Tim Allen is a shit crazy-ily under-appreciated stand-up comic. There. I said it. He’s not nearly as well respected as a comic as he should be for a few reasons; One is because he’s been so God damn successful as a TV and Film star. He’s been the star of two gonzo successful situation comedies. ‘Home Improvement’ and ‘Last Man Standing’ He’s half of the star power of one of the great animated comedy teams in history with the ‘Toy Story’ films, and the ‘Santa Claus’ movies live on today as the modern day answer to ‘Miracle on 34th street’
Two; He’s an opinionated motherfucker and he’s pretty sure he’s right on all the issues. A cantankerous bastard who most of the time is going against what the mainstream crowd thinks is ‘right.’ Well guess what? You can say the same thing about every genius comic that we’ve all ever spent our lives bowing to. Pryor, Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Joan Rivers, Ricky Gervais, and Dave Chappelle.
So what is it? Is it that he’s rich as shit? Are we jealous of him? Is it that he went to prison as a young guy on drug charges? Is it that he’s a ‘Trumper’? A ‘Right Wing nut-job’? It’s none of them. A. Seinfeld is richer. He’s a damn good comic, Jerry, but so is Tim. B. Yes, he’s conservative, but he’s not a ‘Trumper’. He liked Trump, but the truth is he didn’t love him, he just spoke what he felt was the truth about him. He said he liked some of what Trump said. Tim is a guy who has always said what he wants to say and has always been in trouble for it and people were down on Tim long before Trump even was into politics. Tim is an easy target. C. He went to prison for the same stuff that most of the people that went to prison are now being let out of prison for because people now think it’s wrong to send people to prison. Also, somehow or another he left his white privilege in his other pants the day he was sentenced, so if that’s why he’s a bad guy to you, cut him some slack. He’s been oppressed.
So then, why isn’t he getting the same amount of love as other comics? For the most part it’s simply because ninety-nine percent of the people who don’t think he’s a great comic, or worse, who will tell you he’s not that great of a comic, haven’t even seen him do stand-up.
If they did they’d know what I’m saying. He’s a fantastic comedian.
He loves stand-up. He works his butt off onstage. He’s prolific as hell, he’s a deep thinker to a fault, constantly pushing the edge of his audience’s ability to follow him down some seriously intense and often insane rabbit holes about psychology, politics and humanity in a way that no one else does with the possible exception right now of maybe, Ricky Gervais.
Who knows this side of Tim I’m talking about? I’ll tell you who; Audiences. People that see him out in the real world. People in the cool kids crowd don’t understand what a beloved figure this guy is. I do. I’ve spent a lot of time around some pretty famous comedians. Larry David, Dave Chappelle, Gary Shandling, Adam Sandler. I’ve seen how regular people react to them. They can get pretty nuts. It’s sometimes fun to see yet I’ve rarely seen anyone get the reaction Tim gets when day-to-day people on the street meet him. They love him in a way that’s completely unique. There’s an unbelievable level of respect for him. For his story, for his life, for his authenticity.
He has something that few stars have that you can’t fake and people smell it through their sets and their screens. He’s genuine. Tim’s messed up and imperfect, but like, George Carlin, and Chapelle, he’s irascible and discontent with the world. He’s been put upon with life since he’s been a kid. Since his father was murdered by a drunk driver, since his mother moved him to Michigan from Denver into a large blended family and since one political theory after another didn’t make sense to him from sixth grade on, and he’s been at war with any wall he could slam his head against.
I know what I’m talking about. I’ve known him most of my life. Back when he was ‘Tim Dick’. The neighborhood his mother moved the Dick family to in Michigan from Colorado when she married into the ‘Bones’ family in a version of the Brady Brunch, had me around, keeping the property values low.
Tim didn’t know this at the time. I was a punk kid in the elementary school where his younger sister, Becky was thrown with other Dick children and some of the Bones kids at the time. Tim was already in Junior High school, and in fact, it wasn’t long after that he was in a pack of older guys down the street that were some of the first guys I ever knew who had driver’s licenses some five years before me.
I remember being in awe that Tim Dick could drive a car. He wasn’t mortal. He could drive.
I actually got into stand-up before he did. He went to college, came back around and I had already been out to L.A. and was the opening headliner Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle, a new club in the Detroit suburbs. He came in one night and he was damn impressed with me. It lasted about three months. I will say that’s the longest I’ve ever known Tim to ever be impressed with anyone save for Steve Jobs who he once became good friends with.
No, he quickly surpassed me. And why? Because he worked like a crazy man, single-mindedly putting together such a unique hour of stand-up that Showtime gave him a special out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, in a time that no one had ever gotten that done before. ‘Men Are Pigs’ was such a precise, perfect one-of-a-kind hour capturing a Zeitgeist movement/moment of American manhood and life in a way that no one had done since Richard Pryor’s albums two decades earlier. Like Pryor, and in fact, all great comics having their day, his voice was real, pure, and spoke to a place, a time, a genuine pain, and a decadent pleasure. It was miraculously heard from all the way out there in the Michigan hinterlands without him ever having to move or even travel much to Los Angeles.
I can not tell you how, rare, rough, and against every known law of show business, this was. Everyone else at that time and before, went to New York or L.A., maybe San Francisco, and had big-time agents and managers. They hob knobbed and schmoozed, till every last sun came up and went down for years at a time. They had either hit sitcoms or talk show appearances to break them. They opened for music stars on bus tours or they got supporting movie roles in goofy war or romantic comedies. Those were the lucky ones. The others traveled the country playing to crowds in Vegas and Reno and Atlantic City and slowly like molasses built a following. They played the same version of the same game that had been played since the ‘come to comedy’ bell first rang out in front of the Vaudeville theatres.
Yet Tim just stayed in Michigan and got so good, made that first hour so strong, someone at Showtime heard the laughter way the hell out in the cowtowns and let him film a one-hour special starring only him and his grunting. Just Tim and his tool jokes in Kalamazoo. An hour that was ultimately about anything but grunting and tool jokes. It was about frustration and maturation. About wanting to be a man in America during the last ten years where that was going to be an untested designation.
About wanting to win when the only way you knew how was to join the pack you saw ahead of you play the game they saw the boys ahead of them play. When toasting your buddies in the aftermath of dull corporate dinners obscenely making goofy sounds and jokes was so much better than going home and facing the fact that you hated your life.
When it was released ‘Men Are Pigs’ became a major hit. With word of mouth it traveled like a slow storm across the country, rolling NYC, where it had the Wall Street guys grunting each other, then took a bank shot clear across the states to Los Angeles. I remember it being one of the biggest pop-sensation catchphrase size stand-up turns to come along since Steve Martin’s ‘Wild and Crazy Guy’ turn.
Disney basically begged him to do a series for him and when he did it was a successful TV sitcom on the level of I LOVE LUCY.
Yet, still, not so much love for old ‘Tim formerly Dick- Allen’. You know why? The critics, the elites, the New Yorkers, and the L.A. hot dogs were all busy praying and kneeling to Seinfeld. The show three clicks over on the T.V. knob supposedly set in New York about people that looked down on anyone that wasn’t them. Especially those trying to play by the real rules of life as we were taught to play when we grew up. Not the show supposedly set in Michigan that looked up at people with families and kids and lives. No, that show, even though it was a ratings juggernaut wasn’t anywhere near as highfalutin. and edgy.
‘Seinfeld’ broke rules and boundaries. It was electric.
‘Home Improvement was as popular as you could get, but it stayed in its lane at all times. It was funny but its curse was you could watch it with your Grandmother. ‘Seinfeld’ was a show you could watch with a stripper, or better yet, a stripper you were planning your Grandmother’s murder with.
The ironic twist of this all was that of the two comics at the masthead of the two giant hit shows, Tim was the one with the edge and the angst. Jerry was a major comic, no doubt. He also has an amazing work ethic and a true love of the art, he was also the fully developed and centered one. The guy whose feet were both planted on the ground, enjoying his life full bore, tap dancing along with a whistle in the wind, and as result, his live act was a spanking clean polished to perfection example of stand-up comedy Yes, bring Grandma. It will make anyone laugh. He’s that good.
His TV show, ‘Seinfeld’ which had the live wire to it, is not what his stand-up is, and conversely, Tim’s stand-up, is a jumble-mumble sock puppet twin cousin of his nut-so brain, saying anything he can to keep himself talking and trying to convince you and he that it’s not all going to end tomorrow. He’s angry, confused, curious, and caustic. He’s funny as hell because you have no idea what he’s going to say next. As perfectly prepped as ‘Home Improvement’ was Tim Allen’s live show has the comical crackle of a hysterical train wreck that Tim Allen the person can oft-times has as well.
And the part that irritates me is that many people who will be reading this will be thinking I’m way off base. That I don’t know what the hell I’m writing about. Well, I’m sorry, I’m wrong on so very many things but on this one I’m right. Tim Allen is one damn funny dude, and I know anyone who thinks he isn’t, has just never seen his stand-up live or in a recent special.
As huge as a star as he is, where is his recent Netflix, HBO or Showtime special? How many of the people that choose who gets those, or hands out the awards have ever even gone down and seen him at the Laugh Factory? Or seen him play Vegas? The guy is an American Icon, beloved in a way by well over half of this country that few comics ever are. That alone means it’s good business. But that’s not the point. The point is he’s is a gut punch funny stand-up. I’ve seen his stuff. He makes me laugh harder than almost any comic I know. He’s another example of an artist who’s getting better, and better, and he’s right here, right now, and not being showcased.
I don’t just say this because he’s my friend, because he’s fine and he’s got a boatload of money and I have plenty of friends who I love and are great but I don’t feel deserve special treatment. I say this because I love to laugh and I love what laughter does to people’s souls. I also hate what politics and identity games has done to entertainment. Yes, let’s bring new artists along. Good. Let’s be inclusive, and diverse. Let’s give a shit-ton of heavyset people, a lot of POC’s and every handicapped comic we can find their own specials. I’m in. Go for it. It’s high time.
Yet let’s not close the door on the great ones among us because maybe we don’t like some of their opinions, or we don’t think they’re hip or they’re hop enough. Even if the same sort of thing was done to you and yours or them and theirs in the past. I understand. I do, it sucks, but, maybe Tim and everyone else you think it’s okay to pass on has had a different version of a barrel of pain as well.
By the way, you can see Tim in Vegas in January, or see him at The Laugh Factory on Jan. 5th at 8 pm and see me go up before him so you have that going for you. You really should come out and check out the show.
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