Cover image for Jim Carrey : the joker is wild
Jim Carrey : the joker is wild
Knelman, Martin.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Buffalo, New York : Firefly, [publisher not identified], 2000.
Physical Description:
xiii, 230 pages, 12 unnumbered pages of plates ; 23 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Format :


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PN2287.C278 K64 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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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, 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.

Author Notes

Martin Knelman is an award-winning cultural journalist, and former film columnist

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

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 fameDfrom 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 likeDwhich, 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.DKelli Perkins, Herrick D.L, Holland, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



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. Excerpted from Jim Carrey: The Trials and Triumphs of Jim Carrey by Martin Knelman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
1 Hookedp. 1
2 The Comedy Genep. 7
3 Hard Timesp. 19
4 Joining the Clubp. 29
5 Funny Businessp. 41
6 Breakthroughp. 51
7 On the Roadp. 61
8 At the Comedy Storep. 71
9 Quack, Quackp. 81
10 The Party's Overp. 91
11 Bloodlettingsp. 103
12 Between Projectsp. 113
13 The Comeback Kidp. 123
14 That Crazy White Guyp. 135
15 Ace in the Holep. 147
16 Fred Astaire on Acidp. 157
17 Rich and Famousp. 169
18 Trouble Temporaryp. 179
19 Life at the Topp. 189
20 Shooting for the Moonp. 199
Filmographyp. 209
Sourcesp. 211
Acknowledgmentsp. 222
Indexp. 224