I stopped watching that show" kinda way. :)

I really, *really* would love if there was a good (legal) way to get access to streaming video online like Hulu and Netflix up here in Canada (no, Netflix's Canadian offering is not what I consider "good"). Grr.
posted by antifuse at 10:34 AM on August 9, 2011

I find The Dana Carvey Show still hilarious. From what I remember The Ben Stiller Show was terrible. The U2 bar mitzvah sketch is brilliant, but when I watched some episodes on dvd with some friends a few years ago, that was the only thing we laughed at.
posted by Kattullus at 10:36 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

antifuse, you're welcome. Does freevpn still work?
posted by zarq at 10:42 AM on August 9, 2011

I would rather be set on fire than watch Dana Carvey.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:02 AM on August 9, 2011

I remember thinking some of the Bruce Springsteen stuff was funny too, but it's been a while (and it's admittedly an obvious, old/easy premise).
posted by ifjuly at 11:07 AM on August 9, 2011

I do remember too thinking that the TGIFriday's-type parody on Ben Stiller bore striking resemblance to an episode of Rocko's Modern Life where Heffer is recruited into an evil sausage making cult. Always wondered who might've ripped off who but was too lazy to look into it.
posted by ifjuly at 11:09 AM on August 9, 2011

Steve Carrell's German saying nice things Conan O'Brien actually had Carell do this bit a couple/few times on Late Night a few years ago. I had never seen the original at the time but so, so funny. (here's one)
posted by getawaysticks at 12:58 PM on August 9, 2011

Please, even if you can't stand to read about Carvey, read the New Yorker article on the decline and fall of SNL they link to at one point. I remember reading it when it came out, and it holds up as one of the greatest journalistic takedowns of a lazy, entrenched creative group ever.
posted by jscott at 6:08 PM on August 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

I never ever noticed the Dana Carvey show pop into or out of existence, but enjoyed the first episode on Hulu. I can see why the opening Clinton sketch would have made a terrible first impression to your average viewer (especially those tuning in from Home Improvement).

@Jscott - The New Yorker article on the decline and fall of SNL was a fascinating read. I always assumed it was dysfunctional, stressful, and otherwise not particularly pretty; but the article makes it out to be a very dark, petty, political and miserable environment to boot.

posted by Davenhill at 12:20 AM on August 10, 2011

Sorry, can't stand to see the mistake repeated.

The article is from New York Magazine. Not The New Yorker.
posted by SpiffyRob at 4:03 AM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Carvey talks about it here..

posted by judson at 8:31 AM on August 10, 2011

zark: antifuse, you're welcome. Does freevpn still work?

Haven't tried it. Funny name for a service that charges you though. Lol.
posted by antifuse at 9:39 AM on August 10, 2011

Oh, and that NY Mag article about SNL is over 15 years old. Holy hell.
posted by antifuse at 9:54 AM on August 10, 2011

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