Dana Carvey’s return to “SNL” is anything but special

By Tom Comi

I’m going to give Lorne Michaels the benefit of the doubt and assume that he never read the fine print in Dana Carvey’s contract almost 20 years ago. What other explanation is there for why Michaels would allow a former cast member with no recent success to host his beloved show?

Carvey was funny when he appeared on Saturday Night Live from 1986-93, but he has been out of the spotlight since then with the exception of a few horrible movies (The Master of Disguise) and scattered appearances on the talk-show circuit. And because of that, all viewers got when they tuned in Saturday night was a hodge-podge of stale characters and impersonations.

The show opened with Carvey teaming up with Mike Myers for their Wayne’s World routine. It was a riot in the early ‘90s; not so much in 2011. And then the show pulled a major casting coup when it somehow managed to lure Jon Lovitz – yes, that Jon Lovitz – out of retirement to appear in a very lame song about how great their cast was many years ago. Nothing like dwelling on the past to mask both men’s current lack of a present.

Figuring you can never go to the well too many times, Carvey then brought back his once-hilarious “church lady” character. And the only saving grace in that ancient sketch was the cameo appearance of teen sensation Justin Bieber, who incidentally was born in 1994 after Carvey left SNL as a full-time cast member. Not only did Bieber add some freshness to Carvey’s old act, but he also appeared in Andy Samberg’s creepy-yet-funny spoof about a college student who stalks his new roommate.

After watching several more sketches in which Carvey did tired impressions (Mickey Rooney, Regis Philbin) or unfunny new characters (co-host of a kiddy beauty pageant, singer of a British bar band), it became abundantly clear that Lorne Michaels missed the boat not once but twice in the same night. Not only should he have never brought back a washed-up cast member to host, but he should have gotten Bieber to do it instead. The kid stole the show appearing twice, so imagine what he could have done over the entire 90 minutes.

Carvey can be funny in very small doses, but we hardly got that Saturday night. And for a comedian who’s known for the line “Isn’t that special,” his return to the show that once made him famous was sadly anything but.


© NBC Universal, Inc. Credit: Dana Edelson