A colorful Canadian-born actor with a face for molding, James Eugene Carrey (born January 17, 1962) began acting in the mid-1980s, most notably in the short-lived sitcom The Duck Factory, but came to attention as a Token White cast member on In Living Color! who managed to hold his own with several popular sketch characters, including Vera, the Mannish Bodybuilder, Fire Marshal Bill, a masochistic, cartoonishly destructive fire marshal hired to teach people fire safety (with disastrous results) whether or not he's somewhere where fire safety is needed, and Grandpa Jack, the depressed, divorced, alcoholic host of The Dysfunctional Home Show. Some notable celebrity impressions include Paul Reubens (as Pee-Wee Herman), Vanilla Ice, Tom Hanks (in a parody of the movie Philadelphia), Sgt. Stacy Koon (from the infamous Rodney King beating trial in the early 1990s), George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Michael Bolton.
When the small-scale Ace Ventura: Pet Detective arrived on movie screens in early 1994, it was roasted by critics but proved to be a surprisingly big hit. As it happened, he did two other hit movies that year (The Mask and Dumb and Dumber) and was soon an A-list performer, in essence the first big film comedy star of the 1990s. He has played many classic characters, and his involvement in a movie will often be a success — so successful, the subsequent films and series usually go down from his absence.
Speaking of which, he almost never makes sequels. He explains that he got a distaste for playing the same character in In Living Color. The only reason he did the Ace Ventura sequel was due to contract reasons, and so thoroughly detested working on it that he openly declared he would never do a sequel again. In 1995, he even turned down a $10 million paycheck—which would have set a record, at the time, for the highest sum ever offered to a single actor—to reprise his role as Stanley Ipkiss in The Mask 2.
2014 saw him break his rule in Dumb and Dumber To, re-teaming with Jeff Daniels and the Farrelly brothers. He actually was interested in reprising the role of Count Olaf for a sequel to A Series of Unfortunate Events, but the film did not do well at the box-office, resulting in sequel plans being put in limbo.
Starting with The Truman Show, he has successfully made the transition to more serious films, with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind probably his most lauded serious role. It hasn't stopped him from appearing in goofy comedy as well, though, and nowadays he's well respected both aspects of his acting range. While not as popular as he was at his height in The '90s, his career has proven surprisingly durable. He is now producing the drama Kidding, after having produced the 2017-18 dramedy I'm Dying Up Here.
In his early days performing standup comedy, Carrey reportedly wrote himself a check for almost $1 million and promised himself that he would, one day, be worth enough to legally cash it (as his family struggled with money and was homeless for a good chunk of their lives after his father's saxophone shop went under). That promise was fulfilled soon after his performance in The Mask and Dumb and Dumber, though by that point, he had already earned several times more than the check itself was worth. When his father died, he put the check he wrote to himself in his father's casket.note
Roles of Note:
- Wiploc — Earth Girls Are Easy
- Ace Ventura — Ace Ventura series (first and second films of franchise — a rarity; apparently he was so unhappy with the experience of playing the same character twice he decided to never again star in a sequel film, the only exception being a Dumb and Dumber sequel)
- Stanley Ipkiss/The Mask (Aka Big Head) — The Mask (First film of franchise)
- Lloyd Christmas — Dumb and Dumber (First and third films of franchise)
- Edward Nygma/The Riddler — Batman Forever (Third film of franchise)
- Chip Douglas — The Cable Guy
- Fletcher Reede — Liar Liar
- Truman Burbank — The Truman Show (won the Golden Globe for Best Actor Drama)
- Andy Kaufman/Tony Clifton — Man on the Moon (won the Golden Globe for Best Actor- Comedy)
- Charlie and Hank — Me, Myself & Irene
- The Grinch — How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
- Peter Appleton — The Majestic (Notable in that it was his first truly against-type role, though Truman and Kaufman hinted towards it.)
- Bruce Nolan — Bruce Almighty (First film of franchise)
- Joel Barish — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Count Olaf — Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
- Walter Sparrow/Fingerling — The Number 23
- Horton — Horton Hears a Who!! (His second Dr. Seuss film)
- Carl Allen — Yes-Man
- Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come (all via Motion Capture) — A Christmas Carol (2009)
- Steven Russell — I Love You Phillip Morris
- Tom Popper — Mr. Popper's Penguins
- Steve Gray — The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
- Colonel Stars and Stripes — Kick-Ass 2
- CBC News Anchor - Scott Riles (uncredited) — Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
- The Hermit — The Bad Batch
- Tadek — Dark Crimes (A psychological thriller where he not only plays a straight role but uses a Polish accent as Translation Convention)
- Jeff Pickes — Kidding
- Dr. Robotnik — Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
- Joe Biden — Saturday Night Live (parodying the debate against Donald Trump during the 2020 presidential election). Coincidentally, Carrey auditioned twice for SNL during the early-to-mid 1980s (first for Jean Doumanian's 1980-1981 season and again in 1985-1986 when Lorne Michaels came back after The New Show on ABC was a failure. The first time, Charles Rocket was chosen; the second time, Carrey was scared off by a man Driven to Suicide and he was replaced with Randy Quaid).
Tropes associated with his roles:
- Adam Westing: He's often poked fun at his goofy/Large Ham reputation.
Oh great and powerful creator, how can I distinguish myself from other actors? ....talk out of my what?
- From Batman Forever: "Was that over the top? I can never tell!"
- In his first Saturday Night Live appearance (1996), the Joe Pesci Show skit he appeared in had him playing Jimmy Stewart... while Mark McKinney played Jim Carrey. "Stewart" is appalled by "Carrey" ("Smoke a lot of dope, do you son?") and mocks him as a diva who "needs attention twenty-four hours a day!""Jimmy Stewart": Hello, I'm Jim Carrey! I'll do ANYTHING for a laugh! I need attention twenty-four hours a day! LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! *Brays like a donkey*
- When he presented an Oscar in 1997, he envisioned himself being used in commercials after his death, making fun of a then-current Trident slogan: "Who wants gum? (turns around and starts talking out of his butt) I do! I do!"
- When he didn't get an Oscar nomination for The Truman Show, he still agreed to present an award. He pretended to break down into self-pitying tears during his intro. He was asked to participate in a gag the following year during Billy Crystal's opening film montage segment to poke fun at not being nominated for Man on the Moon, but declined.
- In Liar Liar, there's a scene where Carrey's five-year-old son has discovered that his father can't lie, and is asking Carrey if various parenting clichés are true. The last one is:Max: If I keep making this face (makes a face) will it get stuck that way?
Fletcher: Not in a million years. In fact, some people make a good living that way.
- During the Hilarious Outtakes, the opposing lawyer (Swoosie Kurtz) he's trading insults with screams "Overactor!" (after being prompted to as a joke by the director). He laughs and says "Oh no. They're on to me," after playfully pretending to choke her.
- This clip from Late Night with Conan O'Brien is ostensibly from a Biopic with Carrey playing Conan (this was when Man on the Moon was new), and Carrey's Conan acts as if he holds a grudge against the actual Jim Carrey. At the three-minute mark, Carrey/Conan makes fun of the facial contortions and catchphrases of Ace Ventura and The Mask.
- From his own website:
- Animated Adaptation: His first three hit movies were all turned into Saturday morning cartoons in the mid-90s. Note that all of those movies were rated PG-13, resulting in more family-friendly jokes while retaining all of the wacky characteristics.
- Black Comedy: The Cable Guy, in which his character turns out to be a stalker.
- Me, Myself and Irene
- Fun with Dick and Jane
- Bus Crash: The reason he never appeared in sequels to the films he starred in, though he did star in the second Ace Ventura film as well as the third Dumb and Dumber film.
- Career Resurrection: Carrey's fall from grace arguably first started with him becoming an open anti-vaxxer as a result of his relationship with anti-autism pseudoscience promoter Jenny McCarthy, but his fadeout from the limelight first became too visible to ignore after 2014's Dumb and Dumber To, the sequel to Dumb and Dumber. Due to various legal issues surrounding that film against the crew responsible for making it, it was the end of Carrey's reign as a box office heavyweight, and he was the biggest for a time. After 2015, he was mainly in smaller art-house releases and direct to video fare, and doing controversial paintings critical of various right-wing political figures, including president Donald Trump. He also suffered from depression, exacerbated by the suicide of his ex-girlfriend and lingering mental issues caused by the extreme Method Acting he underwent on the set of Man on the Moon, issues that still have yet to be fully resolved. In 2017 however, he ended up getting the role of Dr. Robotnik in Sonic the Hedgehog (2020). Not only is the film the second live-action video game adaptation to see critical and box-office success after Detective Pikachu, it's also Carrey's first big-budget movie in 6 years.
- Canada, Eh?: Carrey was born in Newmarket, Ontario. He used to get annoyed with the same trite reaction people in Los Angeles gave whenever he mentioned where he was from (Canada? Wow, mustve been cold!), but ultimately started playing along and giving this brilliant response.
- Catchphrase: Many, especially as he became an A-list star.
- "Alrighty then!" (a catchphrase of his stand-up comedy that was written into Ace Ventura)
- "Lemme show ya somethin'!" (In Living Color)
- "Sssssssssssmokin'!" (The Mask)
- "Sssssssomebody stop me!" (The Mask)
- "B-E-A-Utiful!" (Bruce Almighty)
- "Hi-ho Silver! Away!" (He says this in both Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and Bruce Almighty, despite playing a different character in each.)
- "And if I don't see ya — good afternoon, good evening, and good night!" (The Truman Show)
- Man on the Moon takes an askew glance at the trope. Latka, Andy Kaufman's Taxi character (adapted from his stage act), has "Tank you veddy much" as his catchphrase. The montage of his work on the show ends with several clips of him saying it presented in quick succession, implying that — at least to Andy — he isn't making progress as an artist despite his popularity and his character isn't much more than the catchphrase.
- In his first Saturday Night Live appearance, he tries to do his opening monologue in character as an alien but ends up placating an unhappy "audience member" who just wanted to hear his catchphrases — namely the first three listed above.
- During the Cold Open after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 Presidential election, Carrey appeared as Biden, attempting to be a gracious winner, but finally relenting by saying: "In every election, there has to be a winner, and... a LA-HOO-SUH-HERRRRRRR!" to raucous applause.
- Chewing the Scenery: Along with Robin Williams, Carrey was the comic actor best known for over-the-top, rapid-fire, scene-stealing humor in The '90s.
- Deadpan Snarker: When he's not a Large Ham he's this.
- Face Fault: He pulled it off in live action in the film Liar Liar. After a long sequence of hiding from high-end executive types, he runs into the last person he wants to see, shouts "God in Heaven!" and collapses to the ground. He is probably the only person who will ever be able to pull off a Face Fault without it looking totally forced/awkward/just kind of stupid.
- He Cleans Up Nicely: Due to his smarmy, rubber-face persona, it is easy to forget that he is a tall, dashing man. It is more-evident in his more serious roles.
- Hilarious Outtakes: Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty run them over their respective end credits (the latter has additional outtakes on its DVD), the How the Grinch Stole Christmas DVD has an outtakes reel as a bonus feature, and before any of those was the In Living Color bloopers episode, where one montage focused just on him getting the giggles during various skits.
- Apparently there's about 2 hours worth of footage of him from Fun with Dick and Jane torturing Jeff Garlin with a voice modifier. Though no footage has been released in full.
- Large Ham: He has a subheading under Film at the trope entry for a reason (and the first one, at that). Think Jack Lemmon turned Up to Eleven.
- There's an image somewhere on the internet of various expressions he's made juxtaposed with various Internet memes and the uncanny resemblance he has to them.
- Lost in Character: An infamous case with Man on the Moon; to portray the film's subject, Andy Kaufman, Carrey utilized Method Acting, staying in-character as Kaufman both on and off set, even in public and during promotional events. However, the Kaufman persona ended up overtaking Carrey's entire self, to the point where not only does he not remember a single thing he did during this period, but he also attributes his actions when in-character to Kaufman to this very day. When production wrapped up and Carrey could finally drop the Kaufman persona, he was so mentally exhausted that he felt like an empty shell of his former self and understandably declined to appear as Kaufman in the music video for R.E.M.'s "The Great Beyond"; much of his more controversial antics post-Man on the Moon seem to stem in part from the sheer degree to which the Kaufman persona destroyed his old state of mind.
- No Indoor Voice
- Sad Clown: Gets this portrayal in Kidding.
- Slapstick: The modern master of the form. To the point where, during one scene in Fun with Dick and Jane, where he fell to the ground accidentally, he turned it into a joke. This included catching himself an inch from slamming his face into the ground.
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: He said it in the movie that is the Trope Namer. And again before that.
- Stand-Up Comedy: He was already well established in this niche before his breakthrough on to TV and film later on.
- Trickster Archetype:
- The Tooth Hurts: He lost a chunk from one of his front teeth in a childhood bicycle accident. He usually wears a cap over it, but removed it for Dumb and Dumber as the damaged tooth fit the character.