Arguably the top screen comedian of the 1990s, Canadian-born entertainer Jim Carrey has combined equal parts of his idol Jerry Lewis, his spiritual ancestor Harry Ritz, and the loose-limbed Ray Bolger into a gleefully uninhibited screen image that is uniquely his own.
Carrey's life wasn't always been a barrel of laughs; he was born on January 17, 1962 into a peripatetic household that regularly ran the gamut from middle-class comfort to abject poverty. Not surprisingly, Carrey became a classic overachiever, excelling in academics while keeping his classmates in stitches with his wild improvisations and elastic facial expressions. His comedy club debut at age 16 was a dismal failure, but Carrey had already resolved not to be beaten down by life's disappointments (as his father, a frustrated musician, had been). By age 22, he was making a good living as a stand-up comic, and was starring on the short-lived sitcom The Duck Factory -- a series which curiously did little to take advantage of its star's uncanny physical dexterity. Throughout the 1980s, Carrey appeared in supporting roles in such films as Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) and Earth Girls are Easy (1990).
Full television stardom came Carrey's way in 1990 as the resident "white guy" on Keenan Ivory Wayans' Fox TV comedy weekly In Living Color. The most popular of the comedian's many characterizations on the program was the grotesquely disfigured Fire Marshal Bill, whose dubious safety tips brought down the wrath of real-life fire prevention groups -- and also earned Carrey the ultimate accolade of being imitated by other comics. 1994 proved to be The "Year" of Carrey, with the release of three top-grossing comedy films to his credit: Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber. By the end of the year, Carrey was commanding seven to ten million dollars per picture. In 1995, the actor-comedian took over for Robin Williams as The Riddler in the blockbuster film Batman Forever, and in 1996 tried his hand at a darker and more menacing role as a maniacal cable repairman in The Cable Guy. The film, and Carrey's at times frightening performance, received decidedly mixed reviews from critics and audiences. Despite the generally negative response to the film, Carrey still retained an interest in branching out into more dramatic roles.
Following a return to all-out comedy in Liar, Liar(1997) as a chronically dishonest attorney, Carrey explored new territory with his lead role in the highly acclaimed The Truman Show (1998), Peter Weir's eerie comedy-drama about the perils of all-consuming media manipulation. Critical respect in hand, Carrey returned to comedy of a different sort with the lead role in Milos Forman's Man on the Moon (1999), a much-anticipated biopic of the legendary comic Andy Kaufman.
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