Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Ryan Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Frost
Dumb and Dumber, The Mask, Ace Ventura Series
Currently Known For:
Actor, Comedian, Impressionist, Screenwriter, Musician, Producer, and Painter
1990s - Present
January 17, 1962
Dumb and Dumber, The Mask, Ace Ventura Series
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“I really believe in the philosophy that you create your own universe. I’m just trying to create a good one for myself.” If you grew up in the 1990s, chances are you might be a fan of the legendary Jim Carrey, a comedian who has built his reputation around his over-the-top slapstick style of physical comedy. Carrey first rose to fame on the popular sketch comedy series In Living Color from 1990 to 1995, which further launched his career on the silver screen as he starred in hits like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, The Mask, Liar Liar, and Batman Forever. By the end of the 1990s, Carrey proved his talents as a more serious actor with leading roles in The Truman Show and in the Andy Kaufman biographical flick, Man on the Moon, the latter of which earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. Over the last few years, he’s reprised his role in Dumb and Dumber To but has focused most of his energy on his career as a painter, leaving many to wonder if Carrey has given up on life in the spotlight altogether?
Canadian Roots, Eh!
“My report card always said, ‘Jim finishes first and then disrupts the other students.’” The youngest of four children born to a homemaker and an accountant by day and musician by night, James Eugene Carrey came into this world on January 17, 1962 in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. From a very early age, Carrey had a knack for entertaining and often made his friends and family laugh by impersonating others, especially famous celebrities. In fact, he was so confident in his talents that he wrote a letter to Carol Burnett on the Carol Burnett Show at 10 years old asking to be on the show. Although he received a standard form letter reply, he was thrilled and knew his future was on the stage.
Often focusing more on his impressions than his academics at Aldershot High School in Burlington, Ontario, Carrey knew a career in comedy was a long shot and settled on working in the local steel mill if his foray into comedy didn’t work out. However, his father was determined to help his son achieve his dreams and took the young comedian to Toronto where he made his stage debut at the Yuk Yuk Comedy Club. Despite his confidence, Carrey’s performance bombed as he and his father returned home with Carrey ready to give up on his career entirely partly because of his failure and partly because of his family’s poor financial status.
Luckily, things improved for the family financially and Carrey rekindled his confidence and could afford to return to the stage where he perfected his routine and soon won over audiences during open mic nights. Building his reputation, he was paid to perform and, according to the Toronto Star, was considered a “genuine star coming to life.” While the review was a true mark of accomplishment, even bigger things were on the horizon when comedian Rodney Dangerfield caught Carrey’s act and invited him to open his tour. From there, the sky was the limit as Carrey opened for Dangerfield in Las Vegas and never looked back!
After gaining valuable experience on the road, Carrey was determined to set out on his own and made the big move to Hollywood where he dreamed of performing at the famous club, The Comedy Store. Doing exactly that, he became a regular at the club and, by 1982, made his first television appearance on An Evening at the Improv. The following year, he guest-starred on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which further skyrocketed him to fame as he caught the attention of NBC and was invited to audition for Saturday Night Live. Although he lost the spot, Carrey’s career was on fire as he accepted a regular role on the ensemble comedy television series, In Living Color.
Rising to Fame in the 1990s
Having already snagged minor roles in films like Once Bitten, Peggy Sue Got Married, The Dead Pool, and Earth Girls are Easy, Carrey’s film career flourished in the 1990s, specifically in 1994 when he was cast as the star of three hit films—Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber, the latter of which grossed over $270 million at box offices worldwide. The Mask was also incredibly well received and earned Carrey his first Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor, but it was his paycheck for Dumb and Dumber that truly signified he’d finally made it to the big leagues.
“When the first big paycheck with Dumb and Dumber hit, I went, ‘Gosh, I wonder if this will affect my performance. Will I do a take and think, ‘That was worth $7 million?’ But that never happened,” Carrey said of his early success. “If anything, it made me rebel against that thing when people who get rich start playing it safe.”
Refusing to play it safe, Carrey was one of the biggest actors in Hollywood by 1995 and proved he could tackle any role after he was cast as The Riddler in Batman Forever. He then reprised his role in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, which earned $212 million worldwide and set a new opening weekend record with over $40 million in earnings. Although his career faltered in 1996 after critics panned his performance in The Cable Guy, he bounced back stronger than ever in the critically acclaimed Liar Liar in a performance that earned him a second Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor as well as praise from The New York Times. “Well into his tumultuous career, Mr. Carrey finally turns up in a straightforward comic vehicle,” critic Janet Maslin wrote, “and the results are much wilder and funnier than this mundane material should have allowed.”
Toward the end of the decade, Carrey was ready to prove his talents as a more serious actor and took home his first Golden Globe Award for his performance in The Truman Show, which grossed $264 million globally. The following year earned him similar success as Carrey starred as comedian Andy Kaufman in the critically praised Man on the Moon, which earned him a second Golden Globe Award as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Actor. During this time, Carrey also filmed Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, a documentary about Carrey remaining in character as Kaufman throughout the production of Man on the Moon. For Carrey, the documentary marked a huge personal struggle as he later admitted that he no longer recognized himself.
“I’ve gone further and further from my so-called self,” he said in a 2017 interview shortly after the documentary was released. “I didn’t get back. I did get back to understanding what Jim Carrey is supposed to do and who he’s supposed to be, and then shortly after that the deconstruction of that started to occur, and it’s been occurring more and more ever since. Not that there isn’t a player on the game grid—there definitely is an avatar, and he gets to dress up in fancy clothes and go and act like a personality, and that’s not who I am.”
A Professional Shift: Later Work
While Carrey continued to work in the new millennium, he never enjoyed the same level of accomplishment he found in the 1990s despite starring in box office successes like Me, Myself & Irene and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He joined Jennifer Aniston and Morgan Freeman in the 2003 hit comedy Bruce Almighty and turned heads for his performance the following year in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. By the middle of the decade, he found a steady rhythm with Horton Hears a Who, Yes Man, and I Love You Phillip Morris before taking on multiple characters in Disney’s 3D animated film, A Christmas Carol, where he voiced Ebenezer Scrooge as well as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.
Over the last decade, Carrey has continued to give his fans more of what they want with films like The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Dumb and Dumber To, but there’s been an obvious shift in recent years with where his focus lies. No longer desperate to prove himself as a comedian and now embracing his long-term battle with depression, the 56-year-old Carrey is even more selective of his work today as he focuses his talents behind the scenes. In 2015, he produced the Rubble Kings documentary and, two years later, served as the executive producer of the Showtime dramedy, I’m Dying Up Here. Before Netflix picked up the Jim & Andy documentary in 2017, Carrey added another comedy series into the mix, Kidding, which pushed him even further into the television world.
“I think it’s great and beautiful and bizarre and everything at once,” Carrey said of his return to television. “I can’t remember a busier time than right now. I'm so gratified and stoked about I’m Dying Up Here—I think it’s a beautiful show and I love everyone involved, and I’m honored to bring that era to people in a way that’s fairly accurate. And Michel Gondry—being in a creative space with Michel again is a really exhilarating idea. I said to him, ‘If we can do something revolutionary, I’m in.’ So, I’m going to allow whatever happens to happen and try to keep fear out of the mix.”
Carrey—The Comedian & Painter
In 2017, Carrey turned heads when he returned to film with his documentary, I Needed Color, which shares his lifelong passion for art and his new career as a painter. “People were wondering where I went,” Carrey said of his return. “Creativity just kind of choregraphs the dance for me—it sends me the scripts I need when the scripts I need to do are important, and when I’m not vibing with anything, it makes something else happen. That was kind of it; there was a lot of exploding in my life. My journey was exploding, and I needed to express it, and I needed to express every bit of it.”
For Carrey, that expression comes through painting as he returned to his art studio for the first time in late 2010 where he rekindled his passion for the canvas. “I’ve always drawn and sketched and done cartoons, and I find myself doing that still—I’m still an eight-year-old in my room,” Carrey admits. “It’s a wonderful feeling to make something out of nothing, and it took me over for a long time; it’s another appendage now, and a huge one. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not covered in paint or something from doing sculptures… It’s all about that for me now—being completely involved, heart, mind, and soul. Sometimes it’s art, sometimes it’s performance, and sometimes it’s just talking to someone, but there’s very little preparation anymore in anything. I allow things to happen and then they tell me what they meant later.”
Transforming his house into an artist’s haven filled with creative works, Carrey’s own pieces—especially his political cartoons of President Donald Trump and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee as well as his portraits of Jesus—have turned heads. But, that’s not all Carrey has up his sleeve these days—he’s also working on a novel, which he promises won’t be like anything else on the market. “It’s going to be very special. I don’t want to drill down on exactly what it is, but I can tell you that it’s a completely original idea… it’s not going to be like anything anybody’s ever seen.”
So, how exactly does Carrey make time for everything? “I tend to stay up late, not because I’m partying but because it’s the only time of day when I’m alone and don’t have to be performing,” Carrey says. As for painting, he wakes up early to work on his art but, sometimes, he never even makes it to bed because he’s too excited to sleep. But, that’s exactly where Carrey loves to be. “It’s a crazy, amazing space right now. I am the space in which it’s all happening and it’s truly wonderful.”