From playing The Riddler in Batman Forever, to The Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, to Count Olaf in Lemon Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Jim Carrey has amazed the world with his talents, portraying characters that are usually pretty wacky, crazy, loony, and “over-the-top.” He is among one of the top entertainers in the movie industry and is regarded as one of the funniest actors of our time.
It’s not just the kids from all over the world who love him, but adults as well. There’s a certain magical element that he carries with him that touches our hearts, making us question, “Did he really just do that?” And whether it’s his funny or scary facial expressions, his weird or strange voice tones, or his odd and stretchy body language, we just can’t help but to admire and laugh at this full grown adult who has the energy and enthusiasm of a hyper, young child. He loves what he does, and every time he goes out to entertain people, he gives it his all. This is what makes Jim Carrey special.
But life wasn’t always easy for Jim. When he was young, his parents were going through a tough time. Jim’s dad Percy, an extremely mild mannered man, had a dream of becoming a saxophonist. However he couldn’t do this; he had to support his family, especially since they had four children, Jim being the youngest. To make sure that they could have food on the table, Percy gave up his saxophonist dream to be an accountant. Leaving his band and selling his sax was one of the hardest things he had to do.
Meanwhile, Jim’s mom Kathleen, was suffering from hypochondria, an extreme depression of mind or spirits often centered on imaginary physical ailments. She would lay in bed all day and take pain pills to ease her depression. Jim would do everything he could to try and cheer his mom up. He would go in the room and start doing impressions of praying mantises, he would bounce off the walls, fall off the stairs, or anything crazy he could think of to make his mom feel better.
Jim kept his mom and dad going with his silly routines at home, but in school he had a problem. He was a painfully shy boy, and even worse, everybody avoided him because they thought he was weird. Others thought he was a geek.
“No one, I mean no one, even talked to me. I was that weird Jim Boy – you know, ‘Stay away from him.’”
Then one day he realized he could use the comedy that he had used at home to entertain his mother and try it out on the students. He remembers the first day that he stood in front of the school and fell up the stairs; the students started to laugh. He went from “Jim’s a geek to “Jim is a moron, but we like it!”
Slowly, he started to get his energy and his motivation from this. He became the class clown, and the students loved him. They laughed and cheered as Jim entertained them. The teacher even gave Jim 15 minutes at the end of class if he would promise to keep silent during class time. With the natural talent that he had, Jim knew that he could make something out of it.
Then one day, something happened to the Carrey family. Jim’s dad lost his job as an accountant. This loss forced the family to sell their house and relocate themselves in the suburbs of Toronto. In order to survive, each one of the Carrey family members worked security and janitorial jobs in the Titan Wheels Factory. Jim would often find himself going to school for 8 hours during the day as a student and 8 hours after school as a janitor.
Eventually, the family couldn’t take it anymore. No one was happy and Percy and Kathleen knew that in order to give their son a chance in life, they couldn’t let him do this any longer. At 16 years old, Jim dropped out from high school. The family left their job at the factory which provided a home, and moved out to live in a Volkwagen camper.
It was hard for the entire family to sleep and live in the back of a van. The only way the family kept their sanity were from Jim’s jokes. Kathleen’s mom and dad were alcoholics. Sometimes Jim’s grandfather would get drunk, take Jim’s father in a corner, and tell him what a loser he was with no job. His dad, being the nice person he was, just would just take the insults. Jim wasn’t a pushover though. When his grandparents left, Jim would get up and do impressions of them and make fun of them to make his dad feel better.
To pass time in the van, his dad would help him with his comedy routines. Someday he thought that his son could perform in the big comedy clubs of Toronto and become a success. Together, they would work on impressions of different people including Michael Landon, Henry Fonda, Gandhi, and Jim’s own hero, Jimmy Stewart.
His mom would also help by making him a yellow polyester suit and sending their young Jim on stage to perform. When he got on stage, the audience didn’t like his impressions. The owner thought Jim wasn’t boring and people booed at him off stage.
Jim didn’t give up though. He kept practicing the routines over and over again until he perfected them. After 2 years, he finally was able to gain respect from the crowd. They loved him. They cheered. They roared. They clapped. He was hilarious! Finally, he was good enough that he moved to Los Angeles to seek out the opportunity as a comedian.
Jim started out with $1000 in this new city. He would perform at small comedy clubs in Los Angeles to support himself while living in a cheap hotel. The one day, while performing at The Comedy Store, Jim caught the attention of veteran comic Rodney Dangerfield. Roger signed him as his opening act for a season. They would do improv together on stage for a few yearsnand this helped Jim support himself financially.
One day though, Jim started to lose his passion. He didn’t like being an impressionist because it constantly meant using somebody else’s material. He wanted to get recognition for his own comedic talents, not just for being the guy who could imitate anyone. Not knowing what to do, he started to get depressed about his future.
The thing was he enjoyed imitating others, but was this what he was going to do for the rest of his life? He could quit, but quitting meant losing the money he was making. He stayed in his hotel and decided.
“You’re the king of impressions. What are you doing?” –Mindy Shore, owner of the Comedy Store in LA
“You’re insane. Don’t do this,” his friends would tell him.
He told himself that he would have a lot of money, but he’ll feel like an idiot. He decided he would quit, but he didn’t tell Rodney about it at first. One day Jim was an opening act for Rodney Dangerfield in Vegas.
“I’d go [on stage] with spiked hair and big red pants, and just go off – total improvisation. Many, many nights it got no reaction at all. Rodney would watch me from the wings, standing there in his housecoat, and I’d come off stage and he’d take a drag on his cigarette and shake his head and say ‘They were lookin’ at you like you was from other f—kin’ planet, kid.”
This was the end of Jim’s gig; he was eventually let go. But he knew what he wanted. He didn’t want to just be an improve comedian; he wanted to be a star one day, you know… be in the big films.
But without job, his dream started to fade. For the next few years, he started looked for some jobs and eventually he was able to play in some small roles such a part as a novice cartoonish in the short-lived sitcom, The Duct Factory when he was 22, or in other unknown movies such as Once Bitten and Peggy Sue Got Married when he was 23 and 24. But still, nothing that set him up for stardom.
At 26, he got to play in a role as an Alien in Earth Girls Are Easy with Damon Wayans as the role of an alien. At this time, Damon Wayans and his brother Keenen Wayans were in the process of putting together the sketch comedy show In Living Color. Damon noticed how incredibly loony Jim was and discussed with Keenan a potential role that Jim might be able to play. After the production of Earth Girls Are Easy, they hired Jim to play a psychotic fire marshal. In Living Color, he was named Fire Marshall Bill and yes, he was really, really psychotic. He was 28.
During this time, producers had seen Jim do his work. They were impressed with his performances and offered him to do a scripted titled, “Ace Ventura”. Jim saw the script and hated it. They didn’t succeed. It wasn’t until Jim was 32 years old he said yes to the script under one condition, that it was rewrote to fit his own style. He didn’t want to feel restricted. The producers agreed.
For 4 months, after rehearsals for In Living Color, he would work from midnight until four in the morning on the script, perfecting the craziness of Ace Ventura’s character. No one knew how the outcome of this type of movie was going to be; no one before had ever had a character as a pet detective who was so loony, crazy, and frankly did not make sense. However, they already spent 12 million dollars on the movie. Whether or not the movie was going to be a success or a failure, it was too late now.
In 1994, when Jim was 34 years old, the movie was released to the public. It went on to make 72 million dollars – a huge success at that time for a comedy. At age 34, this allowed him to go on make a succession 22 movies, including receiving Golden Globe Award for best actor in Motion Picture Drama, The Truman Show. His latest upcoming film, which is in the process of making, Where’s Waldo should be coming out in 2010 and 2011. Jim is 48 years old today.
This is how far Jim Carrey has come. It was his desperation that in life that kept him going, and kept him interesting. In an interview, a person asked him:
You have such an incredibly talent for physical comedy. Where did that come from?
Desperation, desperation. I had a sick mom and I wanted to make her feel better… yeah. Basically I think… you know, she laid in bed and you know… took a lot of pain pills, and I wanted to make her feel better. And I used to go in there and do impressions of praying mantises, and weird things, and whatever I’d bounce off the walls, and throw myself down the stairs to make her feel better. That’s it.
Is the anger and the anxiety you battled all these years… is that a source for your comedy do you think?
Yeah, it’s… yeah absolutely. People need motivation to do anything. I don’t think human beings learn anything without desperation. Desperation is a necessary ingredient to learning anything or creating anything, period. If you ain’t desperate at some point, you ain’t interesting.
This was true as there was no other option for him. He remembers the times of his mother laying on the bed taking pain pills, his dad losing his dream as a saxophonist, him being completely avoided in school, him having to work as a janitor, and their entire family having to sleep and live in the back of a van.
He could of let all of this pain make him depressed, but he chose to stay desperate and have positive attitude throughout most of his life. He knew he could use his talented humor to cheer his family members when times were down; furthermore he could his humor to make other people laugh. Maybe he was blessed with this talent when he was born, and maybe he was not.
But it didn’t matter. He had already felt enough pain that he could feel in his entire life; he would use whatever talent he was given with to make sure that he would succeed in the end. Because there no point to risk starving to death and surrender, he just kept chasing after his dreams, even when he had nothing, because for him, there was nothing to lose. That was what made him who he is today – that crazy, wacky, loony person who strives day in and day out just to give us a smile, a chuckle, or a laugh.
“My focus is to forget the pain of life. Forget the pain, mock the pain, reduce it. And laugh.”