New Again: Jim Carrey

This week’s issue of The Hollywood Reporter contains an article about the “oddest careers in Hollywood.” The first career singled out is “lost-pet detective.” We don’t know where The Hollywood Reporter was in 1994 and 1995, but they clearly weren’t watching the seminal Jim Carrey comedy, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, or its somewhat troubling sequel Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. The job of “lost-pet detective” has been around for decades—in Hollywood fiction if not in reality.

When Interview first met Jim Carrey, he was a 22-year-old comedian with a television series on NBC. Featured in our December, 1984 issue as one of the “Seven Faces of Comedy” alongside Christopher Guest, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jay Leno, Carrey looked roughly the same as he does now. He was perhaps a little more affable.

The Seven Faces of Comedy: Jim Carrey
By Betsy Borns

At an age when many people reminisce about teething, 22-year-old Jim Carrey is already a seasoned professional. Along with a starring role in The Duck Factory (an NBC sitcom that aired last spring), this talented impressionist and comedian has appeared in several movies, many television shows, and an astounding number of clubs. Talk about making a good impression!

BETSY BORNS: You began headlining clubs in Canada while you were still a teenager. At what age did you begin performing?

JIM CARREY: I started doing comedy professionally when I was 17. I quit school in the middle of 10th grade so I could work at it full time.

BORNS: Did your parents mind?

CARREY: No. Our family was having financial problems then, so I had to work. I just decided to pull everything together at once.

BORNS: Was your childhood unusual in any way?

CARREY: Well, I spent most of my time in my room staring at a mirror. I never knew I was supposed to socialize. I just spent hours making faces at myself, having a good time.

BORNS: Are you moving more into personal humor, or are you staying with impressions only?

CARREY: I’m doing both, and the personal stuff is really helping me learn a lot about myself. I’m thinking back on all these old memories… like the time we were all living in a Volkswagon camper for sixth months—four of us! Lots of people say if you dredge too much stuff up, you’ll go crazy—”You’ll go insane!” But for a comedian, insanity is not a problem. It’s a goal.

BORNS: So with luck you’ll keep getting more and more insane?

CARREY: And I’ll go off the deep end and be brilliant! They’ll say, “He’s brilliant. It’s a fine line… Is he brilliant or insane? Well, he’s making money… He must be brilliant.”

BORNS: Your parents seem to be a very important part of your life. Do they live in Los Angeles?

CARREY: Yes, I recently moved them here. It’s been my mother’s dream ever since she was a young girl to live in the States, and it’s really made her happy. She used to be really negative about things. Now she walks around saying stuff like, “Boy, I like that window,” and “Gee, what a nice fireplace.” My father hasn’t changed at all, though. He is and always was the happiest guy in the world. He was a sax player, and he actually had to sell his sax to get my sister out of hospital. He’s living his dream through me now.

BORNS: What do you do when you’re not performing?

CARREY: Not a whole lot… Comedy started out as my hobby and then it became my profession. Now it’s both. It’s like being on call all the time, like having a built-in beeper. It’s different from most other businesses in that way. You can’t just leave the office and relax because you never know when you’ll think of something funny.

BORNS: So there’s nothing you do outside of comedy?

CARREY: Well, I like going to movies. I love to go alone. Everybody in the ticket line looks at you and says, “What a loser”… especially at drive-ins.

BORNS: Do you like the California lifestyle?

CARREY: Yes, but it’s made me realize something strange about myself, I don’t tan. I’ve been in L.A. for 15 months and I haven’t gotten a bit tan. I wear shorts every day, too! My skin is so sensitive that it burns when somebody turns their high beams on me. I’ve just decided not to go out during the day anymore.

BORNS: You are dedicated to your work, even at the tender age of 22. Does that spill over into other aspects of your life?

CARREY: I’m just a very dedicated person all around. Recently, I jumped out of bed and my back just went out. I went into the kitchen and suddenly my legs felt like Ray Bolger’s. It was like I was off to see the Wizard or something. After a few days I went to the chiropractor and he gave me these exercises that I did faithfully every day. When I went back to him again he said, “Wow, I can’t believe how you’ve healed!” I said, “I do the exercises every day, I never miss them.” He was shocked; he said, “Really!? Nobody really does that!” Well, that’s me…


New Again runs every Wednesday. For more, click here.