Family & Companions
Smarter than his grunting comedic persona suggested, Tim Allen turned his stand-up into a successful Hollywood career. Early setbacks like the death of his father and a stint in prison gave Allen the drive to pursue comedy, and his affectionate dissection of the differences between the genders -- focusing especially on the confusions of modern masculinity -- spring-boarded him to stand-up stardom, leading to the massive hit sitcom, "Home Improvement" (ABC, 1991-99). The show won him buckets of awards and fans around the world for his portrayal of lovable lunkhead Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor. Notching a No. 1 book Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man, a TV show and a hit movie at the same time in a rare entertainment trifecta, and Allen went on to rule the box office with two trilogies: "The Santa Clause" (1994, 2002, 2006) and "Toy Story" (1995, 1999, 2010). Fans followed him to other projects, too; Allen toplined moneymakers like "Galaxy Quest" (1999), "Christmas with the Kranks" (2004) and "Wild Hogs" (2007), and returned to television with a second hit show, "Last Man Standing" (ABC 2011-17). Even as his star momentum slowed, the goodwill Allen built up with his early, supernova-level success seemed to assure the comedian as long a career as he chose.
Born June 13, 1953 in Denver, CO, Timothy Alan Dick (he modified his real name as a comic) was the son of Martha Katherine and Gerald M. Dick, a real estate agent. When Allen was 11, his father died in a car accident. Two years later, his mother remarried, moving Allen and his five brothers to Birmingham, MI, a suburb of Detroit. An indifferent student - except for shop class, of course - Allen graduated from Western Michigan University in 1974 with a degree in TV production and with a split minor in philosophy and design. In April 1978, Allen married his college sweetheart Laura Deibel, but later that year was arrested for trying to sell cocaine to an undercover agent at the airport. Because he provided the names of dealers and pled guilty, Allen's sentenced was reduced to seven years. While out on bail, he went with some friends to Detroit's Comedy Castle and was dared to take the stage. At that moment, Tim Allen the stand-up was born, and he saved a ceramic tile from the bar to commemorate the occasion.
Allen ended up serving 28 months at the Sandstone Federal Correctional Institute in Minnesota, and was released in 1980. He would later credit this event as shaping his determination to make the most of the rest of his life, and his sense of humor for helping him survive on the inside. After his parole, Allen returned to Detroit and his wife and took a job in advertising during the day while tackling comedy at night. Dressed in a suit and tie, Allen stood out among his fellow comedians, gradually honing his act from harder-edged riffs on anatomy to his gentler trademark take on gender differences. After an appearance on a local talk show, he also adopted the professional name of Tim Allen. He began to catch the attention of executives, and soon was traveling occasionally to Los Angeles to shoot commercials, play larger clubs and eventually make TV appearances and comedy specials. In 1988, he founded his film company, Boxing Cat Productions, and his daughter Katherine (Kady) was born in 1989.
In 1990, he won the CableACE Award for Best Performance in a Comedy Special, which opened more doors, including headlining his own comedy special "Men Are Pigs" (Showtime, 1990). Allen so impressed Disney executives that they tracked him down backstage at a show to secure his services. Offered leads in TV pilots based on the popular films "Turner & Hooch" (1989) and "Dead Poets Society" (1989), Allen held out for a show based on his stand-up persona, a loving lampoon of masculinity against the backdrop of a modern marriage. The resulting show, "Home Improvement" (ABC, 1991-99) fired on all cylinders: an excellent cast supported Allen, especially Patricia Richardson as his wise wife and Richard Karn as his low-key TV sidekick, a charismatic lead performance by Allen, and a charming premise. Allen played Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor, the host of a Michigan fix-it TV show, assisted by the more knowledgeable Al (Karn) and Heidi (Pamela Anderson, who left the show after two seasons for "Baywatch" (NBC, 1989-1990; syndication, 1991-2001)). Charmingly accident-prone, Taylor tried to apply his mantra of "more power!" and his "uh! uh! uh!" grunting take on manhood to his TV home life as well, but his three sons and wife often got the best of him. Family-friendly and ultra-popular, the show was never a critical darling, but provided an unparalleled launching pad for Allen across the world. For his work on the show, Allen received boatloads of plaudits, including an Emmy nomination, a Golden Globe win and four additional nominations, four Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards as well as a spot in their Hall of Fame, eight People's Choice Awards and a TV Guide Award.
Allen made the daunting leap from small-screen success to movie acting in Disney's holiday-oriented "The Santa Clause" (1994), in which he accidentally (and comically) murdered St. Nick and was forced to take his place. The film was the gift that kept giving, grossing over $144 million domestically and winning Allen another string of awards and even more fans. That same year, he also authored a best-selling book, Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man, in which he humorously examined aspects of his life and career. Allen finished out 1994 by notching an unbelievable entertainment triple crown: a No. 1 TV series, book and film at the same time. He returned to the screen the following year in another Disney family picture, Pixar's "Toy Story" (1995). He charmed opposite Tom Hanks as the voice of Buzz Lightyear, a plastic astronaut, in what was touted as the first full-length computer animated film, and which became a critical and box office smash. As the hyper-masculine heroic action figure, Allen got excellent reviews and won a slew of awards for his voiceover work.
Allen's second book, I'm Not Really Here, marked a departure from the dimwitted Disney yukkster persona that had made him millions. A strange and challenging exploration of the comedian's take on quantum physics along with other more familiar topics, the book was more serious than quippy, and the reception to the more spiritual Allen was not wholly successful. While his TV show continued to hum along like a well-oiled machine, Allen's next Disney comedy, "Jungle 2 Jungle" (1997) cast him as a New Yorker who discovers he has a 13-year-old son living in the jungles of Venezuela, and brings him back to the big city for the requisite misadventures. The movie was a financial hit, but critics preferred to slash-and-burn it. Also less-than-successful was Allen's Amish comedy "For Richer or Poorer" (1997), where he and Kirstie Alley played ruined millionaires comically adapting to the famous lifestyle of simplicity. Although it could have derailed a less popular celebrity's career, off-camera, Allen successfully weathered the bad press he got for an arrest for drunk driving and a stint in rehab.
The actor reprised his role in 1999's inevitable "Toy Story 2" a record-breaking box office smash which was hailed as one of the year's best animated films. He also starred in "Galaxy Quest" (1999), a hilarious spoof following the washed-up members of a cheesy sci-fi show (Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman) who enter into a real outer space adventure with aliens. As the preening, oft-shirtless captain - heavily inspired by William Shatner's Captain Kirk - Allen received some of the best acting reviews of his career. The same year also saw the end of Allen's longtime marriage to Deibel, as well as the finale of "Home Improvement," giving the comedian both the opportunity and struggle of searching for a suitable follow-up. While the animated direct-to-video movie "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins" (2000) was a modest success, Allen suffered his first setbacks at the box office. Despite a fascinating, eclectic cast including Allen, RuPaul, Portia de Rossi, Richard Dreyfuss and Christian Slater, "Who is Cletis Tout?" (2001) was a question America did not care to see answered, and despite the presence of Jim Belushi (on a career upswing) and Julie Bowen, the efforts of Allen's "Joe Somebody" (2001) to win respect went unrewarded.
While his leading role in the delayed ensemble caper "Big Trouble" (2002) seemed like a sure bet - the cast also included Rene Russo, Stanley Tucci, Zo y Deschanel and Janeane Garofalo - the film's plot of an attempted airplane bombing was overshadowed by associations with the events of 9/11. While "The Santa Clause 2" (2002) was successful at the box office, the reviews for the uninspired sequel were nothing short of horrible. The same fate awaited his next holiday blockbuster, "Christmas with the Kranks" (2004), based on John Grisham's best-selling novella Skipping Christmas, but without the slim volume's charms. Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis played a couple whose plans to spend Christmas on a tropical cruise encounter colorful resistance from their neighbors, with a decidedly slapstick, low-comedy sheen. Still, Allen had reason to celebrate that year when he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Disney banked on Allen's comedic charms yet again with their remake of the 1959 classic "The Shaggy Dog" (2006), where the actor played a workaholic district attorney who learns the Mickey-approved lesson of family before business after a magical transformation into the aforementioned hairy pooch. While critics declared it deserving of euthanasia, "The Shaggy Dog" nonetheless fetched moderate box office success. The same could not be said of "Zoom" (2006), where Allen played an over-the-hill crime-fighter charged with training a group of superpowered brats. Audience dutifully attended "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause" (2006), but the holiday cheer had long since departed the aging franchise. For his roles in those three films, Allen received two Razzie nominations, but had reason to celebrate when he married his girlfriend of five years, Jane Hajduk that year.
Allen next joined forces with John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy in the incredibly popular comedy, "Wild Hogs" (2007), about four men who deal with their mid-life crises by embarking on a freewheeling, cross-country motorcycle trip. Although critics had little to praise about the film, audiences turned out in droves, making "Hogs" the first smash of 2007. Allen then appeared as a faded Hollywood star in the David Mamet martial arts drama "Redbelt" (2008), a strange film mixing wordiness and jiu-jitsu that disappeared quietly from theaters. His follow-up comedy "The Six Wives of Henry Lefay" (2009) made even less of an impact. In happier 2009 news, Allen's wife gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth.
Professionally, the outlook improved for Allen with the release of the comedy "Crazy on the Outside" (2010), which he starred in and directed. Allen called in favors with many of his talented friends like Sigourney Weaver, Julie Bowen and Kelsey Grammer to take part in the story of a recent parolee (Allen) whose crazy sister (Weaver) shows him just how insane the world outside prison can be. The actor also voiced Buzz Lightyear yet again in the hit "Toy Story 3" (2010), which debuted to rapturous critical reviews and huge box office. The following year, Allen returned to television with "Last Man Standing" (ABC 2011-17), which featured an older and somewhat more curmudgeonly take on his familiar persona. The series was never as successful as "Home Improvement" had been, but its cancellation after six seasons was bashed by conservative action groups who claimed that Allen's right-leaning politics were behind the ouster. Undaunted, Allen went on to prepare for "Toy Story 4" (2019) while appearing in short films and television specials involving his beloved character.
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Made stand-up comedy debut at Detroit's Comedy Castle
Began playing the comedy circuit while working days at a Detroit ad agency
Formed Boxing Cat Productions to work in graphic arts, design and commercial production
Made his film debut, performing stand-up in "Comedy's Dirtiest Dozen"
Performed stand-up on "Showtime Comedy Club All-Stars II"
Headlined his first TV comedy special "Men Are Pigs" (Showtime)
Made his TV debut as a writer/producer on the Showtime special "Tim Allen Rewires America"
Cast in breakthrough starring role in ABC sitcom "Home Improvement" as Tim 'The Tool-Man' Taylor
Made his feature acting debut in Walt Disney's "The Santa Clause"
Published the book <i>Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man</i>
Provided the voice of Buzz Lightyear in Disney's animated classic "Toy Story"
Starred in the Disney comedy "Jungle 2 Jungle"
Starred in the cult favorite hit comedy "Galaxy Quest"
Returned as the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the phenomenally successful "Toy Story 2"
Played the title role in the comedy "Joe Somebody"
Co-starred with Rene Russo and Stanley Tucci in "Big Trouble"
Reprised role for "The Santa Clause 2"
Co-starred with Jamie Lee Curtis in "Christmas with the Kranks"
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Reprised role for "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause"
Cast as Captain Zoom, an out-of-shape former superhero in "Zoom"
Played a man who sometimes turns into a sheepdog in a remake of Walt Disney's 1959 favorite "The Shaggy Dog"
Cast in the comedy-adventure "Wild Hogs," as one of four middle-aged friends who decide to rev up their routine suburban lives with a freewheeling motorcycle trip
Featured in the David Mamet-directed "Redbelt"
Reprised the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the animated blockbuster "Toy Story 3"
Returned to series television with a starring role as a sporting-goods store marketer on ABC's "Last Man Standing"
Cameod as Buzz Lightyear in "Ralph Breaks the Internet"
Returned yet again to the character of Buzz Lightyear for Pixar's "Toy Story 4"