Dana Carvey on his ‘SNL’ years:  ‘An outer-body experience’

Dana Carvey on his ‘SNL’ years: ‘An outer-body experience’

“Saturday Night Live” veterans Dana Carvey and David Spade co-host “Fly on the Wall,” a new podcast devoted to all-things “SNL,” now in its 47th season on NBC.

It’s produced by Cadence13 and features Carvey and Spade interviewing current and former “SNL” cast members and hosts — including Tina Fey, Chris Rock, Kevin Nealon, Laraine Newman, Tom Hanks, Ana Gasteyer and Tim Meadows.

Carvey, 66, shot to fame on “SNL” in 1986 and, during his seven-season run, gifted fans with characters including the Church Lady (“Isn’t that special!”), Garth Algar (with Mike Myers as Wayne Campbell) in “Wayne’s World” and the Ahnuld-inspired weightlifters Hans & Franz (with Nealon).

He also unleashed a dizzying array of impressions of celebrities (Casey Kasem, Robin Leach) and politicians (President George H.W. Bush — “Wouldn’t be prudent” — and Ross Perot).

Spade, 57, joined “SNL” in 1990 along with Rock, Chris Farley and Adam Sandler and enjoyed a six-year run with memorable skits, among them a dismissive flight attendant (“Buh-Bye”), a recalcitrant receptionist (“And you are?”) and his snarky “Hollywood Minute” segment on “Weekend Update.”

Carvey spoke to The Post about “Fly on the Wall” and his memories of “SNL” and its co-creator/executive producer, Lorne Michaels.

How did the podcast come about?

David is always in my neighborhood in LA — we met in 1985, before either of us was on ‘SNL’ — and we started having dinner at this quiet restaurant pretty regularly … and we talked about the show and started riffing. David has a very distinct, casual, self-deprecating patter that’s kind of brilliant and he’s so low-key. We have a very organic chemistry; I have it with other people, too, but especially with David. It’s like playing ping-pong with a very good ping-pong player. We wanted to do something very specific and go in all different directions; with Tom Hanks [who’s hosted “SNL” 10 times] I asked him about the 1965 movie “Jason and the Argonauts” and he nearly jumped out of his chair. We can go anywhere, but “SNL” gives us a through-line for the podcast.

Photo of Dana Carvey from 2019.
Dana Carvey in 2019.

Do you find that people share similar sentiments about their “SNL” experience?

Everyone has their own lane on that show … their own emotional inner life and what happens to them and the first time they felt like they connected with the audience. Because of the brilliant Lorne Michaels … he’s kept the show pretty much the same … there’s still the procrastination of the writing staff, the read-through, where Lorne’s there, meeting the host on Monday in the same crammed room — you’re always packed into tiny rooms on “SNL” — and Lorne’s got the board up, casually deciding what will be on live in 28 minutes. Someone said that Lorne wrote the constitution of “Saturday Night Live” and it’s for people to play around with. I would say for the people who’ve gone through it on an experiential basis, there’s nothing quite like it. For a lot of us, it was our first time on TV, the first time we got known, and then it’s live, in Rockefeller Center, there’s a horse on the show and Mick Jagger’s running around. It’s an outer-body experience.

Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon as "Hans and Franz" on the 25th anniversary show of "Saturday Night Live."
Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon as “Hans and Franz” on the 25th anniversary show of “Saturday Night Live.”

What about the competitive nature of the cast members?

It’s always there… but certain people I was never competitive with, like Phil Hartman. He was so brilliant and it was almost as if he was uninterested; he was interested in this Evinrude motor for his motorboat and he would be painting and talking about motorboats and airplanes and then turn around and be brilliant [on the show]. I feel the camaraderie now, watching the show when I do or watching the YouTube videos. I know what they’re going through, what they’re doing and I can kind of sit back and get their choices and go, “Ahh, that was a great move.”

Photo of Kevin Nealon and David Spade during a "Weekend Update" segment in 1992 on "Saturday Night Live."
Kevin Nealon and David Spade on “Weekend Update” in a 1992 episode of “Saturday Night Live.”
NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Your first on-air appearance on “SNL”?

It was the season premiere, Oct. 11, 1986, and I was in the cold opening with Jan [Hooks] and Phil and I was a game-show psychic. I would answer before Phil could ask the question and kept saying “meteor,” using the Garth character I got from my brother Brad, just kept going “meteor,” “meteor,” “meteor” — and then a meteor comes down and knocks Jan out. That first show went pretty well but then I had to jump into the Church Lady dress quickly after that. It was terrifying … I can show you “Church Chat” episodes early on where my hand is held up and it’s drenched in sweat. I vetted the rhythms of the character in comedy clubs but wasn’t sure it would work. I was on with Victoria Jackson and I went, “Well, isn’t that special?” and it got a huge laugh and that relaxed me. It was like, “OK, they get it.”

Everything about it, no matter who you are … people have gone on to have enormous success afterward, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, and that’s still a touchstone in their lives because of how intense live television is and Lorne — everyone has their own relationship with Lorne and their own stories about Lorne. He has these Lorne-isms, sayings that are kind of breathtaking. I don’t know where he gets them. He said about marriage once, “Marriage is a prison that everyone is trying to escape into.” He had a running gag, just to terrorize us — I always thought it was funny — where you’d be walking down the hall on a Tuesday or something and he would say, “Uhh, still with the show?”

“Fly on the Wall” is available on all major podcast platforms.

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