Jim Carrey has spent decades making us laugh. Unfortunately, his life has been defined by tragedy and darkness.
From a young age, Carrey has struggled with trials that most of us can only imagine. He emerged successful and famous, but he may not have emerged with his heart and soul intact.
Here, then, is a dive into the dark side of Jim Carrey. You will see exactly why America’s biggest clown has often stopped smiling.
A Childhood Obsession with Death
It’s not uncommon for children to experience unrealistic fears. However, as a child Jim Carrey was obsessed with the irrational fear that his parents would die at any moment.
“I remember locking myself in the bathroom and crying because I thought they were going to die. They banged on the door, telling me to come out. I don’t know if I got over that fear at that time; it was just kind of with me,” Carrey told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013.
It didn’t help that Carrey’s mother was ill and depressed. She would say outrageous things that terrified her young son.
“I remember being seven years old and my mother at the dinner table saying things like ‘My brain is deteriorating at an incredible rate!’ or ‘My angina’s acting up; I could go at any time!’ Things like that would just shake me to the core.”
A Mother Addicted to Pain Pills
Carrey’s mother’s strange sense of humor masked deeper issues Carrey has claimed were the result of her being raised by alcoholics.
“I had a sick mom, man,” Carrey told 60 Minutes in 2004. “I wanted to make her feel better. Basically, I think she laid in bed and took a lot of pain pills.”
But his mother’s depression and illness helped fuel Carrey toward a life in comedy. “I wanted to make her feel better,” he said. “And I used to go in there and do impressions of praying mantises, and weird things, and whatever. I’d bounce off the walls and throw myself down the stairs to make her feel better.”
Most fans think Jim Carrey must be an extrovert. After all, he is a legendary funnyman who has appealed to audiences all around the world. But as a child, the idea that he should make friends and socialize was an alien concept for him.
“I spent most of my time in my room staring at a mirror. I never knew I was supposed to socialize. I just spent hours making faces at myself,” he told Interview Magazine in 1984, before he hit the big time.
Carrey’s arsenal of weird faces would eventually become one of his biggest strengths as an actor.
Homeless at age 12
Jim Carrey was already having a pretty weird childhood. It ended up even weirder when his dad lost his job as an accountant when Carrey was 12.
For a time, his family was homeless and living out of a camper. The adult Carrey would later joke about thinking they were simply camping.
“We were all living in a Volkswagen camper for six months — four of us! Lots of people say if you dredge too much stuff up, you’ll go crazy—’You’ll go insane!’ But for a comedian, insanity is not a problem. It’s a goal,” Carrey told Interview.
Janitor at age 16
By age 15, Carrey had begun doing standup comedy in Toronto. But Carrey’s family continued to have financial problems.
On his 16th birthday, Carrey had to drop out of high school to help his family pay the bills. “My family kinda hit the skids. We were experiencing poverty at that point. We all got a job, where the whole family had to work as security guards and janitors,” Carrey told 60 Minutes.
The humiliation Carrey experienced led to some serious anger issues. “I was angry at the world for doing that to my father,” he said. “I wanted to bash somebody’s head in, basically.”
Breakdown at The Comedy Store
Two years after working as a janitor, things were looking up for Jim Carrey. He had moved to Hollywood and was getting work as a standup comedian. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing. The Los Angeles audiences could be brutal.
“There were many nights at The Comedy Store where I ended up on someone’s table with a broken beer bottle,” Carrey told The Hollywood Reporter.
One time, while his act was bombing, he refused to leave the stage for hours. During this time, the audience hurled everything from insults to chairs at him!
This is where Carrey’s anger issues came to the surface. The audience applauded when he finally left the stage. But then he crawled over to a piano and banged on the keys, screaming “I hate you all, you gave me cancer,” while the audience walked out.
He claims he cried all the way home “because I don’t want to make people unhappy.” But the incident reveals a dark side beneath his clownish exterior.
Struggles with Depression
One of the most human things about Jim Carrey is also the bleakest. The man known for making everyone laugh has actually had a lifelong struggle with depression.
“I was on Prozac for a long time,” he told 60 Minutes in 2004. “It may have helped me out of a jam for a little bit, but people stay on it forever. I had to get off at a certain point because I realized that, you know, everything’s just OK.”
Despite getting off of antidepressants, Carrey has continued to talk about his struggles with depression.
In a 2018 interview with The Talks, he spoke about how fame and success did not bring him happiness. “That you can still be unhappy is a shock when you have accomplished everything you ever dreamt of and more,” he said.
Carrey even revealed a disturbing take on existence and the meaning of life: “What are we? Why are we here? And the answer to both of those questions is: nothing, no reason, as far as I am concerned.”
More recently, Carrey made headlines in April 2019 for engaging in a Twitter conversation with singer Ariana Grande after she posted some of his quotes about depression on Instagram.
Series of Failed Relationships
As a comedian, you might think Carrey would be a fun guy to date. If you ask his exes, though, you’ll get a very different answer.
He actually married a fellow actor, Melissa Womer, back in 1987. They had a daughter together before getting divorced. In 1996, he married Lauren Holly (his Dumb and Dumber co-star), but got divorced less than a year later.
He also had a short-lived engagement to Renée Zellweger, his Me, Myself & Irene co-star, that lasted from 1999-2000.
His longest high-profile relationship was with actress Jenny McCarthy from 2005-2010. The split appeared to be amicable at first, with McCarthy telling US Weekly, “I will continue to be in his daughter’s life and will always keep Jim as a leading man in my heart.”
But controversy brewed when Carrey did not reciprocate for McCarthy’s 10-year-old autistic son. “I’ve tried to ask [Jim] numerous times [to see Evan], because my son still asks,” she told The Howard Stern Show in 2012.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit
However, Carrey’s biggest relationship controversy came when his ex-girlfriend Cathriona White committed suicide in 2015. Carrey had dated the makeup artist, 23 years his junior, from 2012-2013.
White’s family sued him for wrongful death, alleging Carrey had illegally obtained and given her the painkillers that she used to take her own life.
The lawsuit was dismissed in 2018. But a letter lawyer Michael Avenatti claimed was found on White’s iPad painted a damning portrait of Carrey.
“Before you, I might not have had very much but I had respect, I was a happy person…” the letter read. “I met you, you introduced me to cocaine, prostitutes, mental abuse and disease. You did good things for me but being with you broke me down as a person Jim. I was promised Jekyll and instead I got Hyde.”
For a time, Jim Carrey was Hollywood’s biggest star. He became the first actor to command $20 million paychecks (for 1996’s The Cable Guy). Then, he successfully crossed over to dramatic roles with 1998’s The Truman Show. Perhaps his most acclaimed role was his stunningly transformational portrayal of legendary comedian Andy Kaufman in the biopic Man on the Moon (1999).
Carrey had finally earned the respect of critics to go along with his box office clout, winning back-to-back Golden Globes for these powerhouse dramatic roles.
The Academy Awards seemed to be on his mind when he accepted his first Golden Globe. He made a faux pas, thanking “The Academy… no, I mean… I’m sorry, I was thinking of something else!” and joking that winning the Golden Globe meant he was a shoo-in at the Blockbuster Awards.
Yet, shockingly, Jim Carrey has never been nominated for an Oscar. They even snubbed his dramatic turn in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).
In a March 2019 interview with Vanity Fair, Carrey claimed that not getting nominated for awards doesn’t bother him. But he also admitted that he hasn’t been good at campaigning for them. “There’s a lot of monkey business that goes on around awards… if you don’t show up to a certain dinner, you screw your chances and all those things. I’ve never been real good at playing that game.”
At the 2016 Golden Globe Awards, Carrey joked about being introduced as “two-time Golden Globe winner Jim Carrey.” He said he dreams of winning a third Golden Globe “because then I would be enough. It would finally be true, and I could stop this terrible search for what I know ultimately won’t fulfill me.”
Carrey seems to be mocking the whole idea of awards here. While he has publicly said he’s okay with never getting an Oscar, it’s hard not to read bitterness in his statements on awards.