Jim Carrey's Pre-Star Brilliance Shone on 'In Living Color' With His Characters
If you were a sketch comedy fan in the '90s, then you knew that NBC wasn't the only horse in the variety show game. Fox, a relatively new network, wasn't afraid to take big chances, and In Living Color was one of those chances. The program featured predominantly African-American comedians and was heavily steeped in hip-hop culture. Remember the "Fly Girls"? Yeah, J-Lo started off as one.
Jim Carrey was the "token white" guy on the show, but the characters he created showed he was so much more.
The show produced a litany of top talent that went on to enjoy extremely successful careers. In addition to mega-stars like Jim, Jennifer Lopez, Jamie Foxx, Damon Wayans, David Alan Grier, and Keenan Ivory Wayans all made names for themselves on the program.
And while In Living Color produced a lot of memorable segments — many of which that wouldn't fly on network TV today — it's hard to deny that Carrey's off-the-wall characters were unlike anything anyone's ever seen before.
Which is a huge reason why the comedian stood out. Plus, you know, he was the only white guy on the program, which was utilized to a great degree and helped perpetuate a kind of "wokeness" about race issues that really didn't exist on TV at the time, like his Vanilla Ice impersonation/commentary that scathingly pointed out how Ice was able to get a hit single in a musical form that originated in the African-American community.
Below are some of the most memorable characters that Jim Carrey ever conceived of on In Living Color. The majority of them all play into Jim's unique skill set and passions — the man's proclivities for impersonations, exaggerated facial expressions, and overall off-the-wall behavior are in full effect with these hilarious parts.
Fire Marshall Bill
Jim Carrey is this amazing blend of reactionary and physical humor that I truly believe speaks to children like few other funnymen can. I remember one of the first times I thought I was going to laugh myself into insanity was when I watched the opening of Ace Ventura, the other time was when I saw Fire Marshall Bill on the program. Delightfully weird, dark, and 100 percent Jim Carrey, this character was always a treat whenever he was featured.
Vera De Milo
OK, so remember when I said that In Living Color produced a bunch of bits that would probably never see the light of TV if they were to be pitched today? Well, Vera's sketches would probably be included in those "haven't aged well" bits, like this gender-bending anti-steroid PSA.
The Background Guy
It's a simple premise that was executed to perfection every single time it came out on the show: feature an otherwise mundane occurrence or situation, and put a weird dude who relishes in perpetuating tomfoolery in the background. It's gut-bustingly hilarious.
Grandpa Jack McGee
While "Background Guy" is a very easy bit to pitch in the writer's room, I'd imagine Grandpa Jack McGee on "The Dysfunctional Home Show" was not. There is no one, I repeat, no one who could pull off this bit except Jim Carrey. I have no idea why it works, but it just does and gives him free range to act like the balls-to-the-wall weirdo that only he's capable of. It's brilliant, honest, and utterly unique.
If you stayed up at night in the late '80s and early '90s, then you were probably familiar with infomercial hype man, Jay Kordich, who sold his line of juicers. The man was a health nut and a bit off the wall; he was Billy Mays before Billy Mays. And Jim's impersonation of the the man, with his ridiculous eyebrows and grey pompadour is sketch comedy TV at its finest.
OK so this isn't a character, but if you grew up in the '90s then you probably heard the wonderful reggae stylings of Canadian artist (yes you read that right), Snow in his hit tongue-twisting track, "Informer". Jim's impersonation of the singer is in the same wonderful vein of his Vanilla Ice Impersonation
What were some of your favorite moments from In Living Color? Digging through the archives has certainly got me nostalgic, and I think I'm gonna go down a YouTube rabbit hole soon.