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The Self-Made Man: Jim Carrey

Merry Christmas, everyone! And, in the spirit of inclusion, merry Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, Yule, Festivus, Boxing Day, Pumpkin Pie Day, Bicarbonate of Soda Day, and Watermelon/Qunice Month! Whew. I think that’s everything.

Making it on his own

This week’s Self Made Man is, fittingly, someone who played the Grinch not too long ago: Jim Carrey. Most people know Jim Carrey as a rubber-faced comedic actor who talked with his butt and helped popularize Jenny McCarthy’s batshit insane fear of vaccination. But what you probably don’t know is that Carrey might have had the most Dickensian upbringing in all of show business. Let me explain.

Carrey’s entire family worked at a tire factory and lived in a neighboring house owned by said factory. That’s already pretty rare in the first world, although Wal-Mart is certainly trying to make their situation more common. Carrey himself dropped out of school in tenth grade to work comedy clubs, continuing to do so when his family had to live in a van. Can you imagine? Comedy is an unrewarding career when you live in a house, let alone a van with five other people.

Anyway, Carrey had a natural gift for comedy, even if he was also kind of an annoying spaz, but being good at something and getting paid for it are two very different things. Just ask anyone who lives in Los Angeles. Hell, you might have been asking Jim had he not met Rodney Dangerfield, who was famous in the industry for starting young comedians (his eye for talent includes Sam Kinison, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Hicks, and Bob Saget). Rodney liked Jim’s act and hired him as an opener, which built up his confidence enough to start looking for television and film work.

After some false starts in TV, Carrey made friends with Damon Wayans on the set of Earth Girls Are Easy (you might remember this movie from being on Comedy Central 400 times a day back in the 1990s), and got cast on In Living Color a short while later. His masochistic Fire Marshall Bill character from that show is his most famous one, but I prefer his imitation of Chuck Woolery. Never fails to make me laugh.

Interesting sidenote: the two biggest stars that show created were Carrey and Jennifer Lopez, who was dancing as one of the show’s Fly Girls.

From there, Carrey’s story is pretty straightforward; Ace Ventura made him for life and The Truman Show proved that he could really act, and right now he earns more than $25 million per film. He also nailed Lauren Holly for a year, which is even more impressive. Not many guys who grew up living in a van get to do that. In any case, Carrey’s combination of talent, an obvious never-give-up attitude, and a willingness to build relationships with other creative people has served him well. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s still crazy, but TSB admires his sense of industry, and he’s one of the more unique self-made men out there.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at

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