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Dana Carvey’s Friendship With George Bush

December 9, 2018

Just a great Sunday afternoon read.

President Ronald Reagan was an easy target. He had an impossibly low hairline, a tan, wrinkled face, a bobbling head, and as a bonus, he called his wife Mommy. He was comedy gold.

On the other hand, the first President Bush was a comedian’s nightmare. There was nothing to do an impression of — no hook. My take on him, in the early sketches, was actually kind of terrible and not particularly funny. I always had good jokes with the help of two brilliant political satirists, Al Franken and Jim Downey, but my first Bush cold opens were just O.K.

Then one late Friday night on the 17th floor of Rockefeller Center, as Franken and I sat in his office racking our brains, something unexpected happened. Lorne Michaels, the creator and executive producer of “S.N.L.,” had asked for a Bush cold open, and in comedy terms, “we had nothing.” I was playing around, trying to make Al laugh. At one point, I raised my right arm and began rotating my hand lazily with index finger pointed — as if the hand were reaching for some thought. And then it came out — my voice flattening in a lazy syntax — “those people out there … doing that thing … doing that thing in that whole area over there.”

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