Jim Carrey: The Joker is Wild: The Trials and Triumphs of Jim Carrey

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This is the absorbing, touching story of a lonely boy from a troubled family who found the secret of making people laugh - and dreamed of becoming a comedy star.

When Jim Carrey's father (himself a frustrated performer) lost his job, the whole homeless family was enlisted to work as night cleaners at a factory in exchange for lodging in a strange suburb. Scrubbing washrooms by night turned Jim Carrey into a desperate and angry school dropout, ...

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Overview

This is the absorbing, touching story of a lonely boy from a troubled family who found the secret of making people laugh - and dreamed of becoming a comedy star.

When Jim Carrey's father (himself a frustrated performer) lost his job, the whole homeless family was enlisted to work as night cleaners at a factory in exchange for lodging in a strange suburb. Scrubbing washrooms by night turned Jim Carrey into a desperate and angry school dropout, and made Jim determined to succeed in a new life.

Jim developed a series of celebrity impressions that led to his comedy club breakthrough when he was 19. But his drive for the big time took him to Los Angeles, where he scuffled in comedy clubs and then landed a role in the hip TV series "In Living Color." That paved the way for a phenomenal movie breakthrough with the surprise hit "Ace Ventura", "Pet Detective." More hits followed: "Mask," "Dumb and
Dumber" and "Liar, Liar."

Now, after his dramatic performance in "The Truman Show," Jim Carrey's career is taking an intriguing new direction. His role as the late comedian Andy Kaufman in the forthcoming "Man In The Moon" is already being described as Oscar material this March. Hilarious and poignant, Jim Carrey: The Joker Is Wild tells for the first time the full, astounding inside story of Jim Carrey's bumpy rise to stardom.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Sun-Times - Paige Smoron
The reader earns a new found respect for what it took this comedian-turned-actor to become a household name.
Toronto Star - Leatrice Spevak
Deliciously dark ... a must-read for Carrey-holics.
Globe and Mail - Glenda Fordham
With the author's obvious access to so many of Carrey's peers from this early period, readers are given backstage passes to witness the genesis of his career.
Calgary Herald - James Muretich
[Knelman] has pieced together a telling portrait, and written it in a style that's accessible and articulate. He clearly appreciates great comedy and its often troubled source. He recognizes that Carrey's rubber face has always been a life raft floating on the surface of his difficult personal life.
National Post - Deirdre Dolan
The Joker is Wild digs deeper. For Carrey fans, the most compelling parts of Knelman's book will be glimpses into the booming late-'80s stand-up scene in Los Angeles. During this time Carrey was trying to shed his clean-cut image and stretch creatively, frequently performing alongside bad boy comics like Sam Kinison and Rodney Dangerfield.
London Free Press - Wayne Newton
For Carrey ... it's never really been about the money. It's about comedy, fame - and demons. That's the story told by Martin Knelman in The Joker's Wild, a carefully researched new biography on Carrey.
Paige Smoron
The reader earns a new found respect for what it took this comedian-turned-actor to become a household name.
Chicago Sun-Times
Paige Smoron
The reader earns a new found respect for what it took this comedian-turned-actor to become a household name.
Chicago Sun-Times, March 26, 2000
Susan H. Levine
The fast moving, quote-filled book will engage fans and readers interested in Carrey and show business.
VOYA Reviews, October 2000
VOYA
Survivor of a tough, poverty-stricken childhood, a ninth grade dropout, and blessed and cursed by the dreams of a frustrated performer father, Jim Carrey has achieved incredible success. From teenage singing impressionist—his first public performance was a humiliating disaster—to satirist on the television show In Living Color and popular movie star, Carrey has struggled and worked extremely hard, reinventing himself when failure loomed. His work has demonstrated a childlike goofiness, rage stemming from his childhood, incredible creativity, and serious acting talent. Canadian-born Carrey has achieved stardom in Los Angeles, been married twice, and has a teenage daughter. Because the book details Carrey's struggles, there is much behind-the-scenes information. Readers will learn what it is like to become a comedian—including the difficulties associated with tryouts, developing a routine, getting exposure, finding agents and the subsequent problems in maintaining relationships with them, dealing with success/failure and audience responses, and coping with changes in one's personal life. Knelman, an "award-winning cultural journalist, and former film columnist" has written a detailed, laudatory account of Carrey's life. As Knelman states in the introduction, "For my money, Jim Carrey is the greatest comedian of his era." He ends the book talking about "the emergence of Jim Carrey as the world's favorite movie star." Within the pages there is much praise of and admiration for Carrey. This fast-moving, quote-filled book will engage fans and readers interested in Carrey and show business. Index. Photos. Source Notes. Filmography. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P S A/YA (Better than most,marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2000, Firefly Books, 230p, $16.95 Trade pb. Ages 16 to Adult. Reviewer: Susan H. Levine

SOURCE: VOYA, October 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 4)

Library Journal
Despite two unauthorized biographies, the inspired star of Man on the Moon and The Truman Show is still a mystery to his fans. Knelman does a good job of recounting the circumstances of Carrey's rise to fame--from the times when money was so scarce that his family was forced to live in a camper to his $20-million-dollar salary for the upcoming Grinch Who Stole Christmas. The star's life is played out here, with parents, agents, producers, and friends making appearances. Unfortunately, Carrey's own voice is missing. Like Roy Trakin's Jim Carrey: Unmasked (St. Martin's, 1995), this biography doesn't give a real sense of what the star is like--which, given Carrey's private nature, may always be so. Nevertheless, fans of the comic actor will want to read Knelman's in-depth account as the best snapshot available of this enigmatic genius. Recommended for all popular and film collections.--Kelli Perkins, Herrick D.L, Holland, MI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781552095355
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 3/4/2000
  • Pages: 230
  • Product dimensions: 6.01 (w) x 9.03 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Knelman is an award-winning cultural journalist, who was an influential film columnist for the "Toronto Star." His most recent book was a biography of John Candy.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter Twelve Between Projects

Within the small circle of comedians who hung out together at the Comedy Store and often stayed up most of the night after the club closed, none had a greater influence on Jim Carrey than the dark and daring Sam Kinison. A former Pentecostal preacher, Kinison had begun his career touring churches all over the United States with his brothers — only to discover that his real pulpit was in the comedy clubs that had begun springing up by the late 1970s. Kinison had already become a fixture on the L.A. comedy scene by the time Carrey arrived in 1983. His rants about sex, religion and politics had made him a legend among comedy-world insiders, even though he was considered so far from the mainstream that Mitzi Shore would always schedule Sam to appear last, after midnight, when the kind of customers who would be horrified had already gone home, leaving only a smattering of hard-core adventurers seeking something wild.

Sam's fans adored his trademark style of delivery. A rather bulky, rumpled-looking fellow, he would begin talking slowly and quietly, wearing an oversize overcoat and a beret, possibly dropping a few quotes from the Bible while warming up. All the while he would pace the stage menacingly, like a caged lion making a final attempt to control his temper. Then his raspy voice would build to a screaming crescendo, as his rage finally exploded. As often as not, the target would be women who were doing him wrong or driving him crazy. His best-known rant was known as "the bitch from hell." Some people found Kinison frightening and deeply unpleasant, but there was also a streak of genuine brilliance. Beyond the politically incorrect cracks and the torrents of abuse, his fans glimpsed something more: a breathtaking honesty about his own failings, appetites and hypocrisies; a refusal to charm the audience; and a readiness to send up his own anger as a kind of campy excess.

Eight years older than Carrey, Kinison became a kind of mentor to the kid from Canada, even though Carrey's sweet showbiz impressions were light years from Kinison's corrosive social satire. That was something Sam would kid Jim about. Unlike Andrew Dice Clay — who became prominent around the same time, and truly was vicious — Sam could be completely charming. He had charisma, and he could win people over. In the early years of their friendship, Carrey worshipped Kinison without making any moves to be a follower of the gospel according to Sam, either in his personal life or in his act. Offstage, Sam could be thoughtful and charitable, but he was also reckless and self-destructive. Hard drinking, drugs and partying-till-you-drop were all part of his scene.

It was when Jim returned to the Comedy Store after Duck Factory, Once Bitten and Peggy
Sue Got Married
that the influence of Sam Kinison began to show up in his performances. Among those who had a close-up view of that transition was Kelly Moran, a former telephone company technician from Texas. Moran was already dabbling in comedy and would later become a full-time comedian, but his job at the Comedy Store from mid- 1985 to late i1987 did not involve being funny. Four nights a week he played the piano — while getting an education by watching an array of comics perform.

While making music at the Comedy Store, Moran picked up a realistic overview of the comedy world. There was a lot of talk about the legendary stars who had once been unknowns working the room — Robin Williams, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, among others. But L.A. was a town of ten-minute appearances, and for every star of the future discovered by Mitzi there were scores destined for careers of relative obscurity - comics who would never get that big break in film or TV, never cross over to that next level of success. Instead they would go on, year after year, spending half their time on the road playing towns less glamorous than L.A. and New York, getting paid badly while becoming less hopeful as the years went by, and less capable of connecting with increasingly young audiences. Some of them would give up and drift away from the comedy business altogether; some would destroy themselves with drugs and booze; and a few lucky ones would segue into lucrative gigs on the corporate circuit, or a long-term development deal writing for film or TV that would allow them a measure of comfort and security that still fell short of fame or stardom.

When Moran first knew Jim Carrey, he would often see him at the club in the company of Melissa Womer, an aspiring actress from Pennsylvania who had taken a job as a waitress there. This wasn't her only job; she also worked as a masseuse at a health club. In the comedy world, it's standard practice for comedians to date waitresses working at the club, so no one was surprised about Jim and Melissa — although people were aware that Jim's ex-girlfriend was a famous rock star, while his new girlfriend was somewhat less glamorous. Kelly once made the mistake of asking Jim about Linda Ronstadt, because he was married to a singer who was a big Ronstadt fan. Jim was very guarded and made it clear that he didn't want to talk about her.

"I'd heard a lot about Jim," Moran says. "Then after I met him I was a witness to a turning point in his career, when he was abandoning his impressionist act. He was going through a very dark period."

In fact, Carrey was having a nervous breakdown. Having sent Percy and Kay [his parents] back to Canada, Jim was still trying to come to terms with the conflicting feelings he had about his parents. He had never stopped trying to please them, and often talked about them with affection. But he also saw them as the cause of a deep malaise within himself that no amount of manic comedy could expunge. This conflict found expression in disturbing paintings with a touch of Dali-like surrealism. Jim's paintings depicted everything from stuffed animals to Percy looking at his watch while holding a gun in his hand.

When Jim's sister Rita came to Los Angeles for a visit, she took a look at the paintings and asked Jim: "Are you okay?"

To which he retorted: "Yeah, I'm okay. I have an outlet. What do you do?

"Years later, Carrey explained how he was influenced by Kinison's no-holds-barred style. "Sam made me sit back and say, 'Here's a guy who is really doing something different and challenging the audience.' Night after night I saw him chase people out of the Comedy Store. And I thought, if you're willing to take a risk like that, then you're going to do something different with your art."

Inspired by Sam, Jim decided to try playing without a net. At this point, he had no money, he had no job, and he had no act. But he had become aware of the stigma of being an impressionist. You were considered a kind of parasite, living vicariously on the personalities of the celebrities you portrayed. Carrey wanted to be an original the way Sam was an original. The difference between his old act and his new act was the anger he was now expressing. As he later observed, "When I went back to stand-up it was with what nobody wanted me to do, which was ideas."

According to Moran, the transition didn't happen all at once. "Jim would bomb 70 percent of the time. He would get up with no script and free-associate; he would call it 'being in the moment.' And most nights the audience wasn't buying it. On a slow night, he wouldn't care if the audience wasn't going along with him. But on some nights, I would see him revert to his impressionist act, just to avoid a complete disaster. Let's say it's a Friday night and there are a couple of hundred people in the room. You don't want to empty the room; it's not a good thing to do. And if he could see his material wasn't going over, then just to hold the crowd and save his ego, he would slip in his impressions."

But Moran also observed some amazing performances that the public didn't get a chance

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Hooked
  3. The Comedy Gene
  4. Hard Times
  5. Joining the Club
  6. Funny Business
  7. Breakthrough
  8. On the Road
  9. At the Comedy Store
  10. Quack, Quack
  11. The Party's Over
  12. Bloodlettings
  13. Between Projects
  14. The Comeback Kid
  15. That Crazy White Guy
  16. Ace in the Hole
  17. Fred Astaire on Acid
  18. Rich and Famous
  19. Trouble Temporary
  20. Life at the Top
  21. Shooting for the Moon

    Filmography
    Sources
    Acknowledgments
    Index


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First Chapter

Chapter Twelve: BETWEEN PROJECTS

Within the small circle of comedians who hung out together at the Comedy Store and often stayed up most of the night after the club closed, none had a greater influence on Jim Carrey than the dark and daring Sam Kinison. A former Pentecostal preacher, Kinison had begun his career touring churches all over the United States with his brothers -- only to discover that his real pulpit was in the comedy clubs that had begun springing up by the late 1970s. Kinison had already become a fixture on the L.A. comedy scene by the time Carrey arrived in 1983. His rants about sex, religion and politics had made him a legend among comedy-world insiders, even though he was considered so far from the mainstream that Mitzi Shore would always schedule Sam to appear last, after midnight, when the kind of customers who would be horrified had already gone home, leaving only a smattering of hard-core adventurers seeking something wild.

Sam's fans adored his trademark style of delivery. A rather bulky, rumpled-looking fellow, he would begin talking slowly and quietly, wearing an oversize overcoat and a beret, possibly dropping a few quotes from the Bible while warming up. All the while he would pace the stage menacingly, like a caged lion making a final attempt to control his temper. Then his raspy voice would build to a screaming crescendo, as his rage finally exploded. As often as not, the target would be women who were doing him wrong or driving him crazy. His best-known rant was known as "the bitch from hell." Some people found Kinison frightening and deeply unpleasant, but there was also a streak of genuine brilliance. Beyond the politically incorrect cracks and the torrents of abuse, his fans glimpsed something more: a breathtaking honesty about his own failings, appetites and hypocrisies; a refusal to charm the audience; and a readiness to send up his own anger as a kind of campy excess.

Eight years older than Carrey, Kinison became a kind of mentor to the kid from Canada, even though Carrey's sweet showbiz impressions were light years from Kinison's corrosive social satire. That was something Sam would kid Jim about. Unlike Andrew Dice Clay -- who became prominent around the same time, and truly was vicious -- Sam could be completely charming. He had charisma, and he could win people over. In the early years of their friendship, Carrey worshipped Kinison without making any moves to be a follower of the gospel according to Sam, either in his personal life or in his act. Offstage, Sam could be thoughtful and charitable, but he was also reckless and self-destructive. Hard drinking, drugs and partying-till-you-drop were all part of his scene.

It was when Jim returned to the Comedy Store after Duck Factory, Once Bitten and Peggy Sue Got Married that the influence of Sam Kinison began to show up in his performances. Among those who had a close-up view of that transition was Kelly Moran, a former telephone company technician from Texas. Moran was already dabbling in comedy and would later become a full-time comedian, but his job at the Comedy Store from mid- 1985 to late i1987 did not involve being funny. Four nights a week he played the piano -- while getting an education by watching an array of comics perform.

While making music at the Comedy Store, Moran picked up a realistic overview of the comedy world. There was a lot of talk about the legendary stars who had once been unknowns working the room -- Robin Williams, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, among others. But L.A. was a town of ten-minute appearances, and for every star of the future discovered by Mitzi there were scores destined for careers of relative obscurity - comics who would never get that big break in film or TV, never cross over to that next level of success. Instead they would go on, year after year, spending half their time on the road playing towns less glamorous than L.A. and New York, getting paid badly while becoming less hopeful as the years went by, and less capable of connecting with increasingly young audiences. Some of them would give up and drift away from the comedy business altogether; some would destroy themselves with drugs and booze; and a few lucky ones would segue into lucrative gigs on the corporate circuit, or a long-term development deal writing for film or TV that would allow them a measure of comfort and security that still fell short of fame or stardom.

When Moran first knew Jim Carrey, he would often see him at the club in the company of Melissa Womer, an aspiring actress from Pennsylvania who had taken a job as a waitress there. This wasn't her only job; she also worked as a masseuse at a health club. In the comedy world, it's standard practice for comedians to date waitresses working at the club, so no one was surprised about Jim and Melissa -- although people were aware that Jim's ex-girlfriend was a famous rock star, while his new girlfriend was somewhat less glamorous. Kelly once made the mistake of asking Jim about Linda Ronstadt, because he was married to a singer who was a big Ronstadt fan. Jim was very guarded and made it clear that he didn't want to talk about her.

"I'd heard a lot about Jim," Moran says. "Then after I met him I was a witness to a turning point in his career, when he was abandoning his impressionist act. He was going through a very dark period."

In fact, Carrey was having a nervous breakdown. Having sent Percy and Kay [his parents] back to Canada, Jim was still trying to come to terms with the conflicting feelings he had about his parents. He had never stopped trying to please them, and often talked about them with affection. But he also saw them as the cause of a deep malaise within himself that no amount of manic comedy could expunge. This conflict found expression in disturbing paintings with a touch of Dali-like surrealism. Jim's paintings depicted everything from stuffed animals to Percy looking at his watch while holding a gun in his hand.

When Jim's sister Rita came to Los Angeles for a visit, she took a look at the paintings and asked Jim: "Are you okay?"

To which he retorted: "Yeah, I'm okay. I have an outlet. What do you do?

"Years later, Carrey explained how he was influenced by Kinison's no-holds-barred style. "Sam made me sit back and say, 'Here's a guy who is really doing something different and challenging the audience.' Night after night I saw him chase people out of the Comedy Store. And I thought, if you're willing to take a risk like that, then you're going to do something different with your art."

Inspired by Sam, Jim decided to try playing without a net. At this point, he had no money, he had no job, and he had no act. But he had become aware of the stigma of being an impressionist. You were considered a kind of parasite, living vicariously on the personalities of the celebrities you portrayed. Carrey wanted to be an original the way Sam was an original. The difference between his old act and his new act was the anger he was now expressing. As he later observed, "When I went back to stand-up it was with what nobody wanted me to do, which was ideas."

According to Moran, the transition didn't happen all at once. "Jim would bomb 70 percent of the time. He would get up with no script and free-associate; he would call it 'being in the moment.' And most nights the audience wasn't buying it. On a slow night, he wouldn't care if the audience wasn't going along with him. But on some nights, I would see him revert to his impressionist act, just to avoid a complete disaster. Let's say it's a Friday night and there are a couple of hundred people in the room. You don't want to empty the room; it's not a good thing to do. And if he could see his material wasn't going over, then just to hold the crowd and save his ego, he would slip in his impressions."

But Moran also observed some amazing performances that the public didn't get a chance to see. Before the show went on, Carrey would do things onstage for just a few colleagues - Kellv, the waitresses, other comedians. First would come Carrey's warning: "You're about to see the scariest thing you've ever seen in showbiz." Then Kelly would be asked to play something eerie on the piano. And suddenly Jim would pop up in a chair smoking a cigarette, smiling broadly, and proclaim: "I'm in between projects now."

That was his satiric take on where he was at the moment. "And he was sharing it with a few people who would understand it," Moran recalls. "I would see a free-spirited, completely brilliant show. Jim's commitment to what he was doing was so intense it wouldn't matter to him if there were only three people in the room."

According to Moran, Jim looked for a while like someone who was not taking care of himself, and his wardrobe seemed to consist of not much more than six T-shirts. But everyone knew Jim was going through a bad period, and he got a lot of support from people at the Comedy Store, including Mitzi. Some thought it was Jim's neediness that drew him to Melissa -- whose Cybill-Shepherd all-American-girl looks were offset by a very strong, take-control kind of personality.

"As soon as I saw him, he seemed like family," Melissa told a magazine writer. When she first encountered him at the Comedy Store, she was struck by the brilliance of even his offhand repartee with the other comics. Later she watched him sink into a depression. As she explained to Fred Schruers of Rolling Stone a decade later, Jim was sometimes so dejected that be would sit on the floor and howl. "I would sit up counseling him until four or five in the morning on many, many nights," she recalled. "At night he has to face himself, and he so does not want to, that the adrenaline rushes up in him."

It was the adrenaline that got him back onto the stage. And it was wrestling with demons that drew him to Sam's dark, visionary comedy. Kinison still had his entourage of what Moran calls "bad-boy, rock-n-roll comics" who were very much in evidence at the late-night revels. People might hang around the Comedy Store after closing, until 2:00 or 2:30 a.m., then move to a spot named Ben Frank's or to Mitzi's house. Certain women -- dancers and strippers -- would join the group night after night. A woman who had been on the arm of one comedian on Tuesday might turn up on the arm of another comedian on Wednesday.

What made this an unpleasant time in Kelly's recollection was the overriding tension created by cocaine. "I didn't like drugs, but most people at the time were doing coke," he explains. "Jim wasn't, and that made him unusual. I think Jim had too many issues going on inside him to work them out with booze or drugs. Jim and Sam enjoyed each other's company -- they genuinely made each other laugh -- but Jim didn't follow Sam into a dangerous drug place. Probably the biggest influence that Sam had on Jim was in feeling free to talk about taboo subjects like incest and necrophilia."

Unlike Sam and Jim, Kelly felt his own upbringing was too conventional to provide the kind of material that works in a comedy club. "My childhood was too normal. I'm not fucked up enough," he says, only half jokingly. From the viewpoint of other comedians, one of the qualities that made Jim enviable was that he had such huge personal issues to work with.

"Jim was not very educated, not what you would call book-smart says Moran "but he was quite insightful. At first he seemed sort of embarrassed about having worked at Titan Wheels and lived in a camper van. But he learned to talk about it onstage, and that was a big breakthrough. He was eager to learn and grow creatively. There was a part of him that was still a frightened child, because of his background. It was through doing his free-associating act that he was able to confront his fears. He had an intense kind of concentration. His commitment to a character was truly awesome. And I think the reason was that capturing those characters so intensely was his way of escaping reality. It was his way of finding a release from his demons."

In fact, the intensity could be expressed in a startling way onstage. Jim Carrey was the only comedian that Kelly Moran has to shed tears onstage. It didn't happen all the time, but Kelly saw Jim cry about a dozen times.

Perhaps Sam Kinison's influence on Jim could be most clearly observed in a routine Jim sometimes did about the horrors of contemporary dating. He developed a routine about a man whose penis was leading him astray. Jim had a kind of posture that illustrated the point. He would manage a contortion which allowed him to move across the stage while his back appeared to be horizontal, parallel to the floor -- like a man who was reluctantly being dragged along by a runaway penis. Then he would say something like: "Hi! My penis and I would like to meet you."

Some nights Carrey would stare defiantly at the crowd and ramble on aimlessly while the audience stared back, silent and perplexed. Sometimes Carrey would do bizarre stunts to demonstrate what it felt like to be dying onstage. More than once he acted the part of a cockroach, crawling across the stage and looking for a crevice where he could take shelter. Sometimes when he bombed he would simply sit on the floor and remark, as if in private conversation with Melissa, "Yeah, honey, pretty soon we're going to be on Easy Street." Then he would start crying.

Carrey's most dramatic feat of creative self-effacement occurred the night he decided to take refuge inside the grand piano that Kelly was playing. The room was about three-quarters full that night, and Jim was delivering one of his rambling, being-in-the-moment monologues.

"He was bombing," Moran recalls. "He was talking in non sequiturs. He was being so far out there that the audience couldn't follow him. There were really only a few chuckles."

That's when Jim decided to express his mortification with a bizarre metaphor. Instead of simply cutting his routine short and leaving the stage, he took refuge inside the piano.

"The piano had a cast-iron frame," Moran explains. "Jim was inside, lying on top of the frame, with his heels on one part of it and his butt on another."

It wasn't easy for Kelly to continue, because Jim's body was muffling the strings of the piano. The comedian who followed Jim, Dom Roland, found it hard to win the attention of the audience; people were more interested in what Jim was doing in the piano. He implored Jim to come out.

"Leave me alone," Jim replied. "I'm just lying in the piano."

"How long are you going to stay in there?" Kelly whispered

"A while longer," Jim replied.

Each comedian appeared for about ten minutes, and Jim stayed inside the piano through two entire acts, emerging after almost half an hour. He climbed out and walked off the stage slowly.

On March 28, 1987, Jim Carrey ceased to be one of the Comedy Store's most eligible bachelors. He and Melissa were married in Santa Monica. It was an outdoor, New Age ceremony, and Melissa recalled it as an almost perfect day. At sunset the couple wound up crying with happiness.

The following September their daughter Jane was born. Money was tight, and Melissa continued holding two jobs into the eighth month of the pregnancy. Jim was overcome with paternal pride and became a very active and involved father. For a while he led a very domestic life. Despite his Catholic background, he would accompany Melissa to their local Presbyterian church, and even had lunch with the minister.

It might have seemed that Jim bad moved into a cozy, settled-down lifestyle, but he was still dreaming of bigger things. He had a ritual of driving up the long and winding road to the top of Mulholland Drive, where he could look down on all of Los Angeles. The journey represented his ascent to the peaks of Hollywood stardom.

Remembering the conversations about goal-setting he'd had years ago with Ron Scribner at the Café on the Park in Toronto, Jim wrote a check to himself, dated several years in the future. The amount payable to Jim Carrey "for services rendered" was $10 million. It was a bet he was having with himself about the future. He hung onto the check for several years, determined that one day he would be able to cash it.

Copyright © 1999 Martin Knelman. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means without prior written permission from Firefly Books.

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Preface

INTRODUCTION

When he was a schoolboy in Burlington, Ontario, the other kids counted on Jim Carrey's boisterous shenanigans to provide a break from classroom routine. Many years later, after a dizzying series of career advances, setbacks, comebacks and breakthroughs, it's still childlike goofiness that defines Carrey's special appeal. Carrey is a daredevil; he takes huge, risky leaps in both the physical and the creative sense. Even after becoming one of the world's biggest movie stars, he has retained a childlike eagerness to astonish the audience. He's always trying to confound our expectations, to make us gasp. Carrey gets high from playing without a net, and his ecstasy is contagious.

Carrey's career has been built on much more than juvenile behavior. It began with instinct and talent, which he honed single-mindedly for years. But if Carrey's success is the result of craftsmanship and hard work, there's something else that helps explain his bond with the audience. It's the fierce hunger that comes from a desperate past.

Throughout his surprisingly varied career — first as a singing impressionist on the stand-up comedy circuit, later as a brilliant satirist on the sketch-comedy TV series In Living Color, and more recently as the star of phenomenally popular movies Carrey's unrestrained, hyperactive style of comedy has spoken to those of us who have never stopped craving disruptions and distractions. At his uninhibited best, he brings out the kid in everyone, defying all demands for responsible, adult behavior and leaving audiences in a state of liberated delirium.

Many other contemporary comedians have been successful doing childish routines, but no one taps our experience of childhood as richly and deeply as Carrey. It helps that approaching middle age he still has the physical charm and energy of an overgrown kid. His six-foot-two frame isn't quite as skinny as it used to be, but his body is still a wind-up toy capable of delightful contortions, as if he were made of Silly Putty. And when Carrey flashes his boyish grin, his teeth take on a life of their own, like one of the effects in a Victorian pop-up book.

No wonder it was six-year-olds who made Ace Ventura, Pet Detective a surprise hit. In The Mask, Carrey's genius for childish fantasy reached a peak when he became a whirling, manic, live-action cartoon character. And in Dumb and Dumber his portrayal of a well-meaning moron was touching as well as funny because he was able to suggest a vulnerable child in a grown man's body. Carrey was turning infantile regression into an art form.

Still, Carrey is by nature restless, and he has never been content to repeat himself. It was Woody Allen who remarked that as long as you're doing comedy you're sitting at the children's table, and in The Truman Show Carrey seemed to be trying to change the seating plan. Yet even in this restrained, self-consciously serious movie, Carrey gave the material some emotional power by making the oppressed hero seem like a lonely child surrounded by insensitive adults incapable of satisfying his needs.

For my money, Jim Carrey is the greatest comedian of his era. You have to go all the way back to the great silent clowns, Buster Keaton and Charles Chaplin, to find his peers in physical comedy. There's a transcendent, celebratory quality about the way his gangly, goofily contorted frame bounces around in defiance of natural law. Yet Jim Carrey is anything but silent. His amazing gift for parody and lampoon — capable of interrupting a movie at any moment, like a burst of random channel-hopping - links some of his current movies to his early days a singing impressionist. And Carrey combines the manic energy of a cartoon creature with the surest instinct for inspired mayhem since the Marx Brothers. The plots of his movies are often forgettable; their function is to provide an excuse to let Carrey run wild. And when he does, it's a holiday for the audience.

Still, I know people whose facial muscles tighten at the mere mention of Jim Carrey's name. They're quietly horrified that any educated person could actually enjoy the infantile shenanigans they associate with Carrey. To elitist snobs who recoil from slapstick stunts and bathroom humor, Carrey symbolizes the dumbing down of popular culture.

I don't share this attitude or have much sympathy for it, but I think I understand where it's coming from. A lot of educated moviegoers don't feel free to enjoy something unless it has certified respectability — and Jim Carrey doesn't have any intellectual or academic credentials. He's a grade nine dropout with no evident interest in world affairs or the arts. He has never been a social critic or even a satirist. Instead he's a miraculous reincarnation of a more traditional figure — the kind of great clown whose appeal crosses the usual dividing lines of social class and education.

Though Carrey may not be a deep thinker, he does have an intriguing dark side, with flashes of perversity and rage, which emerged in some of the sketches he did on TV and in his most daring departures from mainstream movies, The Cable Guy. This side of Carrey's talent gets an excuse to come out in Man on the Moon as he transforms himself into Andy Kaufman. In many ways Kaufman — a Jewish oddball from Long Island, New York — was the opposite of Carrey. The role takes Carrey into shadowy corridors he has never gone down before, and it gives him the kind of challenge that he now probably craves above all else. Yet when the performance is over, Jim Carrey returns to being who he is — which is infinitely more accessible, more versatile, more likeable and more popular than Andy Kaufman ever was or could be.

Exploring the life of Jim Carrey, I found it impossible not to be affected by the poignant details of a childhood marked by family crises. The story of his formative years has no doubt had the effect of a private movie constantly replayed in his head for decades and it's his response to those circumstances along with his phenomenal talent, that has catapulted Jim to stardom.

Comedy was Jim Carrey's only way out. it was the one thing a frightened little boy learned to do that offered hope and escape. Carrey's dramatic life story is filled with echoes of the great childhood myths — Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Great Expectations — but he has put his own spin on them and emerged as the hero. By making people laugh, he became a fixer. As a teenager, he was desperate for success, because it provided an alternative to anger and failure, and because, within the Carrey family, belief in Jim's talent had become a form of religion; his ascent to stardom represented a myth of the idealized afterlife that would cancel the pain.

Kelly Moran, who knew Carrey in his days at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, recognized the frightened child in Jim Carrey who was using humor as a way to fend off scary demons. Carrey's ability to tap into the feelings associated with his own personal history might explain why millions of fans feel a strong connection with him.

The secret of Jim Carrey's phenomenal achievement may be that he has never lost his connection with the magic power he discovered when he was very young, which gave him the saving grace of feeling special. Years later, he's still inviting other kids into his funhouse and taking them on a wild ride. By staying true to the yearnings, suffering and escape routes of his own childhood, he has made it possible for some of us in the audience to reconnect with a part of ourselves we thought we had put behind us a long, long time ago.

Read More Show Less

Introduction

INTRODUCTION

When he was a schoolboy in Burlington, Ontario, the other kids counted on Jim Carrey's boisterous shenanigans to provide a break from classroom routine. Many years later, after a dizzying series of career advances, setbacks, comebacks and breakthroughs, it's still childlike goofiness that defines Carrey's special appeal. Carrey is a daredevil; he takes huge, risky leaps in both the physical and the creative sense. Even after becoming one of the world's biggest movie stars, he has retained a childlike eagerness to astonish the audience. He's always trying to confound our expectations, to make us gasp. Carrey gets high from playing without a net, and his ecstasy is contagious.

Carrey's career has been built on much more than juvenile behavior. It began with instinct and talent, which he honed single-mindedly for years. But if Carrey's success is the result of craftsmanship and hard work, there's something else that helps explain his bond with the audience. It's the fierce hunger that comes from a desperate past.

Throughout his surprisingly varied career -- first as a singing impressionist on the stand-up comedy circuit, later as a brilliant satirist on the sketch-comedy TV series In Living Color, and more recently as the star of phenomenally popular movies Carrey's unrestrained, hyperactive style of comedy has spoken to those of us who have never stopped craving disruptions and distractions. At his uninhibited best, he brings out the kid in everyone, defying all demands for responsible, adult behavior and leaving audiences in a state of liberated delirium.

Many other contemporary comedians have been successful doing childish routines, but no onetaps our experience of childhood as richly and deeply as Carrey. It helps that approaching middle age he still has the physical charm and energy of an overgrown kid. His six-foot-two frame isn't quite as skinny as it used to be, but his body is still a wind-up toy capable of delightful contortions, as if he were made of Silly Putty. And when Carrey flashes his boyish grin, his teeth take on a life of their own, like one of the effects in a Victorian pop-up book.

No wonder it was six-year-olds who made Ace Ventura, Pet Detective a surprise hit. In The Mask, Carrey's genius for childish fantasy reached a peak when he became a whirling, manic, live-action cartoon character. And in Dumb and Dumber his portrayal of a well-meaning moron was touching as well as funny because he was able to suggest a vulnerable child in a grown man's body. Carrey was turning infantile regression into an art form.

Still, Carrey is by nature restless, and he has never been content to repeat himself. It was Woody Allen who remarked that as long as you're doing comedy you're sitting at the children's table, and in The Truman Show Carrey seemed to be trying to change the seating plan. Yet even in this restrained, self-consciously serious movie, Carrey gave the material some emotional power by making the oppressed hero seem like a lonely child surrounded by insensitive adults incapable of satisfying his needs.

For my money, Jim Carrey is the greatest comedian of his era. You have to go all the way back to the great silent clowns, Buster Keaton and Charles Chaplin, to find his peers in physical comedy. There's a transcendent, celebratory quality about the way his gangly, goofily contorted frame bounces around in defiance of natural law. Yet Jim Carrey is anything but silent. His amazing gift for parody and lampoon -- capable of interrupting a movie at any moment, like a burst of random channel-hopping - links some of his current movies to his early days a singing impressionist. And Carrey combines the manic energy of a cartoon creature with the surest instinct for inspired mayhem since the Marx Brothers. The plots of his movies are often forgettable; their function is to provide an excuse to let Carrey run wild. And when he does, it's a holiday for the audience.

Still, I know people whose facial muscles tighten at the mere mention of Jim Carrey's name. They're quietly horrified that any educated person could actually enjoy the infantile shenanigans they associate with Carrey. To elitist snobs who recoil from slapstick stunts and bathroom humor, Carrey symbolizes the dumbing down of popular culture.

I don't share this attitude or have much sympathy for it, but I think I understand where it's coming from. A lot of educated moviegoers don't feel free to enjoy something unless it has certified respectability -- and Jim Carrey doesn't have any intellectual or academic credentials. He's a grade nine dropout with no evident interest in world affairs or the arts. He has never been a social critic or even a satirist. Instead he's a miraculous reincarnation of a more traditional figure -- the kind of great clown whose appeal crosses the usual dividing lines of social class and education.

Though Carrey may not be a deep thinker, he does have an intriguing dark side, with flashes of perversity and rage, which emerged in some of the sketches he did on TV and in his most daring departures from mainstream movies, The Cable Guy. This side of Carrey's talent gets an excuse to come out in Man on the Moon as he transforms himself into Andy Kaufman. In many ways Kaufman -- a Jewish oddball from Long Island, New York -- was the opposite of Carrey. The role takes Carrey into shadowy corridors he has never gone down before, and it gives him the kind of challenge that he now probably craves above all else. Yet when the performance is over, Jim Carrey returns to being who he is -- which is infinitely more accessible, more versatile, more likeable and more popular than Andy Kaufman ever was or could be.

Exploring the life of Jim Carrey, I found it impossible not to be affected by the poignant details of a childhood marked by family crises. The story of his formative years has no doubt had the effect of a private movie constantly replayed in his head for decades and it's his response to those circumstances along with his phenomenal talent, that has catapulted Jim to stardom.

Comedy was Jim Carrey's only way out. it was the one thing a frightened little boy learned to do that offered hope and escape. Carrey's dramatic life story is filled with echoes of the great childhood myths -- Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Great Expectations -- but he has put his own spin on them and emerged as the hero. By making people laugh, he became a fixer. As a teenager, he was desperate for success, because it provided an alternative to anger and failure, and because, within the Carrey family, belief in Jim's talent had become a form of religion; his ascent to stardom represented a myth of the idealized afterlife that would cancel the pain.

Kelly Moran, who knew Carrey in his days at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, recognized the frightened child in Jim Carrey who was using humor as a way to fend off scary demons. Carrey's ability to tap into the feelings associated with his own personal history might explain why millions of fans feel a strong connection with him.

The secret of Jim Carrey's phenomenal achievement may be that he has never lost his connection with the magic power he discovered when he was very young, which gave him the saving grace of feeling special. Years later, he's still inviting other kids into his funhouse and taking them on a wild ride. By staying true to the yearnings, suffering and escape routes of his own childhood, he has made it possible for some of us in the audience to reconnect with a part of ourselves we thought we had put behind us a long, long time ago.

Read More Show Less

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2004

    Surviving Through Poverty

    Growing up in poverty is not an easy thing to do. You wouldn¿t think that very many, if any, ¿famous people¿ would grow up being poor. Well, Jim Carrey is one of many who did. Growing up for him wasn¿t easy at all. It was always in his genes to become a comedian. But his first gig didn¿t go as planned, it was very disappointing. He dropped out of school at the age of sixteen, trying to pursue his career in comedy. He continued to go to the club where he was made a fool of. His comedy breakthrough came at the age of 19. His big jump off was when he got a role in a TV series, ¿In Living Color.¿ This got him started for other movies such, as ¿Mask,¿ and ¿Liar, Liar.¿ As they all say, the rest is history. The thing that I liked most about Jim Carrey, was that he never gave up on his dream of being a comedian. At home, everybody thought that he was the funniest person ever. But when he went to his first gig at Yuk-Yuk¿s, it wasn¿t what he thought. It was a humiliating time for him. But he didn¿t let that stop him. When he was a little older, he went back to that club and performed again. He then became a regular there. This proves to show you that you should never give up on your dreams. Just because you have one bad night or act, it doesn¿t mean you have to give up on your dream. Something that disturbed me about Jim Carrey was that he dropped out of school. I mean, it was his own choice but then again it sends the wrong message to children. By him doing this, and kids reading it he is saying that you can still make even if you drop out of school. The thing is that we want kids to stay in school and get an education for themselves. But people make their own decisions in life. It is up to them and what they want to do in the future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2002

    JIM CARREY: THE BOOK IS GREAT

    This is the most inspiring book I ever read. Actually, it was just plain funny. This book tells of Jim's early days in little T.V. films and commercials, to the pop-culture star of America that he is today. This book has tons of pictures, which are all funny, and pages of information. I would reccomend this book to anyone who has any interest of Jim Carrey at all. Please read my other review on the book 'MY LIFE AS A 10 YEAR OLD BOY' by Nancy Cartwright, who is the voice of Bart Simpson

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2000

    the truth and nothing but the truth

    'The book of the centery.'I say. I think is the greatest yet, maybe because He inspired me to be an actor or not but this book is the best you should read it.

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