Jim Carrey Explains How To Be Bigger Than Yourself

How many of you know Jim Carrey, either from his stand-up comedy or from his many successful films, including Dumb and Dumber, Mask, Liar Liar, The Truman Show, or A Series of Unfortunate Events? You might think that anyone as talented as Jim must had a great home background and went to a great school with plenty of money to afford the best of training. Think again.

In his early years at school he describes himself as quiet and having no friends. Yet, he discovered that he could make friends by making people laugh. That was his turning point. But the results weren’t all positive. One teacher wrote on his report card: “Jim finishes his work first and then disrupts the class.” At home, he thoroughly enjoyed making faces and mimicking in his mirror.

His ambition showed when he began to think beyond entertaining his fellow students. At age ten he sent his resume’ to actress/comedienne Carol Burnette, hoping to be discovered.

It wasn’t all downhill for Jim. First, he had to work around his learning disability, dyslexia, in order to succeed in school. He did this by developing a phenomenal memory.

Although his dad tended to encourage his craziness, his mom was alarmed and often sent him to his room. No problem – just more time to practice in front of the mirror.

Money was another hurdle. His family lived in a rough district with lots of low-rent townhouses. By the tenth grade he was trying to juggle eight-hour night shifts at the factory with school during the day. He was so exhausted that he couldn’t understand what his teachers were talking about. He didn’t have any friends at school and feared that anyone getting close might find discover his embarrassing poverty. With little learning and no relationships, he felt that school was getting him nowhere. He called it quits at 16.


His family decided that their surroundings were taking them the wrong direction, so they packed up and moved to Canada with no job in sight. His parents and two siblings lived in a beat-up yellow Volkswagen camper van for a full eight months, parking in campgrounds.

You can imagine his emotional baggage – the loss of his teen years, feeling intellectually backward, the embarrassment and hardship of poverty. Yet, perhaps that feeling of inferiority paved the way to his success by making him feel that he had to try harder than others. As one biographer wrote:

“His greatest bursts of creativity were born out of desperation; so was his remarkable willingness to take risks.”

His first public performance was in Toronto’s Yuk-Yuk Comedy Club. Eleanor Goldhar, publicist for the club, noticed Jim’s intensity. When he wasn’t performing, he was quiet compared to the other comedians. In her own words,

“You could see him watching and listening – observing closely, paying attention to everything that was going on.”

Jim Carrey used his hard times and set-backs to motivate him to try harder. He could have turned to drugs and drinking. Instead, he channeled his energies to making something special out of his life. What about us? Do we sit around fretting about what we lack or how life has dealt us a bad hand of cards? Or, do we take what we have and make something out of it? 

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