(First published on Urban Times on 24th January 2012)
Jim Carrey was born in Canada. He was the younger of four siblings, and once admitted that had he not become a comedian, he would have probably been working the steel mills of Ontario.
His career took a while to take off. He fought his way through the circuit until he was noticed by comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who asked him to open for his show. He then went on to play in various movies, all of them obscure, until one day he landed the role of Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. Mad as a hatter, Carrey nailed the role, receiving mixed reviews from critics but striking a cord with audiences. His rise to fame was instant and meteoric.
After Ace Ventura came The Mask and Dumb And Dumber, both of which were ingeniously ridiculous. Carrey was carving a niche for himself with his unique style. His slapstick and antics were reminiscent of Jerry Lewis, but his energy was all his own and something of a phenomenon. He blew a breath of mad air in the scene of comedy in a way unmatched by anyone but toons.
Carrey went on to star in many comedy hits, becoming one of the highest-grossing comedians of his time. Me, Myself & Irene and Bruce Almighty raked in the cash and saw him perform alongside the likes of Renée Zellweger and Jennifer Aniston.
He went through a slump toward the middle of the 00s but came back with the well-written and uplifting Yes Man in 2008.
His comedy skills may be unique but he’s not a one-genre pony. Like many great comedians before him, he has a natural gift for dramatic roles, revealing a hidden and complex side to him that often takes critics and audiences by surprise. Characters like Truman Burbank in The Truman Show; Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon; and Joel Parish in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind earned him two Golden Globes awards and one nomination, marking him as a veritable drama talent.
Despite his on-camera antics and the energy he brought on set, Carrey was not necessarily a happy camper. He was on Prozac for years, wrestling with depression, about which he talked openly on TV shows. His portrayals of dramatic, conflicted characters were apparently born from the heart, hence their natural, effortless, genuine feel.
Involved in a movement dealing with personal transformation, he headlined the first conference of the Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment (GATE) in 2009, where he spoke about his spiritual inclinations and his connection to something larger than life. His belief system seems to be influenced by Eckhart Tolle, author of the record-breaking self-help book The Power Of Now.
All in all, Carrey is a phenomenon. He is a complex man with more than a few stories to tell, which he does chiefly through a colorful array of characters and inspired performances. Like he said in an interview, he is now more present than ever, living in the moment, saving his craft for the movie set. His assertion may not be entirely true, for he always seems to put on a show around cameras and people, like most comedians do, eager to please and entertain others. “Spirituality is about relieving suffering,’” he said at the GATE conference, quoting the Buddha, reminiscing how his art stemmed from his childhood wish to help his suffering mother.
Spoken like a man true to his craft – if not like the waking Truman Burbank himself.
[This piece is Part Two of a series of five tributes to five troubled but brilliant entertainers who at some point in their lives decided to stop pretending and just spoke out, no holds barred. Previous article in the series – Riders On The Storm: Jim Morrison]