30 Rock executive producer and three-time Emmy winner Robert Carlock. Five-time Emmy winner Louis C.K. Nine-time Emmy winner Stephen Colbert. Golden Globe winner Steve Carell. Oscar-winning screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.
What do all of these successful writers and performers have in common? Before they made it big, they worked for the ill-fated Dana Carvey Show in 1996.
The Hulu documentary Too Funny to Fail: The Life and Death of The Dana Carvey Show hilariously delves into the background of the disastrous sketch show organized by some of the world’s most famous comedians.
The documentary, which contains interviews with Carvey, Carell, Colbert and Carlock, to name a few, breaks down the history of the show and the reasoning behind its ultimate demise.
It’s clear filmmaker Josh Greenbaum knows the immense comedic potential of the stars he interviews; he lets the geniuses go off on their own and alternates between asking tough and softball questions to make the documentary both interesting and funny.
Funny clips of the original show cut between the interviews makes them seem so much more like dialogue, which only adds to the rapport. It feels as though you’re watching this cast reunited and reminiscing about the show together, rather than separately off in their own successful worlds.
Carvey jokingly talks about how the cast members and writers were “nerds” and “nobodies” when his team found them. While this adds to the humor, it also shows how his show had an impact beyond success on TV. Though the show was short-lived, it got the attention of important people, who clearly appreciated the humor, and gave success to cast members and writers.
But this documentary — built on the fact that Carvey himself has rarely been in the spotlight since his departure from SNL and his show’s cancellation — adds some depth to the story. Carvey reveals his desire to be a good father and a family man, which adds a serious yet heartwarming tone. The documentary presents Carvey as a leader passing along the torch to comedians who now earn Oscar nods or host award shows.
The story is framed in a way that feels genuine, without taking sides. The documentary makes clear why ABC canceled the show, but also why it was tough to create the program, and ultimately how it should have succeeded. The funniest moment is when the comedians are shown a clip of a dramatic ad for Home Improvement — ABC’s lead-in for Carvey’s show — only to be followed by an absurd announcement that Carvey’s show will follow.
Hulu’s documentary ultimately is a must-see for any fans of Carvey, Carell, Colbert or just comedy in general.