They rose to fame as co-stars on Saturday Night Live in the 80s, and became superstars with the roles of best friends Wayne and Garth in the box office hit Wayne’s World. But behind the scenes, comedians Mike Myers and Dana Carvey secretly harboured a lot of resentment and jealousy towards each other.
In fact, the pair stopped speaking to each other for several years after a feud over the unlikeliest of figures: Dr Evil, the fictional villain of the Austin Powers franchise. But the pair have more than made amends since then. Here is how the two overcame their decades-long rivalry to become “very close friends” in the past two years.
Dana Carvey was born in 1955 to two schoolteachers in Missoula, Montana. His family moved to San Carlos, California when he was three years old, and he would later study at Carlmont High School and San Francisco State University.
Carvey showed an early interest in comedy. In 1977, he took first place at the San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition, and he later won roles in the sitcom One of the Boys (1982) and the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (1984).
But Carvey’s real breakthrough came along in 1986 when he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live. He soon became one of the show’s best-loved performers, and he was particularly renowned for playing the pious Church Lady.
Eight years Carvey’s junior, Mike Myers joined Saturday Night Live in January 1989. His popular characters included the Scottish shop owner Stuart Rankin, the aloof German artist Dieter and Simon, ‘A Little English Boy’.
Both Myers and Carvey were vying for screen-time at Saturday Night Live, and the pair often ended up in direct competition for roles. This reportedly sparked a fierce rivalry between them.
After working with the pair in Hollywood, director Penelope Spheeris would later summarize: “Mike and Dana didn’t fight off camera. They just tried to one-up each other.”
So it is perhaps surprising that in 1988, Myers invited Carvey to take part in a new SNL sketch named Wayne’s World, which would become the duo’s world-famous act.
In the sketch, metalhead Wayne Campbell (Myers) and his best friend Garth Algar (Carvey) broadcast a public-access TV show from their basement.
Before the very first sketch, Myers gave Carvey only one pointer: “Garth loves Wayne.” The resulting series was so popular that it spawned two blockbuster movies, named Wayne’s World (1992) and Wayne’s World 2 (1993). A roller coaster and a video game were also inspired by these beloved characters.
However, resentment was simmering between these co-stars. Myers was reportedly threatened by Carvey’s (and Garth’s) popularity. One source from the franchise claimed, “Mike didn’t want Dana in the movie because he felt insecure that someone who had his own creative ideas would get in the way.”
Dana Carvey has since alluded to his rivalry with Myers, suggesting that it was borne of immaturity and jealousy. “Everyone has a ten-year-old boy inside them, or girl,” he has described. “And that little person gets really jealous of the shiny new toy. And very envious.”
The tables soon turned, however, with the advent of Myer’s franchise Austin Powers. He wrote, co-produced and starred in the first Austin Powers movie, International Man of Mystery, in 1997 and met with worldwide popularity. Among his characters in the franchise is Dr Evil, a Bond villain parody.
To Carvey, there was something suspiciously familiar about Dr Evil. He has since claimed that Myer’s Dr Evil was a copy of one of his own acts: a parody of Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels.
Michaels used to bite his pinky fingernail in moments of stress, and Carvey used to impersonate him backstage at Saturday Night Live, in front of Myers.
Myers never credited Carvey for the character’s inspiration. “The Dr. Evil voice is a little bit Lorne Michaels, there are no two ways about it, but there is a lot more Donald Pleasence in there than Lorne,” he commented in 2017. “Lorne has a pinky thing, but he doesn’t do it anymore.” Carvey has admitted that the Dr Evil figure caused him to resent Myers for several decades.
In a barely-veiled challenge to Myers, Carvey wrote and starred in his own spy movie, The Master of Disguise, in 2002. It was released one week after Myer’s Austin Powers in Goldfinger, which grossed $296.7 million and broke the record for the biggest June opening of all time. The Master of Disguise, in contrast, grossed only $43.4 million.
To add insult to injury, The Master of Disguise became one of the worst-reviewed movies of the decade. “[It’s] about as funny as a seeping wound,” critic Keith Phipps wrote of this comedy, which earned a rare 1% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Following this flop, Carvey took time away from show business to spend more time with his wife Paula and his young sons Dex and Thomas. Meanwhile Myers went from strength to strength, starring in four Shrek movies and building an estimated net worth of $200 million.
But despite their differences, neither star ever truly turned their back on the other. They reprised their Wayne’s World characters for a sketch at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards. In 2015, they shared an emotional moment at SNL’s 40th anniversary special, as they commemorated their fellow SNl alumna Jan Hooks who had recently died from cancer.
What’s more, it appears that time and maturity have softened the rivalry between the pair. In a 2016 interview, Howard Stern asked Carvey whether he had ever confronted Myers about Dr Evil’s similarity to his Michaels impression. Carvey responded, ‘Umm – I’m in therapy now,” and went on to note: “Really the only good thing about getting old is that you get a little more wisdom. You get a little more perspective. And you practice forgiveness. For others and for yourself.”
According to Carvey, he and Myers fully reconciled when they reprised their Wayne and Garth roles for a series of Uber Eats commercials in 2020 and 2021. “We got closer during that whole process,” he said. “… And started talking more. And it’s very nice to have such a long friendship with someone.”
This reunion had a lasting impact on the duo. “We’ve come full circle since I talked to you last,” Carvey told Howard Stern in a 2022 podcast. “We’ve become very very close friends. We just have too much history.”
Carvey listed some of the uncanny similarities between them: “He had two older brothers. He was kind of small like I was. We have an unbelievable amount of stuff in common. We’re not unique in this way. Obsessed with The Beatles. Both his parents are Liverpudlian, grew up in Liverpool. Obsessed by World War 2.”
“And then, we had so much shared history together riding the rocket of Wayne’s World and it was really the first time we had extra money,” Carvey added. “It was the first time we signed autographs. So, there’s too many firsts.”
What’s more, Mike Myers has recently said that Carvey was the key to his success. “I think one of the biggest legups I had was I was in a film with Dana Carvey, who was one of the greatest comedians to ever be on Saturday Night Live,” Myers told GQ in reference to Wayne’s World.
“If I hadn’t worked with Dana and learned that you have to get the fun molecules into the funnel that get into the film, I don’t think I could have done Austin Powers,” he added, suggesting to an end to the pair’s long-standing animosity over this franchise.
“He’s the most joyful performer I’ve ever worked with,” Myers summarized. We’re hoping to see these comedic stars team up for many years to come.