Career Dive: Jim Carrey

Jim carrey career dive nc.jpg

Release Date
February 3, 2021
Running Time
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(Open on a shot of a swimming pool, with the words "CAREER DIVE" falling into the water with a splash and then floating to the surface. Then cut to NC sitting in his usual spot)

NC: Yeah, I'm trying something a little different again.

(Two shots of actors are shown, one of Brad Pitt and another of Scarlett Johansson)

NC (vo): When you see a good-looking movie star, it's usually not a surprise why they've risen through the ranks of Hollywood. Not at all to say there wasn't a ton of hard work and sacrifice involved. I mean, there are a lot of pretty faces in entertainment.

NC: (crosses arms) But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't more interested in the success stories that weren't as traditional.

(A new montage is shown of other success stories, including Tim Burton, Robert Rodriguez, Julie Taymor, Chris Hemsworth, Christopher Walken, and Kathy Bates)

NC (vo): The oddballs, the weirdos, the ones who took what seemed to be a niche audience and transformed it into a mainstream audience. Not that other big-name stars don't have great stories; I'm just more interested in people who changed less around the industry and more changed the industry around them.

NC: So, I wanted to try a series studying the work of these people.

(The montage continues with people like Danny DeVito, Kristen Schaal, Spike Jonze, and Peter Dinklage)

NC (vo): Not a full-on biography – in fact, I won't focus much on their personal lives unless they tie it into their career – but a look at the body of work that made them interesting and attracted so many people in such an unconventional way.

NC: With that said, I want to look at one of the biggest influences I had growing up: Jim Carrey.

(A montage is shown of shots of Carrey and his many characters)

NC (vo): Yes, I know I've taken some jabs at him in the past, but truth is, I was obsessed with this guy growing up. He represented everything every kid wanted to be: zany, loud and wildly over-the-top. It was almost like he spoke a language that only children and those who remember what it was like to be children understood. Dismissed by many, but loved by even more, Jim Carrey would grow over the years to show he wasn't just a passing fad, but rather a unique talent that tapped into something every energized person who dreams of being a human cartoon character could relate to.

NC: Before we look at his rise to fame, though, let's see where this literal rags-to-riches story started.

(A montage is shown of photos of Carrey as a child)

NC (vo): Born in Newmarket, Ontario, Jim had dreams of being an entertainer before he even hit double digits. Before the age of ten, he would stare into the mirror and practice making funny faces, stretching his muscles and giving an awareness of his expressions.

(Another montage is shown, this one of NC imitating Carrey's expressions, with matching footage of Carrey himself doing those same expressions)

NC (vo): This is something I totally didn't do when I was a child and in no way can sadly duplicate some of his gestures. Like I said, I was a little obsessed.

(More photos from Carrey's early life are shown)

NC (vo): His family hit hard times, though, when they ran into financial troubles and ended up all living together in a Volkswagen van. (A shot of Drew Carey dancing is shown in the corner) Down by the– you know the drill. Jim eventually decided at the age of 16 to drop out of school and start his life as a comedian, while also working as a janitor at some factory jobs.

(A montage is shown of Carrey doing standup comedy, including on a 1983 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson)

NC (vo): His years of practicing in front of the mirror had paid off as he became a master of facial impressions. This was getting him constant work and even landed him a performance on Johnny Carson.

NC: Jim knew, though, he didn't want to just imitate big entertainers, he wanted to be a big entertainer.

(Cut to Carrey doing some more standup, then a photo of someone writing a check, then more footage of Carrey)

NC (vo): So he revised his stand up to include no impressions and rely solely on his wild energy and physical humor. He even went so far as to write himself a check for 10 million dollars for acting surfaces rendered to be cashed 10 years later in 1995. Whether he would make it or not, he was gonna do everything humanely possible to achieve it. Jim eventually got himself an agent and started booking movies and shows. Like many performers starting out, though, he had to play against his strengths.

NC: He was usually casted as what's commonly known as "The Straight Man".

(Cut to more footage of Carrey performing in shows, then posters for the movies he describes, then more footage of Carrey performing as images of the actors and the sculpture are superimposed along the background, then the logo to In Living Color)

NC (vo): The person reacting to all the zany people around him, but not being especially zany himself. Projects like The Duck Factory, Once Bitten, and Peggy Sue Got Married were decent work, but not exactly a showcase for what he could do. He did became friends with several big names like Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield, and Nicolas Cage. He even made this sculpture based on him. That's just fantastic. One of the friends he made was Damon Wayans when he worked on the film Earth Girls are Easy. Perhaps one of the top three most 80s movies ever made, seriously, this film needs more love. And he introduced him to Keenan Ivory Wayans, who gave Jim arguably his biggest break on the 90s Fox show In Living Color.

NC: There's several reasons why this show helped him stand out so much.

(Cut to footage of the show)

NC (vo): One: It allowed him continually to try out different characters and ideas. Two: It was a weekly show that allowed people more exposure and familiarity with his talents. Three: He was surrounded with some of the most talented and energized personalities in television at the time.

NC: And four: He was the only...

(Cut to a photo of the cast of In Living Color)

NC (vo): ...white dude on the show. That made it pretty easy to get noticed. (Back to footage of the show) Now this is one of the funniest shows I can remember growing up with. Hell, I even have the entire (the DVDs of the show are superimposed) DVD collection. But if you're someone that, say, types hashtag (Yellow text that says "#CANCEL____" is superimposed) cancel blank many times in your life, this isn't the series for you. They had a Mexican version of The Rocketeer who uses his leaf blower as a jetpack, two gay men of which one of them is hit on the head and is subtly turned straight, and Handi-Man...

  • (That claim became false once Jay Legget joined the cast of In Living Color's fifth and final season)

(Cut to a scene where Handi-Man is talking to someone)

Handi-Man: That's okay, son. Never underestimate the powers of the handicapped.

(Cut to a clip to a movie (not sure which one it is))

Guy: He's just not going to work.

(Cut back to scenes in the show)

NC (vo): But like many things of the past, it's a time capsule. A way to see what people found shocking back then and in many respects, even more shocking now.

NC: While much of the humor was race-related, it wasn't a requirement.

(Back to footage of the show)

NC (vo): Keenan Ivory was very kind in letting many of the performers write their own sketches, and Carrey penned ones just as funny as the rest of the crew, including famous characters like Fire Marshall Bill and Vera de Milo. Mr. Rogers harassing people, but nobody believed it because... it's Mr. Rogers!

Woman 1: Mr. Rogers made lewd comments to us!

Woman 2: Mr. Rogers attacked me!

Guy: Mr. Rogers kicked my ass!

NC (vo): And maybe my favorite: a guy is hypnotized to cluck like a chicken, the hypnotist dies before he can switch him back, ruining his life because now that's all he can say.

Man (Jim Carrey): (in his head) For the love of God, please hear me... I'm starving, I want a burger! (clucks like a chicken)

(Cut to a poster of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, then footage of said movie)

NC (vo): Hollywood finally took a chance on this very strange, but seemingly popular funnyman and offered Jim a movie to star in. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is a common name now, but was a bigger risk back then than people realize, as we've seen in many (posters for It's Pat: The Movie, A Night at the Roxbury, and The Ladies Man are shown) SNL movies, just because someone's shtick is popular on a sketch show, doesn't mean it'll be popular on film. And this was Carrey's material in full swing. Every movement, action, and word was completely over the top, loud, or dirty. There hadn't been anything quite this...well...childish in cinema for a long time. He went all in and knew a lot was riding on it, as he said in one interview, "Everyone says this is either going to be a big hit, or really stupid. There's no in between." At first, it looked like the latter, as critics, not surprisingly, ripped it apart. (superimposes images of...) Gene Siskel even called it the worst film of the year. Alec Baldwin once described the movie as dog food. Yeah...

NC: (posters for The Cat in the Hat and Thomas and the Magic Railroad are superimposed on the left) Weren't you in these?

(Cut to more footage of the movie)

NC (vo): But the film was a sleeper hit, pulling in a 107 million against a 72 million budget.

NC: And while I...can't defend the film, I can't act like I don't see why either.

(Cut to more footage of the movie)

NC (vo): Everyone at my school, including myself, was quoting this movie before it even came out. It drilled directly into that primal silly that kids and some adults love to immaturely indulge. I describe the performance as an adult who knows he's going to get fired, or a kid who knows he's going to get punished. And doesn't give a shit. It's so big, and so loud, there's something almost envious about it. And at the time, nobody had ever seen anything quite that over the top. (posters for Bio-Dome, The Hot Chick, Chairman of the Board, and Billy Madison are shown) Since then, tons of comedians had tried to do something similar, whether you see that as a good thing or not. But clearly, it left an impact.

NC: Enough for Carrey to get another big film. One of the first to use state of the art CG animation for laughs instead of thrills: The Mask.

(Cut to footage of The Mask)

NC (vo): Based very (the cover for The Mask Returns is superimposed in the center) loosely on the comic series, Carrey gave, in my opinion, his best performance. Oh, not the zany cartoon character come to life, though that was totally fine. I mean, Stanley Ipkiss. Carrey said he didn't want people squirming in their seats saying "get to the mask already!" So he tried to bring an awkward, but still likeable charm to the performance that he based mainly around his father. While I do like Carrey as an actor, I will say I do always see him as an actor. I see a good performance, but it's still a performance I see.

NC: Stanley Ipkiss somehow feels really genuine.

(Cut to more footage of the movie)

NC (vo): It feels honest in a strange way. He does make faces and weird mannerisms, but so does the real Carrey.

(Cut to an interview of Jim Carrey)

Interviewer: 450 for The Mask.

Jim Carrey: (thinking while making a weird face) Sure.

Interviewer: Sure.

(Then cut to a stop of Carrey making the strange expression)

NC (vo): Who else would make a face like this when he's just thinking? It's just the sort of guy he is...

(Cut to more footage of the movie)

NC (vo): ...and that's the kind of guy I see in this performance. A guy who watches a lot of cartoons and therefore would have big reactions to things, but is also very nice, even if at times he's very unsure about himself.

NC: From everything I've heard about him, this feels the most authentic.

(Cut to more footage of the movie)

NC (vo): The mix of effects and his performance paid off again, with The Mask being a gigantic hit, resulting in his paycheck going from 450 thousand to 7 million with his next film Dumb and Dumber, a drop in the bucket next to the over 240 million the film grossed. Jim was suddenly one of the biggest stars in the world. Everything he touched seemed to be a hit. And people were willing to pay out the... (cut to a scene in Ace Ventura where he is spreading his butt) well, you know...

NC: He was even being attached to big hit franchises like...

(Cut to footage of Batman Forever)

NC (vo): ...Batman Forever, which after the (the poster for Batman Returns is superimposed) reception of the previous film, this series needed him to bring people back into the seats. (we cut to a poster of Ace Ventura: Nature Calls, then The Cable Guy) Ace Ventura 2 made double what the last Ace Ventura made, though he did have a slight scare with The Cable Guy, as a lot of people saw the film as too dark for him.

NC: (in a sarcastic tone) Yes, imagine a (poster of various movies are superimposed, which are The Cable Guy, I Love You Phillip Morris, Kick-Ass 2, Dark Crimes, The Number 23, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) dark Jim Carrey movie, can't have that!

(Cut to more footage of the movie)

NC (vo): I've done a whole video talking about this, but I think people have opened up more on this film thanks to the Internet exposing...just how many people that really are like this. But even that didn't send back very far, as his follow up Liar Liar was another monster smash. By 1995, Jim made more than what he promised himself in his check 10 years earlier. (cut to a photo of Jim and his dad) In fact, when his father passed away, Jim actually put the check in the casket with him, as a way to say thanks for supporting him and giving up his own creative dreams to support the family. (then cut to a photo of Jim, then his signature in concrete and some footage of him and certain movie scenes and the check) What was once seen as a pipe dream had now blended with the real world, as Jim was one of the biggest stars in the world, putting his handprints outside the Chinese theater, asked countless times to appear on talk shows, having several movies in a row be number one at the box office, and making far more than he promised himself years earlier. This rags to riches story seemed to result in this funnyman's most lavished and wonderful dreams, finally coming true.

(A photo of Jim Carrey fades to black, then white text that says "SO NOW WHAT?" is shown)

NC (vo): So now what?

(We cut to a commercial break. We then cut back to an image of Jim Carrey)

NC (vo): At the age of 35, Jim Carrey had accomplished in his career what many don't accomplish in a lifetime. Fame and fortune on an unprecedented level by entertaining others. What do you do after you achieve your goal? What was after happily ever after? He was still seen by many as too over the top and not to be taken seriously.

NC: So, since he challenged himself as a comedian, why not challenge himself as a dramatic actor?

(Cut to footage of The Truman Show)

NC (vo): In 1998, Jim did The Truman Show, his first dramatic role. Ahead of its time in terms of subject matter, Jim played the role as a lighthearted Ned Flanders who discovers his entire life is a lie for other people's enjoyment.

NC: A lot of folks were shocked that he could do drama, but honestly, was it that big a surprise?

(Cut to more footage of the movie)

NC (vo): I mean, you look at scenes like in Dumb and Dumber when he talks about being tired and it's totally believable. Again, watching Stanley Ipkiss, I can totally see a guy like this doing something more down to earth. It's a good job, I just never found it shocking that he could do it. Still, he got a lot of critical praise, a Golden Globe, and was said to be a shoe-in for an Oscar.

(Cut to footage of the 56th Golden Globe awards, where Jim is giving a speech)

Jim Carrey: And the Academy...I'm sorry, I was thinking of something else, and uh... (audience laughs)

(Cut to more footage of the movie, then cuts to Carrey at the Academy Awards)

NC (vo): But never got nominated. You may lie to this when he was presenting the award for best editing.

Jim Carrey: Winning the Oscar is not the most important thing in the world. It's an honor just to be no... uh, oh God... (Jim puts his head down and covers his face as he begins to cry while the audience laughs)

NC: But this might be the last time you see Jim Carrey as just a funnyman, as this was the beginning of Jim Carrey... (in an snobby tone) ar-TIST!

(Cut to footage of the Man on the Moon, then behind the scene footage of the movie)

NC (vo): You see, the next film he did was Man on the Moon, the Andy Kaufman story. I did a whole episode talking about this movie, and while Jim no doubt turned in a good performance, his antics for staying in character were, for lack of a better term, no this is the better term: goddamn crazy! He would harass people on set, delay shooting, physically and mentally abuse people all because he claimed Andy Kaufman took over his body.

Jim Carrey: I didn't know this is real and not real.

(cut to him during BTS of the movie)

Miloš Forman: I'm not angry because I want to try not give you support.

Jim Carrey: TOO LATE!!! TOO LATE!!!

(Cut to a scene of Marty McFly from Back to the Future Part III)

Marty McFly: He's an asshole!

(Cut to more BTS footage)

NC (vo): I did a whole video talking about this as well, but despite all the attention he tried to get out of it, the information was hidden from the public until a documentary was made about it 8 years later.

NC: The reason I bring this up is because this is the beginning of Jim probably taking things a little too seriously.

(Cut to posters for Horton Hears a Who, Bruce Almighty, Me, Myself, and Irene, then more footage of various movies, then a clip of BTS for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

NC (vo): He would still do light comedies, like Horton Hears a Who, Bruce Almighty, and Me, Myself, and Irene, but he was also doing films like The Majestic and The Number 23 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Not that these are bad movies. I love Eternal Sunshine and I don't think Number 23 deserves as much hate as it gets. But the performances were coming across less like he wanted to do what was best for the film, and more like he wanted to be accepted as a deep human being. He even threw a tape recorder of rehearsing for Eternal Sunshine because he was too in character.

(We then see said footage of Carrey throwing the tape recorder across the room, presumably breaking it. Kate Winslet then hugs him.)

Kate Winslet: You broke the tape.

Jim Carrey: (sobbing) I know...

NC: That's not to say there weren't some good, even great moments that came out of it.

(Cut to footage of I Love You Phillip Morris)

NC (vo): I Love You Phillip Morris is uneven, but it does have some amazing moments from him. The same can be said for A Christmas Carol, which doesn't work as a whole, but still has some stellar reactions, And in my opinion, some of his funniest, but also creepiest performances is when he's pretending to be other people in A Series of Unfortunate Events.

(Cut to a scene in said movie)

Violet: Count Olaf.

Doctor: Oh...And, uh, why would...why would you say something like that?

NC: But two things happened to Jim that, in a lot of people's eyes, started to take him down a few notches.

(Cut to various posters of movies mentioned earlier in the editorial being shown, then the logo for Mr. Popper's Penguins is shown along with scenes from the movie)

NC (vo): One is, if his films did well, the word "if" being unheard of in the early days for him, they didn't exactly do great anymore. He didn't have that many blockbusters, resulting in what many consider his crowning achievement of "what the hell were you thinking?": Mr. Popper's Penguins.

Mr. Popper: Word!

(A penguin falls down)

NC: This...does not seem like a movie for what used to be one of the world's biggest stars!

(Cut to more footage of Jim Carrey)

NC (vo): The second thing do I put this? I guess Jim has had a political and spiritual awakening? Talking more openly in interviews and talk shows about what he really thinks. This isn't bad per say, as a lot of people can talk about spiritual things in a very welcoming and wonderful light. And political commentary, if done well, can be very clever and very enlightening.

NC: But the sad thing is, even when you agreed with him, half the time, he expressed it in an arrogant way.

(Cut to an interview Jim Carrey is doing)

Jim Carrey: Depression only happens when you don't accept what is when you're playing a character, you know, in life. So when I tried to go back and play Jim Carrey, I got depressed.

(Cut to another interview)

Interviewer: You've made me very happy, so thank you for your time today, man.

Jim Carrey: No, actually, I didn't make you happy.

Interviewer: Right, I don't know who you've made happy, but...

Jim Carrey: No.

(Cut to another interview)

NC (vo): Look at this poor reporter who just wants to do her job and ask her bullshit questions. Jim's practically antagonizing her like: "Why haven't you reached my level of enlightenment yet?"

Reporter: They say they're celebrating icons inside.

Jim Carrey: Celebrating icons inside! Boy, that is just the absolute lowest. Do you believe in icons? (the reporter is about to answer when Jim interrupts her) I don't believe in personalities, I don't believe that you exist.

Reporter: Jim, you got really dressed up for the occasion.

Jim Carrey: I didn't get dressed.

Reporter: Who did?

Jim Carrey: There is no me? We don't matter! We don't matter.

Reporter: Oh, wow.

Jim Carrey: That's the good news.

Reporter: Okay!

NC: He would even sabotage movies he just shot.

(Cut to images of Kick-Ass 2)

NC (vo): As when he did Kick-Ass 2, he told people not to go see it because a school shooting just occurred and he didn't want to support that level of violence. Yes, you better stop promoting these then...

(Cut to the Mask and Lloyd Christmas shooting at people with guns)

NC (vo): Or, make (a poster for Dumb and Dumber To is superimposed) sequels to him, I don't know.

NC: With that said, we do all have our personal bubbles that we live in.

(Cut to footage of Carrey)

NC (vo): And given Jim's past and his open battle with depression, I do believe he's trying to do what he thinks is best. He dabbled more in his painting and sculpting and honestly, they're not that bad. In fact, sometimes, he finds just the right thing to say to just the right people. And it can leave a huge impact.

(Cut to Carrey doing a speech at a graduation)

Jim Carrey: I can tell you from experience the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is. Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Risk being seen in all of your glory.

NC: This was of thinking, big surprise, would also play a big part in his acting.

(Cut to a poster for Kidding and an image of the Bad Match, then another poster for Dumb and Dumber To and scenes for the 2020 Sonic the Hedgehog movie)

NC (vo): He took on more complex roles like the series Kidding and even a silent part in The Bad Match, a criminally underrated movie. But he also would return to his goofy roots, with films like Dumb and Dumber To and Sonic the Hedgehog. Both of these, whatever you think of them, are no doubt a full comeback to what made him explode in the early 90s.

NC: Even his impressions are making a comeback.

(Cut to a clip in SNL's 2020 Presidential Election debate)

NC (vo): With him performing on SNL, probably the best Joe Biden I've ever seen. Who made dog food now, dipshit?

NC: Carrey once said he wanted the strangest box set any actor has ever had.

(Cut to movie clips of Carrey)

NC (vo): And with his long line of work with such a bizarre acting career, he might just achieve it. Through his ups and downs, there will always be a part of me that loves Jim Carrey. He was the first actor to make me think "There's an art to being childish, there's an importance in embracing silly, there's a large audience that understands the freeing nature of going as big as you can."

NC: He's also shown he's more than just a passing fad or a goofy clown.

(Cut to more movie clips of Carrey)

NC (vo): I don't give the wrong impression I'm against any of the soul searching he's preaching because there is a lot of great thinking behind it. On The Grinch, Carrey said he was so focused on being centered because every part of his body was covered, including his eyes, that you could hit him with a baseball bat and he'd still smile and nod. When you compare this to how Mike Myers moved in similar makeup, you can tell that focused concentration made a big difference.

NC: And that's not the focus of someone who just wants attention.

(Cut to more movie clips of Carrey)

NC (vo): That's the focus of someone who has to dive deep inside himself and bring something of value to the surface. As another goofball on an over the top journey who can get lost in his own bubble sometimes, I see great value in Carrey's career. I mean, this guy is almost 60 and he still moves with more energy than most of us watching ever will. I can't point to how many actors afterwards have taken from his facial expressions, physical comedy, and line delivery. He practically created a whole new genre of comedy. Whatever he does next, there will always be a part of me that's interested. He's come way too far and made way too big an impact. He's the every man who became the wild man we all wish we could be. And I think most of us are thankful for his work as well as intrigued by what comes next in this most unique of careers.

(We close that sentence on a scene in I Love You Phillip Morris where Steven Jay Russell is walking through a door)

NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic, I remember it so you don't have to! (walks off)

Channel Awesome taglineGuy: Mr. Rogers kicked my ass! (audience laughs)

(The credits roll)

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