Aug 11, 2011

Remembering The Dana Carvey Show

In 1996, ABC aired a sketch comedy show starring Dana Carvey, featuring performers Steve Carrell and Stephen Colbert, and written and produced by Robert Smigel, Louis CK and Charlie Kaufman.

No really, this actually happened.

The Dana Carvey Show was ahead of its time to be sure.  That pool of talent is just staggering.  GQ just published an excellent oral history of the show from the accounts of many of the shows stars.  It uses the same format as the astoundingly readable Live From New York, the first hand account of the first 25 or so years of Saturday Night Live.  (I say astoundingly readable because the book is the size of a Harry Potter novel, and yet the pages fly by in a blink.)  Sadly the GQ piece could not get a comment from Louis CK, and in light of the recent episode of Louis re-enacting his trials in the world of sitcoms, I'd be really interested to hear his take on the show.

They took some pretty interesting comedy risks at the time, notably in its opening sketch which featured Carvey as then-President Bill Clinton breastfeeding a group of puppies and kittens.  Needless to say, the ABC audience that had just finished watching the season premiere of Home Improvement was...taken aback.  Still the show produced some hilarious sketches, including my very favorite: Skinheads From Maine.  Thankfully the entire show is now available on Hulu.  Thank you internet!

The piece is a great read and a fascinating look at a show that would almost certainly be a massive success if it were on today.  Aside from pulling a larger audience than almost any other comedy currently on the air, this is a show that would be right at home on FX or Comedy Central, so it's unsurprising that most of the show's talent went on to find later success at those networks.  I suppose the only benefit of the show's unceremonious cancellation is that if it had found success, we'd have almost certainly been robbed of some of the great comedy of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Conan (specifically Triumph The Insult Comic Dog.) and Louie.

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