Entertainment

A Brief History Of Dana Carvey’s Baboon Heart

The SNL and Wayne’s World star had a major medical emergency in 1998, but this peculiar story goes back over two decades.

Last night on the Late Show, comedy icon Dana Carvey came out of the gate swinging, firing joke after joke in a glorious display of energy that left long-time fans remembering the good old days, when Carvey helped fuel an SNL revival. He even made light of the life-threatening heart ailment — and seriously screwed-up surgery — that sidetracked his career in the late 1990’s.

Carvey told Dave Letterman a story — and this is an old one — about how he once told a woman that, after all his heart issues, he was given a baboon heart, and now he never gets tired. It was a line that got laughs from the audience and sent old fans of his work on a trip down memory lane:

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Carvey has been killing it with the “baboon heart” line for over two decades. Back in 1984, a baby with a congenital heart defect was given a baboon’s heart, which was meant to be a temporary measure. She died 21 days later, her body having rejected the transplant. It was a national story, and still a relevant reference when Dana Carvey slapped a prosthetic prop heart onto his chest during an SNL sketch in 1992:

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Carvey had heart bypass surgery in 1998, but he soon found out that the doctor had bypassed the wrong artery. He had to go back into the operating room to get it fixed, and won a medical malpractice suit. Later, following his recovery, he made the interview rounds to talk about his story.

This is what he told Larry King in 2000: “There were rumors that I had a baboon heart. I actually ran into Chris Rock at a party and said, ‘Chris, they put a baboon heart in me.’ He says, ‘Damn! Baboon heart. Damn!’ I go, ‘Chris, I’m just kidding.’ So rumors fly. I mean, there’s rumors you have a rubber left leg. I say, ‘No, it’s — it’s flesh. I touched it.’ You noticed how I feel — felt you out in the green room?”

And then, in 2009, he said this in an interview with the New York Times: “I don’t have a baboon heart. I’m totally healthy. Feel fantastic.”

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