Equal billing doesn’t always mean equal on stage.
Dana Carvey seems as relaxed doing stand-up as Garth in Wayne’s basement, with his great character voices from the Church Lady to Donald Trump.
Jon Lovitz has only one: an amplified “wise guy” persona we know him for, but not the authentic stand-up voice he is trying to create.
“Why do you talk like it’s 1947?” Carvey even asks Lovitz about his more famous patois in the duo’s show together, which returns Friday as part of its one-weekend-a-month run at The Foundry inside SLS Las Vegas.
By the time Carvey asks, the two “Saturday Night Live” alumni are seated for an “Actors Studio”-style attempt to chat about their careers with video clips, after their separate stand-up sets. It seems like this should be the easy part. But its awkwardness proves it’s harder to be yourself on stage than to play a sketch character.
The two also arrived at the co-bill on unequal footing. Carvey, 61, has been doing his comedy on and off the Strip since the 1990s, while the 59-year-old Lovitz’s stand-up work has been more sporadic.
(Further hampering the evening, the 8:30 time on the tickets is when they open the doors for a general-admission gig — The Foundry is more often a music club. By the time this reserved-seat show actually started more than a half-hour later, people were angry, to the point of yelling “Start the show!” No way to start a comedy show. The ticket time either needs to be fixed or better explained.)
Carvey hit the ground running for his half-hour, including timely Trump jokes. Sure, his George H.W. Bush is the iconic impression. But Carvey’s Trump gives the late-night TV guys a run for their money. He even tells us how he created it: putting a little Marlon Brando on top of his Regis Philbin.
Carvey paired two of his presidents to show us how George W. Bush would be the only GOP candidate who could sink to Trump’s level in the primary debates: Dubya would have dialed right in to the playground bullying with frat-boy jokes about Trump’s hair, etc.
If Carvey’s set makes you smile with new variations on the familiar, then Lovitz’s stand-up just seems familiar. Stock routines about how we’re being stifled by political correctness and ways to substitute “bad words” seem like they could come from any club-level comic.
Still, the potential is there. When Lovitz sits at the piano on stage and lets that wise guy caricature take over as he tinkles the keys and throws out one-liners — a lot of them strangely about Bob Saget — somehow, he seems more comfortable. And so do we.
The closer puts Carvey behind a drum kit and Lovitz at the keyboard for a “Wayne’s World”-type jam that culminates with “Chopping Broccoli.” With these memories and this level of goodwill, you get the feeling that each month will get better the longer these two stay at this. Sometimes it pays to procrastinate.