Open a conversation with comedian Dana Carvey, and pretty soon you'll start hearing voices.
Known for his comic impressions from his stint on “Saturday Night Live” from 1986 to 1993, Carvey shifts voices every time he drops a name.
During a recent phone interview from Los Angeles, Carvey spoke in Robin Williams' low, rambling mumble, Barack Obama's clipped oratorical style and Jay Leno's late-night TV opening monologue tones.
Carvey — and who knows how many of his voices — will be onstage May 31 at Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. The show also includes appearances by two other comedians: opening act Mark Pitta, and Larry Brown doing a post-show Q&A with Carvey.
“I don't really do a lot of regular jokes,” Carvey began, suddenly interrupting himself with a joke about his childhood:
“My parents really wanted me to be a typist, but they forced me to go into stand-up comedy so I'd a have a good solid career as a back-up.”
Carvey, 58, has a San Francisco Peninsula background. Born in Montana, he grew up in San Carlos, and even today splits his time between Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
Carvey said he enjoys interacting with a live audience, and sometimes tries out new material at Northern California venues, including the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley.
“I was at an open mic night, and I was basically writing onstage,” Carvey said, adding that the audience liked some bits but not others.
“I had some things that just clunked,” he said. “I tried the Impatient Horse Whisperer. So, it's like 'Hey boy, settle down now. ... Oh come on! RELAX!'”
To his surprise, a deadpan improvisation about a Chinese documentary film on factory workers went over better — “Two kilometers north is the city of Shanti. It has 240 million people. They all make shoestrings. Million and millions of shoestrings. Last year, 38 million of them hung themselves with the shoestrings.”