Before becoming the power-tool-wielding star of the top-rated sitcom Home Improvement, Tim Allen suffered through comedy-club obscurity, Mr. Goodwrench commercials, prison, and even a job in advertising. Born Tim Allen Dick in Denver, Colorado, Allen has claimed that his personality was shaped by his easily-mocked surname--self-deprecation became his only defense in the face of the persistent taunting of his peers. (He wisely lopped off the offending name before joining the nightclub circuit--there's only so much heckling a man can take.) In 1964, when he was just eleven years old, Allen suffered a shattering loss when his father was killed in a car accident. His mother married her high-school sweetheart two years later (he had lost his wife to an auto accident as well), and the family relocated to a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, where Allen finished out high school and then went on to earn a degree in television production from Western Michigan University.
Allen first took to the comedy stage on a dare by one of his friends, and found he had a talent for eliciting guffaws. He set about honing his act at night, while supporting himself by appearing in commercials for Mr. Goodwrench, Ford, Chevrolet, and Kmart during the day. As his reputation as a comedian grew, Allen retooled his act--which formerly relied heavily on scatology--into a grunt-punctuated routine called "Men Are Pigs," which focused on men's love of hardware. The material quickly caught on, and before long, Allen succeeded in packaging it for a 1990 Showtime special of the same title. The special came to the attention of Walt Disney Studios then-chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg just about the time he was looking to develop a new television series. Katzenberg and Walt Disney Co. chairman Michael Eisner tracked down Allen backstage at one of his Improv gigs, and offered him starring roles in a series of situation comedies in development. Allen declined proffered roles in the series Turner & Hootch and The Dead Poets Society, in which he would have recreated for the small screen characters made popular on the big screen by Tom Hanks and Robin Williams. Eventually, he succeeded in persuading the studio to use his "Men Are Pigs" routine as the basis for a sitcom, and Home Improvement was born.
The pilot for Home Improvement introduced viewers to Tim Taylor, befuddled husband and father, and the well-meaning but mishap-prone host of a home-repair show called Tool Time. Anticipating forensic scrutiny of his past by the media, Allen stepped forward and revealed that, from 1980 to 1983, he had served a federal prison term for possession and distribution of narcotics. ABC executives nonetheless pledged their full support to Allen and the potential success of the sitcom, and the show debuted in the fall of 1991. Critics were divided on the show's appeal, but TV viewers loved it, and Home Improvement managed to break into the Nielsen top ten list during its first season on the air. And it only went up from there.
In addition to the awards he has received for his work on Home Improvement, he was recognized in 1995 by the film industry for his starring role in the top-grossing Disney movie, The Santa Clause, where he played the role of Scott Calvin/Santa Claus for which he received the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Actor in a Comedy Motion Picture. In addition, he received the Blockbuster Entertainment Award as Favorite Male Newcomer, Theatrical.
Even though Home Improvement was Tim’s first series, he was nominated twice for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, and was one of the co-hosts of the 1992 Primetime Emmy Awards presentation.
With a national concert tour that included a sell out performance at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Tim also found time to pen his first book, Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man. It reveals his philosophy about male behaviorreplete with comedic mediations and anecdotes. With this book topping the New York Times Bestseller List, it propelled Tim into an unprecedented 'Trifecta'he had the #1 rated television show, the #1 box office smash hit movie, and the #1 best selling book all in the same week in 1994. "That was such a critical mass of timing; I suppose, difficult to achieve, but I don't think it’s the kind of thing that goes down in history. When I'm long gone, maybe it’ll be a Jeopardy question."
Tim continued his film career when in November of 1995, he lent his voice talents to the deluded space ranger, Buzz Lightyear in Disney/Pixar’s computer animated smash hit, Toy Story. In 1996, Tim’s second book I’m Not Really Here was published and it too, became a bestseller. It dealt with Tim’s look at midlife, family, quantum physics and the search for a missing hood ornament. In March of 1997, Tim’s third movie, Disney’s Jungle to Jungle was released which co-starred Martin Short, Lolita Davidovich and JoBeth Williams, followed by the Universal romantic comedy, For Richer or Poorer with Kirstie Alley.
Even though Tim was busy with film productions, after eight seasons, Home Improvement was still in the top ten. In 1999, Tim won the TV Guide Award for Favorite Actor in a Comedy Series and in a tearful farewell, Tim hung up his Home Improvement tool belt after a two hour closing finale special. "I didn’t want it to end because I loved it so muchand it certainly wasn't a money issue. I just didn't want the show to tire itself outI didn’t want to eventually have to push an old car down the road. The cast members, the crew and the staff were like a second family to me. It was the hardest decision I ever made and that last show was a very emotional night for me."
Although his sitcom had come to an end, his film career had not. That same year, Tim reprised his role in the Disney sequel, Toy Story 2 which grossed over $250 million to become the sixteenth highest film of all-time in terms of US box office success. This was followed by the Dreamworks film, Galaxy Quest where Tim played the washed-up actor Jason Nesmith and his sci-fi alter ego Commander Peter Quincy Taggart who rallied the band of has-been actors and saved the galaxy. This film, along with its commercial success has turned into a top favorite among Tim’s fans, as well as fellow comedians and contemporaries in the business.
The 20th Century Fox picture, Joe Somebody hit the theaters Christmas 2001; Barry Sonnenfeld’s ensemble comedy Big Trouble, originally scheduled for release September 2001, opened at theaters April 2002; and Who Is Cletis Toutan independent dark comedy starring Christian Slater, was released in August 2002 at theaters in selected cities. In this movie, Tim plays a professional hit man with a knowledge and passion for classic filmsan interesting departure for the well known 'movie dad.' In November 2002, Tim helped kick off the holiday movie season reprising his role as 'the big man in red' in the long awaited sequel, The Santa Clause 2. Due to the overwhelming box office response, there are already plans for a Santa Clause 3. 2003 brought several feature development projects Tim’s way as well as co-creating, writing and executive producing a new sitcom pilot for ABC.
July 2004 brings the production to a close for the John Grisham novel turned film, Christmas with the Kranks, and Disney the Shaggy Dog to begin shooting in the fall. Tim is definitely in the prime of his life. With his movie career shifting into high gear, he still finds time to perform stand-up, collect cars, spend time with his daughter and run his companies; Boxing Cat Films, which develops entertainment projects, and Tim Allen Design (TAD), which allows Tim an outlet to continue his love for design.
So ask him what it’s like to be Tim Allen and you’ll get this: "Tim Allen? No, I’m still Tim Dick, the wisecracking kid from the upper Midwest, looking for answers to life’s big questions. I'm just fortunate to be able to create as much as I do and have people like it. I just worked hard enoughand was lucky enough to become the owner of a red-hot franchise called 'Tim Allen'."
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