From the time he began making inroads in Hollywood with the surprise 1994 hit Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, actor and stand-up comic Jim Carrey has become the industry’s most impressive special effect. A comedic contortionist, Carrey has balanced massive audience-pleasing hits like 1994’s The Mask with serious dramatic turns in films like 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. More recently, he was featured on Showtime’s Kidding, satiated fans with a return to form in 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog, and currently shares a lot of his paintings on Twitter.
For more on Carrey, including his somewhat violent days as a stand-up and why Tommy Lee Jones appeared to dislike him immensely, keep reading.
1. Jim Carrey’s father inspired him to get into stand-up comedy.
Born January 17, 1962 in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, Jim Carrey had an early talent for humor and frequently performed for the amusement of his family, including his father, Percy. It was Percy who encouraged Carrey to try making a professional go of things to find an outlet for his creative energy. (In grade school, Carrey’s teachers bargained with him so he’d stop having outbursts in class by promising him 15 uninterrupted minutes at the end.) Carrey and his father wrote a routine, which Carrey later labeled “corny,” and made his first appearance at the age of 15 at Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto. Carrey was heckled by the club’s owner, Mark Breslin, and was so unnerved by the experience that he didn’t return for two years. Turning instead to the New York comedy scene, he got better quickly, making it on to The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson at age 21.
2. Jim Carrey was attacked by crowds at comedy clubs.
Carrey drew crowds for his impressions of celebrities like Jimmy Stewart and Clint Eastwood, but that skill wasn’t satisfying for Carrey, and he stopped doing them relatively early on in his career. “I can get [imitations of] 2000 people down and I will still be saying to the world that those people are more interesting than me,” Carrey told 60 Minutes in 2004. “And that’s just not true, you know.”
As a result, people who had come to see Carrey expecting impressions were often dismayed to be met with more experimental comedy, like crawling inside of a piano and staying there through another comic’s set. According to Carrey, that disappointment sometimes led to violence: “Some nights it was a melee, literally, where I’d be standing trying to defend myself for what I was doing. People would be screaming at me to do my old act, and getting actually violent and angry at me.” At times, Carrey said he was forced to defend himself with a broken beer bottle. He said this made him “comfortable with the creative process.”
3. Jim Carrey’s first film was a made-for-television movie titled Rubberface.
In 1981, Carrey was cast in one of his first major acting roles as the lead in a made-for-television film titled Introducing … Janet. Airing on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the film sees the 19-year-old Carrey playing an aspiring comedian named Tony Maroni who befriends a woman (Adah Glassbourg) struggling with insecurity. At the time, Carrey said it was unusual for him to portray a comedian who was bad at impressions when he was actually very good at them. In 1995, the film was released on home video under the title Rubberface to try and capitalize on Carrey’s newfound fame.
4. Jim Carrey’s colleagues did not believe Ace Ventura would be a hit.
After a short stint as the lead in the 1984 NBC sitcom The Duck Factory and parts in 1985’s Once Bitten and 1986’s Peggy Sue Got Married, Carrey broke through in the early 1990s as a cast member of the hit Fox sketch comedy series In Living Color. That success led to a starring role in 1994’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. While that turned out to be huge hit, Carrey had to endure a little bit of heckling from his co-stars in the process.
“David Allen Grier would go out in the audience and say, ‘Jim, in his hiatus, is gonna be doing a movie called Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,’” Carrey told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018. “'Let’s wish him luck with that.’ And everybody would scoff at me—they’d fake applaud and laugh at me.” But by the end of 1994, Carrey had scored three huge hits in a row, including Ace Ventura, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber. For the latter, he received $7 million.
5. Tommy Lee Jones was not friendly to Jim Carrey while making Batman Forever.
In 1995, Carrey appeared as the Riddler in Batman Forever, the third film in the comic book franchise. His co-star was Tommy Lee Jones, who portrayed Harvey “Two-Face” Dent. Jones was complimentary of Carrey in the press, telling Rolling Stone that Carrey was “a down-to-Earth good guy and rather inspiring in his boldness in that character.” Privately, Jones was apparently less enamored with Carrey. According to Carrey, Jones told him early on in production that he hated him and “cannot sanction your buffoonery.” This would later prompt Carrey to observe that “every once in a while, somebody you really admire hates your guts.”
6. Jim Carrey got his head messed with on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
During filming of 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Carrey—who was playing a man grieving over the loss of a relationship and contemplating having his memory erased to alleviate it—had just endured a real-life break-up. This was apparently useful for director Michel Gondry, whom Carrey quoted as saying, “Please stay in pain” to influence the performance. Carrey also believes Gondry cast people in the film who resembled his ex “just to mess with my head,” though Gondry has never confirmed that.
7. Jim Carrey was featured on a postage stamp.
In 2014, Carrey was one of several comedians to grace a special limited-edition set of postage stamps issued by the Canada Post. The release featured Carrey, Mike Myers, Catherine O’Hara, Olivier Guimond, and Martin Short. The set was inspired by the success of a postage stamp featuring late comic actor John Candy in 2006.
8. Jim Carrey wrote a children’s book.
In 2013, Carrey released How Roland Rolls, a children’s book about an ocean wave named Roland who frets about the consequences of finally hitting the beach and whether that could mean the end of his existence. Carrey wrote the book and drew the concept art; the book was illustrated by artist Rob Nason.