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Jim Carrey: A comedian with a range of a madman

As Jim Carrey turns a year older, here’s revisiting his career in a glimpse, to decode the actor’s sheer brilliance.

Jim Carrey: A comedian with a range of a madman
  • Shreya Paul

Last Updated: 11.12 AM, Jan 10, 2022

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The year was 1994 and Jim Carrey had arrived onto the comedy scene. With Ace Ventura: Pet Detective raking in a whopping $107.2 million as opposed to the $15 million budget, Carrey seemed to have struck gold. Not only then did his films change the course of viewing, they also gave a renewed life to the fate of comedies at the box office. 

Carrey followed it up with commercial blockbusters like The Mask and Dumb and Dumber. His unprecedented rise redefined the entire genre, where the actor almost became synonymous to the very limits of 'comedy.' 

Physical comedy took a new meaning under Carrey’s animated arm gestures and body-bending antics. The Mask exposed how versatile the actor was with facial control, extracting every ounce of exaggerated humour from the already wacky script. 

Within the three tentpole projects, Carrey’s total box-office haul stood at $706.1 million worldwide. And by 1995 (precisely a year after he got noticed properly) the actor was charging an eight-figure fee instead of his earlier six-figure ask.

The actor’s equity catapulted overnight, and he went on to make unheard-before deals of inking a $20 million contract to star in The Cable Guy (1996). His position was so steadfast, that many producers were concerned that if Carrey could ask for this figure, what would the future for stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Hanks look like. 

But this was, in fact, what Carrey had achieved. Much like an empire that Adam Sandler built solely on comedy, Carrey’s league pushed the comedic hero to the epicentre of all the action and made sure that his face was an equal draw to commercial drama heroes like Hanks or tentpole action-project veterans like Schwarzenegger.

But Carrey’s success was long coming. A young boy hailing from a middle-class home in Toronto, he began his tryst with performance arts at a local comedy club Yuk Yuk’s, under his father’s guidance and encouragement. 

His teen years brought him to LA, where he would regularly appear on The Tonight Show. He even gave multiple auditions to become part of Saturday Night Live’s cast but was always rejected.

Carrey’s interpretation of “what’s funny”, turned skeptic heads. Many thought his shenanigans would be too on-the-nose for ‘funny.’ The story goes when the shooting for Ace Ventura began in South Florida, the crew had set up a scene where Carrey’s character was to beat up the Philadelphia Eagles mascot at the Super Bowl. 

Cinematographer Julio Macat witnessed Carrey’s sheer fan following when the stadium erupted on the actor’s appearance. “And that’s when we thought, ‘So people know this guy. He’s so over the top that it could work.’ It was just out there,” Macat had said.

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And thus began Carrey’s rise to fame. The writers came on board with Carrey’s brand of humour, and immediately the script started flowing. And hence was born Ace Ventura, a Hawaiian shirt-donning, “Alrighty then!” spurting unique man, who could catch bullets with his teeth and effortlessly solve dangerous murder mysteries. 

He was pompous in his superior intelligence, rubbing it in the face of the American police department, while his butt cheeks were being used as a voice-changing microphone.

The next in line was The Mask, a blank canvas for the actor to display his contortionist charade. Through one intricate set-pieces after the other, Carrey wove a bizarre world where the world of Looney Tunes came alive. 

With the eyes-popping, jazz singing, tap dancing, “Smokin!” maniacal act, Carrey won over critics and audiences alike. Speaking about his role in The Mask, Carrey was known to have said, “it was so liberating as an actor, although it was sheer hell putting on the mask every day for four hours.”

However, the comedic genius was not just all. The actor, in an almost second coming series of events, turned things in the opposite direction by taking up rather serious roles in films like The Truman Show and Man on the Moon. 

The hyper energy of humour gave way to a method actor on sets. With Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Carrey burst out of his comfort zone to prove he was in it for the long haul, that he could redefine himself and his priorities to develop a completely new avatar.

With 2018 Showtime dramedy Kidding saw Carrey’s Jeff Pickles come on the screen after a considerable hiatus. The Mister Rogers-esque figure was a very different persona from his previous body of work. Meek and a do-gooder, this children’s television icon is seen struggling with his personal life as he tries to maintain a genteel exterior. 

His outing the antagonist Dr. Robotnik in the Sonic the Hedgehog series also brought in enough and more accolades his way, with some critics even billing it as his career-best performance.

Carrey was known to have written himself a cheque of several million dollars during his initial struggling period, as a symbol of making it big one day. It seems his vision stood steadfast in the face of challenges as the actor still manages to stay relevant in recent times.

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