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The Church Lady on SNL: All About Dana Carvey’s Historic Character

How conVEEN-ient: Rewatch the wildly popular "Church Chat" sketches from the '80s and '90s featuring Carvey as Enid Strict (yep, she had an actual name). 

By Samantha Vincenty

In his seven seasons as a Saturday Night Live cast member, Dana Carvey created iconic characters (such as Wayne's World's Garth) and killed in cold opens with his impression of President George H.W. Bush. Yet his SNL run may be best remembered for one particular character: The Church Lady.

How to Watch

Watch Saturday Night Live Saturdays at 11:30/10:30c on NBC and next day on Peacock.  

With her over-the-top judgmental piety and catchphrases like "well, isn't that special?" and "could it be...SATAN?," the Church Lady was a popular cultural figure in the 1980s. SNL Hosts who guest-starred in her "Church Chat" sketches include Danny DeVito, Rob Lowe, John Goodman, Sigourney Weaver, and Sean Penn, and the character appeared *eighteen times* between 1986 and 1990. 

Danny Devito and Church Lady during the Church Chat skit on Saturday Night Live.

Ever wondered how Dana Carvey came up with the Church Lady in the first place? Here's some background on the character and her many appearances over the years.

Who is the Church Lady based on?

Prior to joining SNL, Dana Carvey was primarily a standup comic. In a 1987 interview with David Letterman, Carvey said the Church Lady first originated from a bit he did onstage at comedy clubs, inspired by a certain type of congregant that he and his family would encounter at Sunday service. 

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"Remember when your family would miss church for a couple Sundays, and then you'd show up sort of embarrassed and have to make an excuse?" he told Letterman. "The church ladies would be there—they were the people that just never left the church. They were waiting out in front; they like lived there."  

Dana Carvey posing with his hands on his hips wearing a blue shirt.

The Church Lady's "isn't that special?" catchphrase came from improvising the character one night during a set.

"Over several months the character became the Church Lady. A writer at SNL, Rosie Shuster, helped me develop Church Chat as a vehicle for the character," Carvey told People in 2020. "Still a fun attitude to play – though the dress was kind of itchy. [I'm still] shocked the character got so popular, but I guess everybody knows a 'church lady.'"

The Church Lady's actual name is Enid Strict.

But Ms. Strict always remain "the Church Lady" to us. 

Watch classic Church Lady sketches

Carvey debuted the first Church Lady sketch on October 11, 1986. Her guests were real-life playwright Christopher Durang, cast members Jan Hooks and Nora Dunn in character, and most notably, Sigourney Weaver as her Ghostbusters character possessed by the demon Zuul. 

Subsequent sketches featured both Hosts—such as football players Joe Montana and Walter Payton—and cast in character, such as Phil Hartman as Saddam Hussein. 

Later in Carvey's first season, on the heels of the "Church Chat" sketches' immediate success, original cast member Chevy Chase returned to co-host SNL and played the Church Lady's friend Minister Bob. 

Later Church Lady appearances

Carvey—and the Church Lady—returned to the show in 1996 in a "Church Chat" sketch featuring O.J. Simpson (Tim Meadows) and Madonna (Molly Shannon). 

In a very 2011 edition of "Church Chat," Carvey's character welcomed musical guest Justin Bieber, Snooki (Bobby Moynihan), and the Kardashians (Vanessa Bayer, Abby Elliott and Nasim Pedrad).

The Church Lady's most recent appearance was just ahead of the 2016 election, when she weighed in on the presidential race and skewered anchor Colin Jost

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