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Dana Carvey has admitted that he turned down Robin Williams’s request to appear in his Saturday Night Live “Church Lady” sketch, because he was nervous that the late comedian could outshine him.
The former SNL castmember recalled the “heartbreaking” moment on a recent episode of his co-hosted Fly on the Wall podcast with David Spade, explaining that his decision came out of fear that Williams’s “excited” energy would overshadow his signature segment.
“He was a really good friend, but he really wanted to do ‘Church Chat,’” Carvey remembered. “And this was in the early days, this was my golden ticket and I was very careful. I thought if Robin got so excited…I was just afraid of it.”
Carvey debuted his popular character Enid Strict in 1986, during his first season as a regular on the comedy show. He would go on to reprise the character throughout his time on the series, and even a few times after his 1993 departure.
Strict was an elderly churchwoman who interviewed the week’s celebrity guest on her self-hosted talk show “Church Chat” as an undercover way to out them for their supposed sins.
The comedian recalled that the Mrs Doubtfire star had called him one morning to ask if he could be included in the sketch on one of the episodes he was hosting. But Carvey said he made the choice to decline Williams’s offer.
“It was heartbreaking, but you know we got past that and we were [friends],” Carvey said. “But in those days, your [character] was very precious. I wanted to keep it quasi-real, in a sense.”
Dana Carvey as Enid Strict on ‘SNL’
(Saturday Night Live YouTube)
Williams, who is widely regarded as one of the best comics of all time, hosted Saturday Night Live twice in 1986 and 1988.
He was well-known for his excitable public persona. His death by suicide sparked a national conversation about mental health.
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In his recently released memoir Did I Ever Tell You?, Sam Neill described his Jurassic Park co-star as both the “funniest” and “saddest person I’ve ever met”.
Neill said that, despite Williams being able to switch his funny side “on”, he could “sense the dark space inside” the Good Will Hunting star.
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, the Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email [email protected], or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.