Hollywood Flashback: Dana Carvey Did His Bush at the White House in 1992

AP Photo/Dennis Cook
Dana Carvey (left) demonstrated the finger-steepling that was part of his George Bush impersonation as the 41st president laughed at the White House on Dec. 7, 1992.

The comedian's impression of President George H.W. Bush — who died at age 94 on Nov. 30 — was a mainstay of the 'Saturday Night Live' lineup. Said Carvey of his impersonation: "It was a different time; it wasn't scorched-earth, angry politics. They did not demonize the other side."

Though it's a stretch to imagine Alec Baldwin being invited by Donald Trump to do his Saturday Night Live impersonation of the president at the White House Christmas party, this actually happened in 1992 to Dana Carvey.

The comedian's impression of President George H.W. Bush — who died at age 94 on Nov. 30 — was a mainstay of the SNL lineup. The phrase "wouldn't be prudent, wouldn't be prudent at this juncture" doesn't sound especially funny, but it was when Carvey said it as Bush. SNL castmember Al Franken, who would become a U.S. senator from Minnesota, has said Carvey "could get laughs at will with the character." Franken co-wrote some of the routines and has said that one of his favorites was when Carvey holds up a plastic dime bag filled with a white substance, looks directly at the camera and says in that halting, lockjaw Bush voice: "And the drug problem. Bigger than ever. This is cocaine crack. I'll tell you something: This crack was bought right here, in the White House, 3 feet from this desk. Drug problem, worse than we ever thought. Marijuana being grown in the Rose Garden. Millie, the Bush dog, bringing in a crack pipe from the South Lawn. It's bad! Bad! Had to close down an ecstasy factory in the Lincoln Bedroom."

When Carvey did the impression for White House staff at the holiday party just a month after Bush lost the 1992 election to Bill Clinton, The Hollywood Reporter noted that "it caught nearly all of them by total surprise." While doing the routine, Carvey explained that the key to the Bush voice was to "start out with Mister Rogers … then you add a little John Wayne." (Bush repaid the favor two years later, cameoing on SNL during a Carvey-hosted episode.)

This April, Carvey was on Conan O'Brien's TBS show and discussed the relationship he developed with Bush. "We had so many warm moments," said the comedian. "It was a different time; it wasn't scorched-earth, angry politics. They did not demonize the other side." After the former president's death, Carvey, now 63, issued a statement in which he said, "When I think of those times, what I remember most is how hard we would laugh. I will miss my friend."

This story first appeared in the Dec. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.