Jim Carrey’s wild personality, kooky facial expressions, and outlandish sense of humor have been making the world chuckle since the ’80s. After snagging a gig on The Tonight Show at the age of 21, he parlayed his newfound success into a recurring spot on the ’90s sketch comedy show In Living Color.
He tickled our funny bones as he depicted memorable characters, such as Fire Marshall Bill and the buff bodybuilder Vera de Milo, and it was clear as day that Carrey had no limit to how far he would go to bring laughter into his fans’ lives.
Box office success soon followed, with movies such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb and Dumber, but despite his accomplishments, he has struggled with inner turmoil that manifested itself during his childhood and wreaked havoc in his life well into his adult years. This is the tragic real-life story of Jim Carrey.
Jim Carrey grew up grappling with a fear that his parents, who were “heavy smokers” weren’t going to survive. “I remember locking myself in the bathroom and crying because I thought they were going to die. They banged on the door, telling me to come out. I don’t know if I got over that fear at that time; it was just kind of with me,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. His fears heightened as his mom freely talked about her own mortality. “I remember being seven years old and my mother at the dinner table saying things like, ‘My brain is deteriorating at an incredible rate!’ or ‘My angina’s acting up; I could go at any time!'” he recalled. “Things like that would just shake me to the core.”
Those tragic childhood circumstances inspired Carrey to pen 2013 children’s book, How Roland Rolls, which tackles some of the serious topics that affect young people. “One of the things I’ve always wanted to talk about or deal with is the fact that kids have profound feelings and profound questions that people don’t give them credit for. They think about life and death and ‘What happens when something happens to Mom? What happens when something happens to me?'”
Carrey eventually came to grips with his mom’s outspoken banter, realizing it was her way of “getting attention and getting love,” — but it was at the cost of scaring the bejesus out of him.
At the age of 10, Carrey wrote a heartfelt letter to The Carol Burnett Show in hopes of showing off his “150 voices” on the program. He waited for a reply and was finally greeted with a rejection letter from the TV personality, who told him the program was “just grown-ups” and encouraged Carrey to “stay in school, study hard.”
Sadly, Carrey wasn’t able to heed her advice after his father lost his job as an accountant. In order to help his family make ends meet, the Bruce Almighty star dropped out of school on his 16th birthday, according to CBS News. “We were experiencing poverty at that point. We all got a job, where the whole family had to work as security guards and janitors.” There was a bright side to his early exit from school. Carrey was determined not to be a looo-hoo-zuh-her, so he spent his time away from the classroom working on his comedy act “full-time.” And, boy, did that pay off.
Jim Carrey also dealt with bouts of loneliness as a child, which he described in a December 1984 issue of Interview magazine. When asked if his childhood was unusual in any sort of way, he made the startling admission: “Well, I spent most of my time in my room staring at a mirror. I never knew I was supposed to socialize,” he said. He went on to say that he would spend “hours” making faces at himself in front of the mirror, but he described the memory in a nostalgic way by claiming he was just “having a good time.”
While chatting with James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio (via the Daily Mail), the Liar Liar actor shared more secrets about his life of solitude, but he hinted that his aversion to being a social butterfly may have been self-imposed. After dropping out of school, he said he went from being a “straight-A student to not wanting to know anybody’s name, and not wanting to make a friend.”
The Carrey family’s financial hardships meant tough times were abundant. The comedian revealed in an interview with Inside the Actors Studio (via People), that he and his family even had to live “in a van for a while.”
However, Jim Carrey managed to turn those difficult times into a source of laughter: “A lot of people don’t know this but when I was about 14 or 15, my father lost his job and I actually became homeless for quite some time, but of course, I grew up in Canada and I thought we’d gone camping,” he says in one of his earlier comedy skits. Thankfully, those difficult days are now over, and Carrey has used his fortunes to give his lifestyle a complete 180, like the time he purchased a beachside Malibu home that he later sold for a whopping $13.4 million. Cha-ching!