If he’d had it his way, young Jim Carrey would have had his start in show business on The Carol Burnett Show…at the age of 10.  Despite not landing a role on the show – even though he did send a resume – he persevered and went on to become one of the most recognizable faces in comedy of his generation.

Jim Carrey in 2010

Carrey’s first stage appearance as an adult (as in, not performing for his junior high school classmates) saw him flop as a stand-up in a club in Toronto.  The Canadian born Carrey picked himself up and began a stand-up run the resulted in opening for Rodney Dangerfield’s tour in 1981.  A series of small roles in television and on film followed until his break through role in the sketch comedy series In Living Color.   It was characters such as Fire Marshall Bill on the irreverent series that brought Carrey’s brand of physical comedy to most Americans for the first time.

Box office success followed soon after with 3 hit movies in one year. 1994 saw the debuts of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber, all of which played on his physical malleability as well as his willingness to bring outrageous characters to the big screen with enthusiastic excess.  Jim Carrey was a star.

He was also aware that he wanted to branch out.  His next film, The Cable Guy, was far darker in tone (though his character was still just as nutty as those who came before).  The more contemplative Carrey was not such a hit with audiences and the film was panned.  But Carrey didn’t give up on his goal of pursuing non-slapstick roles.  In 1998 he starred in the Peter Weir helmed The Truman Show, with great popular and critical success.  He has continued to balance his comedy with more intense roles, bouncing from Me, Myself and Irene and Bruce Almighty to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Number 23.  Though not every role is a critical or audience success, Carrey remains a huge box-office draw.  He won Golden Globe Awards for both The Truman Show and his portrayal of Andy Kauffman in The Man on the Moon.

Born in 1962, Carrey had a turbulent childhood that included financial hard times and stints of factory shifts following school each day.  Finally dropping out of high school, Carrey made his way from Ontario to Los Angeles in the early 1980s.  He is the father of a daughter, Jane, born in 1987 to ex-wife Melissa and the grandfather of Jane’s son Jackson, born in 2010.

photo by Jean-Francois Gornet