Back it its early days before Key & Peele, Nathan For You, Chappelle’s Show, South Park, and The Daily Show, Comedy Central did not have a ton of programming to offer. So, the network often depended on replaying the same things over and over. The squiggly animation of Dr. Katz, reruns of Saturday Night Live, episodes of Absolutely Fabulous (which I never watched), and an amazing 1989 documentary about Andy Kaufman wrestling women called I’m From Hollywood seemed to comprise about 90% of the network’s lineup in the mid-to-late 1990s. But, my personal favorite of this seemingly-constantly-repeating programming was Dana Carvey’s 1995 HBO comedy special, Dana Carvey: Critics’ Choice.
I pretty much memorized every word of this special as a kid, but now that it is over 20 years old, much of it seems a little dated. Carvey celebrating a 49ers victory over the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX, an impression of Ross Perot reviewing Forrest Gump and Waterworld, and jokes about police busting actor Hugh Grant with a prostitute, though still hilarious, definitely put a timestamp on the special. However, with FX’s American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, an eight-minute-long bit from Carvey’s special is as fresh as it ever was.
If you’ve been watching the FX show like me, you’ve come know Johnnie Cochran, Marcia Clark, F. Lee Bailey, Christopher Darden, Mark Fuhrman, and Judge Lance Ito, all of whom Carvey takes aim at in his bit on the Simpson trial. When I used to watch this special as a kid, I really didn’t know a lot about the trial’s cast of characters, but this didn’t stop me from trying to sound drunk whenever I said the words “judicial system” or imagining mild-mannered Christopher Darden going home and yelling out, “MOTHERFUCKER!”
Between The People v. O.J. Simpson, the recent episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast (guest hosted by Brian Curtis) about the media coverage of the trial, Marcia Clark allegedly receiving too much tuna from Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland at a performance of Nick Kroll and John Mulaney’s “Oh, Hello” show in LA, and tons of “Where Are They Now” pieces all over the internet, “The Trial of the Century” is once again a topic of conversation. So, now that the FX series is nearly over, what better time than now to revisit Carvey’s take on the proceedings that hijacked headlines, late night talk shows, and watercooler discussions over 20 years ago and now seem to be doing so all over again?