Joe Rhodes

Dana Carvey talks about his life and career

Things can go wrong. Dana Carvey knows this as surely as he feels the permanent ache in his shoulder, the never-healed separation from that time on Saturday Night Live when he was pretending to be Rob Petrie, tripped over the ottoman, and landed more painfully than he’d planned. And then, in 1990, there was that other crash landing, the one that dented his ego so badly he wondered if he could ever again present himself to the public without a wig, an accent, or a cute little signature phrase. Opportunity Knocks was the name of the film.

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Behind the scenes of ''Encino Man''

Most movie crews gossip about backstage love affairs or which studio execs are going to be fired. But last January on the set of Encino Man, the buzz topic was the Cube.

”Have you seen it up close?” asked Sean Astin, who, with costar Pauly Shore, had just rehearsed his first scene with the much-discussed object. ”There’s something about it that’s kind of mesmerizing. It’s really cool.”

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The mastermind behind ''Seinfeld''

In their shared office on the MTM Studios lot in Studio City, Calif., where Seinfeld is filmed, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David have matching desks, heavy wooden schoolteacher-type pieces of furniture. They’re pushed together to form a single unbroken surface, so cluttered with scripts and notes and scribbled ideas that at first glance it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

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Talking with Jeff Altman

Comedian Jeff Altman’s onstage persona has always been that of a nice, normal guy who’s just a brain twitch away from setting fire to someone’s hair, possibly his own. His jokes tend to end in psychotic delusions as often as in punch lines. He’ll be standing there, telling a fairly routine story, and then, for no apparent reason, he’ll hitch his pants up to his armpits and, with a slightly crazed gurgle in his voice, start to mutter, ”I’m a big boy, daddy, yes I am.”

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Riders in the Sky

As our story begins, we find our cowboy heroes, Riders in the Sky, in the MTM Studios commissary in Studio City, Calif., taking a lunch break from rehearsals for the new Saturday- morning TV show named for the group. Ranger Doug, who bills himself as the Idol of American Youth, has already proven himself to be a true friend, warning everyone not to try the lentil-split pea soup.

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Filming in Russia

Before last week’s ouster of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, some half- dozen American-produced movies were supposed to film in the USSR in coming weeks, including an HBO movie about the life of Stalin starring Robert Duvall. HBO officials last week were trying to figure out whether they would proceed or move the production to Budapest. Here are other films affected by the coup:

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Why Lisa Simpson plays the blues

When Matt Groening was mapping out the character traits of the Simpsons a few years ago, he decided that Lisa would be the sensitive one in the family, an angst-ridden second-grader who wants nothing more than peace on earth, good will toward men, and, well, okay, maybe a pony. Mere words, Groening decided, would not be enough to express the depth of anguish in Lisa’s little cartoon soul. So that’s why he gave her a saxophone.

”We decided to make Lisa the intelligent, talented member of the Simpsons,” Groening says, ”and hence completely overlooked.”

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