When invited to interview Jim Carrey, I pretty much had to tell everyone I know… and didn’t know. Hipster in line at the coffee shop –yep. Long haired dude at Trader Joe’s check out –yep. Random lady in the Target parking lot –yep… (okay, kinda kidding). So there definitely was a moment when I wondered is it really going to happen? It did. Oh REALLLLY!
In fact, sitting at a table with other mom/dad bloggers to interview the uber talented comedian and father to a 23 year old daughter (who had her first child last year) about his role in Mr. Popper’s Penguins in theaters June 17th, we got to ask away and I can’t stop talking about some of his answers since. From opening up on parenting guilt, to how he was changed from an out of hand student to a nurtured talent in 6th grade, his take on grandparenting, and what he REALLY thinks of the parents of child actors and more, Breezy Mama got the scoop.
I loved the whole theme about [Mr. Popper] and his dad who was also very busy.
That’s what really drew me to the movie other than the fact that I love penguins — and I’ve said it so many times before I ever did this project — but the theme of somebody who is an adventurer but doesn’t explore his relationship with his own son is an amazing theme for me.
Certainly there have been times in my life when I was so crazed with Hollywood and everything that was going on that I missed time with my daughter. So, I understand that and how important that is. That’s a theme that I’m ready to play. We’ve certainly mended anything that was going on between us. We’re closer than ever.
So that reminded you that, “Oh, I should probably be doing more stuff with my kid” or…
Yes. Well, I was already in a good place with my daughter. We’ve done really well together.
But, yes. I mean, it’s definitely a recognizable theme and certainly something that’s really prevalent for everybody nowadays. Everybody has to work and everybody’s got that kind of guilt feeling, “Am I spending enough time,” and, “Do they have my full focus?”
The most important thing in the world is to make your kids feel like they’re the most important thing to you.
There was a time in my life where I felt like that was slipping a little bit. I took a year and a half off. I didn’t work, and I took those two years off to make sure that she knew.
Do you get a lot of time in with your grandson?
Yes. I just hung out with him yesterday.
What does he call you, Grandpa?
Right now? No, no. He is starting to mimic and stuff like that. It’s so funny.
But, he’s about a year and two months. So, he’s just kind of “gah blah,” [for “grandpa”] or whatever. But, he does definitely mimic. And the great thing about him, you can see with kids, before they get squashed by anybody in school or anything like that, is there is this confidence of knowing that they are it. You know what I mean?
He walks into the room and he says, “Hi!” He’s got this mischief on his face [mimics his expression] and stuff that you can just tell that he knows he’s going to be completely accepted in every way, you know? There’s no rejection in there at all. It’s just full on, “I am it. I know you want to see me. I know whenever I say hi, everybody’s going to laugh, everybody’s going to do their thing.”
But, he’s very funny, too. Yesterday it was the sunglasses, putting the sunglasses upside down and putting them on and then, “Ha ha ha.” And that totally reminded me of me because I used to get out of eating every day — this is what I’m told. My mother said that I got out of eating — I was a very finicky eater — by just making everybody laugh and everybody howl at the table. When I was an infant, I was doing weird faces and stuff until the food got cold.
What was it like working with your younger costars?
Great. They are really talented kids, super talented, more so than you even see in the film. Madeline’s going to be a great actress.
I always worry for kids when I work with them that they’re going to make it through okay, because it’s a really tough thing for an undeveloped ego to handle that attention and that extra energy like that coming at them.
I always wonder about people who adopt kids from Africa and then there’s these cameras in their face. They go from a hut to a paparazzi line and they think, “What?” How can they handle that? I worry about fame with kids.
I know a few, and Ron Howard is this wonderful guy. He made it through because he had parents, again, who made him the most important thing.
There’s a book called Drama of the Gifted Child. Steve Martin gave it to me, actually. He said, “This is a really good clue into kind of where you might have come from a little bit.” And I don’t think it totally applies, but I think it’s really an important thing for parents to realize that they’re there to love their kids, their kids aren’t there to love them.
They will, if you love them. But, it’s not their obligation. It’s up to us to love them and let them go and do their thing and not go, “You’re not making me feel good — Why aren’t you making me feel good?” Well, because I’m not here to make you feel good. You’re supposed to do that for me.
So, it’s an interesting thing. These kids, when I see them, I just hope that the whole Hollywood acting thing is about what they love and not what their parents want or how their parents what to be seen.
I literally have, in films, seen a toddler being spoken to by a parent saying, “Your dad and I talked about this. It’s going to be a lot of money.”
And I’m sitting there pulling my face off going like [imitates pulling off his face], “That child doesn’t have a chance”. That’s the main gist.
Growing up, did you have comedians that you admired that inspired you?
Yes. Well, the funny thing is, one of the people that I really loved was Dick Van Dyke. I used to watch reruns of the Dick Van Dyke Show and Mary Tyler Moore. And they were just sublime to me. To me, that was flawless comedy.
And recently, he was on Rachael Ray and he said some really nice things about me. It was like Christmas. I was out of my mind with joy. I really loved it. And he said something about if somebody was going to play him or play, you know, the Dick Van Dyke Show now or whatever as a movie or something that he would want me to do it.
Oh, that’s cool.
And I was like, “Hmm” [smiles].
I thought that in Mr. Popper where you were dancing with the penguins it was very Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.
Well, exactly. That’s not a mistake. That comes from my love for him. And I invited him to the premier and he’s coming to the premier.
I’ve seen you from In Living Color— in those days. And it’s been a long time and a lot of pressure to keep up. Comedy is not as easy as people think. It’s work still. But, it’s–
–It just gets harder. It’s crazy, I just did Saturday Night Live, and they had me flying off walls and stuff like that. And I said to Lorne Michaels, “You realize that every sketch is me carrying someone on my back? Do they know that I’m 49 years old?” And he said, “No, they don’t. They love you and they grew up with you, and they want you to be that guy.” I got to keep my butt in shape.
Who was your favorite character to play — from Ace Ventura, Cable Guy, all those amazing characters?
I love all of them. It’s like Sophie’s Choice trying to pick them, you know? I love them all.
And every new one is a challenge. Every new character you got to fall in love with. So, I look forward to the next one I play.
At what age did it hit you that, “I need to be an entertainer?”
Since I was a little tiny kid — since I can remember — because I used to look at my dad and he used to command the room. And he was one of the funniest human being you’ve ever met in your life. I mean, seriously like a file of jokes and funny stuff, but off the cuff funny.
Rodney Dangerfield used to just be blown away by my father. I’d bring him down to see me in Vegas opening for Rodney Dangerfield. And, Rodney would just be sitting there saying [imitates voice and mannerisms], “Who is this guy? This guy’s incredible, man. Where the hell have you been?” You know, that kind of thing.
And he’s Percy, Percy Joseph. He was just one of these characters that when he told a story, he was so incredibly animated. The character I played in Truman Show was my father.
You know, “Good afternoon, good evening, and good night,” the old standup guy.
He’s deaf in one ear, so everything you said, he didn’t really hear you. He’d just go, “Eh?” But, he was one of those guys you felt like you knew for 50 years if you talked to him for only a minute.
I saw him early on and I thought, “That’s me. That’s who I’m going to be.”
Did you get in trouble at school a lot for energy?
I did until I had one teacher that was so smart in the sixth grade, Lucy Dervadis. She sent me back a lot of the pictures of her being assassinated in several different ways that I used to draw at the back the class. She confiscated them in school, and then she sent them back to me when I got famous. You know, the missiles hitting her and stuff like that.
And she kept them?
It’s unbelievable. She knew because I would always finish my work first. I was really smart in school. And I would finish and then I would disturb everybody by being funny and doing disruptive things in class. She had the brilliant idea of saying, “Jim, if you just sit there and be peaceful, be calm, don’t bother anybody after you finish your work, I’ll give you 15 minutes at the end of class to do whatever you want in front of the class.”
I would finish my work and then I would start writing routines. And I would write, “Okay, today I’m going to imitate the principal in the boy’s locker room looking at their underwear,” and stuff like that. And I was completely politically incorrect and all of that stuff.
But, she came up with an idea. It’s like such a clue into kids. Instead of giving them drugs for ADD, find an outlet. Find something to do with that, because it’s just that they’re special.
Had you read the book [Mr. Popper’s Penguins] before?
Yes. I’m surprised how dear that is to people because I didn’t read it growing up in Canada. So, I was amazed, now that the movie has been made, how important it is to people, which is great. I love that.
The movie is great.
It’s sweet, isn’t it? I’m not the guy who really wants to go out of his way to do something soft, like without kind of a rock and roll edge to it. But, I really kind of felt touched by it. It was really nice. And being in New York kind of had a Home Alone feeling to it.
And it was all warm and toasty inside.
Except the set [that was maintained at 40 degrees for the penguins] was freezing.
How was that, to act in those conditions?
It’s anything for the show. I’ll suffer greatly to do anything creative. But, I found out it wasn’t even necessary. It’s just that the penguins are method [actors]. Their Stanislavsky thing.
So, in that way that the book is a classic, what is it that you think makes movies stand the test of time in that same way?
What makes movies classics? Wow, it’s such an odd little space in the world when something becomes dear to people. Who’s to say exactly what it is? I have a feeling that it’s about an energy that people want to see. I always felt that about myself. It’s not as much what I do. I mean, I’m creative and different and I have a lot of guts to do certain things. But, I think the bottom line is I’m somebody people want to hang with.
And that’s what it comes down to. There’s something I haven’t screwed up there inside me that’s still there that people don’t mind being around. It makes them feel all right.
Certain movies have a soul to them, that we just feel warm with. The old Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, there’s a soul in that movie that you just don’t want to give up. You want it to be a part of your life, you know?
So, I’m really lucky. I feel super lucky that a lot of things that I’ve done are now just reintroducing themselves generation after generation it seems. And I still have little kids coming up to me about Ace Ventura and The Mask. And I say, “Well, thank you. Wow, what a wonderful place to be.” I’m going to be like 90 years old and 30 year olds will be coming up to me going, “Dude, a thousand times I’ve watched that thing,” It’s a pretty great place to be.
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