Whether you call him Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, Buzz Lightyear, Mike Baxter, Santa, or America’s dad, the fact is, you know Tim Allen. That makes his fan base crazy broad too if you think about it. From toddlers, to 23-year-olds, to 43 year-olds, to 73-year-olds (I realize this is rather specific), everyone knows this guy. And when he puts his real life on display via stand-up comedy, it’s bound to end in belly laughs (the grunty caveman kind that he perfected on Home Improvement). Before hitting the stage at Segerstrom Center for the Arts this Saturday (Oct 6th), we talked to him about how comedic times have changed for this comedy vet.
OC Weekly (Ali Lerman): Let’s talk comedy but, throwback comedy. You’re a comedy OG so I want to hear about your early days of stand-up. I imagine you hit up some unsavory open mics.
Tim Allen: Yes. And open mics were awful then too, believe me! [Laughs.] The talent pool was short though so, they didn’t have much. Especially where I was starting up outside of Detroit in a place called, the Comedy Castle. I‘m going to guess maybe at the most there were 10 guys and to get the courage to go up there, it was nothing. You’re standing in front of strangers. I just kept looking forward. I never spent any time thinking about how lousy I was. I just worked to leave them laughing. That is really how it started. Once I got hooked and was picked up at the Comedy Castle, I was no longer a “new talent guy.”
Attempting to break into the business back then seems like quite a feat when now people can just get famous off of Twitter and YouTube.
Oh man, it was! After working, college, and spending some time in the federal institution, I was like three years behind everyone. It took a while to catch up but I got out of my first job and was able to figure out how to make that much in comedy. Setting goals like that helped me be able to make a living. I started making a living by touring and I just kept thinking, “How do I get to be a headliner?” Well, to be a headliner you had to get some credits. Then it was, how do I get credits? You had to go to LA and do the Improv, Comedy Store, or The Ice House. It was like two different worlds because there was the touring world to make money but, I had to go to LA or NY to get credits. But I didn’t live there so when my money ran out, I had to go back on the road again. It was a difficult path for me because I didn’t live in either of those places that things would happen for you. What did happen though is, I developed a road act which is very different than being in Los Angeles all of the time. It was really one step at a time.
The thought of trying to promote comedy gigs back then without social media makes my head spin.
Yeah it was very different! [Laughs.] Our “YouTube stars” were morning radio shows. Morning radio is still pretty powerful even now. And, it’s pretty much free if you have an antenna! Morning radio was really our streaming service back then.
I hear that. I was turned on to so many comics as a kid via morning radio. Nowadays you just jump on-line and everyone’s a comic.
I’m not going to mention the person’s name but, I remember someone told me, “Well, I’ve tried everything else. I might as well become a comedian.” And they made it work so it is possible. [Laughs.] There’s also some actors that have had none of the foundation and schooling other actors have and they’ve made it. I’m sure it completely irritates people who have worked to be an actor when people just jump into it. It’s like that with comics too. [Laughs.]
I’m sure! Side note: Who do you think had the best mullet back then?
[Laughs.] I think Jeff Foxworthy definitely had one of the better mullets.
Not Richard Lewis?
Richard Lewis still has a mullet! [Laughs.] I hope he heard me say that too!
Oh, he will. He reads OC Weekly religiously. I know you’re a car guy so, who do you think knows the most about cars, you, Jay Leno, or Jerry Seinfeld?
I think we all know different things. Jerry probably knows the intricacies of Porsche’s for sure and what Jay knows about the whole environment of automotives is astounding. I’ve raced cars so I think I know as much as those guys when it comes to driving hard. That’s what I like to do, drive them really hard on racetracks. I think that’s where my skill set is. That’s really all I’m interested in and it has clouded me. [Laughs.] Look, I’m a little lazy. I like new cars rather than old cars because every time I get in them I’m reminded, they’re old!
Speaking of age, before I let you go, I noticed on the Segerstrom ticket page that your show is 18 and over. Does Tim Allen get racy on stage?!
[Laughs.] No, no. What it is, is, I tend to be lazy about my language. I drop the F Bomb now and again sometimes when I get into big bits. But it’s not sexual, I’m not there to shock people. It’ll be about family, life, men and women, childhood stuff…it’s observational humor to the nth degree. But sometimes I swear.
Tim Allen performs at Segerstrom Center for the Arts on October 6th at 8p.m., 600 Town Center Drive Costa Mesa, CA 92626. (714) 556-2787. For tickets go to www.scfta.org. For all things Tim, check out Last Man Standing on Fox, find out the latest at TimAllen.com, and follow him on Twitter @ofctimallen.
Ali Lerman knows much about comedy, basketball, and celebrating Wu-Tang Wednesday. She’s been writing for fifteen years and still calls her mom with grammatical questions.