Do you know that plan of yours to become the most famous person in America? Well, the only way you’re going to pull that off is if you become president.
Comedian Dana Carvey, who reached the celebrity-A list in the 1990s via “Wayne’s World” and “Saturday Night Live,” told me there’s only one pop culture reference known to every age group who sees him on stage.
“I think it’s just Obama,” said Carvey — who you can see perform comedy and impressions (new material) on Friday and Saturday at the Orleans hotel.
“As far as someone that everybody knows, it’s getting down to just the president, basically. It’s the death of impressions,” joked Carvey, the most famous comedy impressionist of the last 40 years.
Carvey does impressions and pop culture material on stage, but he also does characters he’s created, and jokes about human nature.
“Human nature stuff doesn’t go out of style,” he said.
As you know, American culture has become totally fragmented. Some people watch only old-school TV. Some watch movies. Many others eschew TV, movies and news for a diet of YouTube, social media, and playing on their phones.
As a result, for the first time in generations, Americans may get confused at why other people don’t know “famous” pop culture references. The water cooler overfloweth. We are drowning in art.
“A while back, I was doing a whole piece on the ‘Walking Dead,’ (the zombie TV show), and it took three years for a segment of the audience to get that (joke), even though the (TV show) got huge numbers (ratings),” Carvey said.
That’s a great example, because I don’t watch “The Walking Dead” (zombies are idiots), and sometimes that makes me feel out of it, but would you look at that: I am the normal one.
Even Carvey’s wife didn’t recognize recent “SNL” stars when Carvey introduced her to them at the recent “SNL” 40th anniversary event that dominated Google News for five minutes, because Carvey’s wife reads books and watches the PBS hit, “Downton Abbey.”
“She’d never seen Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph. She said, ‘They were very nice.’ Then later on, I showed her some of the stuff they do, and she goes, ‘I didn’t know.’”
Carvey said something to me I have been saying to friends for a while:
We’re living in a golden age. Anyone can use a phone or tablet to make a movie, TV show, album, podcast, radio show, photo exhibit, and many other artworks — and you can distribute your art to the whole world. Billions of people, theoretically!
And yet, it’s nearly impossible to reach potential fans to access your art, because they (like you and me) are constantly searching zillions of online outlets for the perfect pixel — all of which can be had for free, like in that socialist society politicians are always talking about.
“There are entire sitcoms celebrating their ninth year that I’ve never seen,” Carvey said. “It’s the Golden Age of creativity, as long as you don’t need money or fame.”
It’s like I say. The new American Dream is to be famous for 18 people.
Or as Carvey says: “Show business reinvents itself every 90 days. It’s like a mutation worm and miasma.”
Carvey is lucky he became famous before the fracturing of America. But his main goal wasn’t to be a celebrity.
“I always thought I was successful when I could make a couple of grand a month at it. I thought that was amazing,” he said. “I usually wanted my friends and maybe my brothers to like what I was doing.”
Carvey’s sons will open for him at the Orleans, honing comedy skills, despite the fact they would be more famous if they were a white-and-gold/black-and-blue dress on Instagram.
“My son said to me the other day that ‘Talent doesn’t matter anymore.’ That’s like an anthem. I just keep telling him, ‘You can’t do this for money and fame. It has to be, ‘How well can I do this?’”
Carvey will be in two animated features under construction. He’s also editing his own video project at home, but he doesn’t expect it to reach many people.
“It’ll be in ‘the cloud’ between ‘Abbey Road’ and ‘Clockwork Orange.’ They’ll both be little blips of data. It’s like a message in a bottle. It’ll be there for billions of years.”