Dana Carvey at the Craterian
Comedian and actor Dana Carvey says it's his goal to perform the greatest stand-up comedy show in Medford's history when he appears this weekend at the Craterian Theater.
"I'm not saying I'm going to," he says with a laugh during a telephone interview from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. "But it's my goal."
It's been Carvey's goal since the fourth grade to become a stand-up — and one earning $100,000 a year.
"I low-balled myself," he jokes. "Sometimes I wake up with a sense of self-hatred, then I realize it's all right. It's mostly about luck. I'm very optimistic."
Carvey will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 5, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave. San Francisco comedian Larry "Bubbles" Brown will open the show with his self-deprecating, deadpan humor. Tickets cost $52, $58 or $64 and may be purchased at the Craterian box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., online at www.craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000.
Carvey is best known for his work from 1986 to 1993 as a cast member on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." His sketch characters include the pious, smug Church Lady; the Ritalin-sotted juvenile Garth Algar in "Wayne's World" with Mike Myers; the muscle-bound Austrian jock Hans in "Pumping Up With Hans and Franz"; and The Grumpy Old Man who made appearances on the show's "Weekend Update" — roles that earned him an Emmy Award in '93. He's been nominated for six.
Carvey's made numerous television appearances, including host of his own ABC variety show in 1996, "The Dana Carvey Show."
In films, he's appeared as Baby Face with Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage in "Racing With the Moon" (1984); Algar in Myers' "Wayne's World" (1992) and "Wayne's World 2" (1993); George Kellogg in "The Road to Wellville" (1994); and Alvin Firpo, with Nicolas Cage and Jon Lovitz, in "Trapped in Paradise" (1994), to name a few. In 2002, he wrote "The Master of Disguise," starring in the film as Pistachio Disguisey, and in 2011, he appeared as a crazy puppeteer in Adam Sandler's "Jack & Jill."
Carvey's also known for his long list of celebrity impersonations, including President George W.H. Bush and independent presidential wanna-be Ross Perot.
He says there's a difference between one of his characters and an impersonation.
"If I did a perfect impression of you on television, it would be my new character," he says. "If you got famous, it would be my new impression. Sometimes the impressions are accurate, or recognizable enough. I'm just trying to get to the essence of the character. Then you can play with them and make them abstract."
Carvey says he likes all aspects of creativity: television, movies and stand-up.
"Inspiration can come at any time," he says. "Right now, I'm having a lot of fun doing stand-up. Good stand-up is all about rhythm and attitude. If I get good feedback from an audience about something, I'll just add more of it and do it longer. I'm always improvising. It makes it fun."
Carvey left home when he was 19. He bused tables and worked as a waiter to put himself through school at San Francisco State University.
A big fan of "The Smothers Brothers Show," Carol Burnett, Jackie Gleason and other comedy variety shows, he was lured to an open mic stand-up session in a club on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, Calif.
"It was a little, hippy dive," Carvey says. "There were about 10 people in the audience that actually danced at my act."
In 1977, he won first place in the San Francisco International Comedy Competition, competing with Gil Christner, Whitney Brown, Mark McCollum and Bill Farley. He competed again in 1979, taking third place with Marsha Warfield and Mike Davis in the lead.
"When I came up through the ranks in the '80s, guys like Johnny Carson and Lorne Michaels were essentially the gatekeepers for stand-up comedians," Carvey says. "Now everyone can be in show business. You can have your own YouTube channel and produce your own show. Friends of mine are writing shows for Amazon and Netflix, who have more money than the networks. It's fascinating. When I retire from touring, I will be incredibly busy."
Carvey says that the primal aspect of being a live entertainer still has huge appeal.
"It's literally untainted by technology," he says. "To be alive on stage, to really be there, takes energy. It's simple, yet you can't fake it, and it can't be edited. There's no shortcut to good stand-up. I've only just started to get pretty good at it. I'm really mostly a sketch player.
"If you keep your physicality and your energy — and if you're still motivated and inspired by the universe — you should be better at stand-up in your 50s than you were in your 20s."
Money and fame never had that much appeal to Carvey, he says.
"I wear a $10 watch, and fame always made me nervous," he says. "Paul Simon said recently that being famous now can be a tricky proposition. I'm at a sweet place. No one ever stalked Tim Conway."