Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Jim Carrey Revisits Early Stand-Up Days with TV Series 'I'm Dying Up Here'

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Jim Carrey Revisits Early Stand-Up Days with TV Series 'I'm Dying Up Here'

Article excerpt

Jim Carrey revisits early career with 'I'm Dying Up Here'

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PASADENA, Calif. - Last month marked the 25th anniversary of Johnny Carson bidding his late-night audience adieu for the last time on "The Tonight Show."

It was nearly ten years before that that Jim Carrey made his first appearance on Carson's show, and that pivotal occasion factored into why the Canadian comedian bought the rights to William Knoedelseder's 2010 bestseller "I'm Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Standup Comedy's Golden Age."

Carrey, now 55, saw his own rise in the comedy world mirrored in Knoedelseder's book and knew the story had the makings of a fun and dramatic TV series.

The result is "I'm Dying Up Here," an eight-episode series executive produced by Carrey and starring Melissa Leo in a role loosely based on real-life L.A. comedy club owner Mitzi Shore. It premieres Sunday in Canada on CraveTV and in the U.S. on Showtime.

Speaking to reporters earlier this year in Pasadena, Carrey said he'd been dying "for a very long time" to revisit his early stand-up days and tell this story set in 1973.

"I had so many incredible experiences," he said, including sleeping in a friend's closet for months when he first went to L.A., a story that makes its way into the series.

Carrey began his stand-up career in Toronto as a teenager in the late 1970s. Executive producer Michael Aguilar felt the early '70s timeline was an even more fitting starting point for the series. The show catches the comedy scene in the three or four years between "The Tonight Show" moving to the West Coast and the premiere of "Saturday Night Live" in 1975.

This was right when things changed in the world of stand-up, said Aguilar, who produced Carrey's 2013 comedy short "Cold Dead Hand."

"Comedy went from setup/punchline jokes to storytelling, to therapy, to creating characters," he said. The scene was transitioning from Rodney Dangerfield to Richard Pryor."

By the end of the '70s into the '80s, stand-up comedians such as Robin Williams, Jay Leno, Steve Martin, David Letterman and Eddie Murphy were the new rock stars. Los Angeles clubs such as The Improv and The Comedy Store became de facto audition rooms for Carson's comedy scouts. …

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