War of the Funnymen
Jim Carrey vs. Will Ferrell
by Steve Ryfle
Jim Carrey can do it all. From setting his flatulence afire (as in "Dumb and Dumber") to an Oscar-caliber dramatic turn (a la "Man in the Moon"), the face-contorting comic has risen from Wayans brothers sidekick to Hollywood's highest paid laugh man in just over a decade. Most everything he touches, save for the occasional "Lemony Snicket," seems to turn to gold, and he was the first comic actor to get a $20 million paycheck. For a time, it seemed nobody dared threaten his reign as the big screen's pratfall-and-punchline king.
But with Will Ferrell's emergence as a comic mega-star, Carrey's time at the top of the heap might be running out. Ferrell does the silly stuff and slapstick very well, thank you (for proof, see "Elf"), and like Jimbo, he's got ambitions of being accepted as a real-life thespian (hence his role in the new Woody Allen pic). Is Will the heir apparent of humor in movieland, or just a pretender to the throne? Can Carrey keep the laughs and facial tics coming ad nauseum, or will his career self-destruct with another "Cable Guy"-style misfire? Time and box-office receipts will tell, but until then, here's how these two comic gargantuas compare:
Real Name: James Eugene Carrey
Birth place: Newmarket, Ontario
Birth date: January 17, 1962
| ||Will Ferrell|
Real Name: John William Ferrell
Birth place: Irvine, Calif.
Birth date: July 16, 1967
|Origins: The youngest of four siblings, Carrey's idyllic childhood was disrupted when his parents fell on hard times. In high school, Jim pitched in by working a full-time factory job at night. The family's plight was so bad that at one point they lived in their van. || ||Origins: The son of a musician (his dad played keyboards for the Righteous Brothers), Farrell graduated from USC with a degree in sports information, hoping to become a broadcaster. As the story goes, he ad-libbed some jokes during an announcing class and had everyone in stitches, leading Ferrell to pursue a comedy career instead.|
| Better halves: Jim's divorce from first wife Melissa Womer was both messy and public; the couple have a daughter, Jane (b. 1987). A second marriage to "Dumb and Dumber" co-star Lauren Holly lasted one year. Was engaged to Renee Zellweger, whom he met while making "Me, Myself and Irene" together. || |
Better halves: Will and his Swedish wife Viveca Paulin have one son, born in 2004. The couple have competed in the New York City Marathon and the Boston Marathon together.
|Beginnings: Dropped out of high school and began performing in Toronto comedy clubs, doing old-school routines and celebrity impersonations. Moved to Los Angeles at age 17 and gigged at the Comedy Store, where he impressed Rodney Dangerfield, who made Jim his opening act.|| ||Beginnings: Received comic tutelage as a member of the famous comedy improv troupe The Groundlings, where he met and befriended Chris Kattan. In 1995, Ferrell became a "Saturday Night Live" cast member, like so many other Groundlings alums. |
|Big Break: Won numerous second-tier movie roles in 1980's classics like "Finders Keepers" and "Once Bitten." The Wayans took a liking to his physical comedy shtick and cast him in their sketch comedy institution, "In Living Color," where Jim played the outrageous Fire Marshal Bill, among other characters. Soon thereafter, Carrey was triumphantly talking through his buttocks in "Ace Ventura," and the rest is history. || ||Big Break: Some SNL cast members wait forever for their signature characters to get a spin-off movie (Garrett Morris is still hoping for a Chico Escuela flick), but Farrell starred in "A Night at the Roxbury" just three years after joining the show--a testament to his popularity among the SNL regulars.|
|Good Direction: The man responsible for Carrey's biggest hits, including "Liar Liar," "Bruce Almighty" and more, is director Tom Shadyac. But when Jim wants to explore his serious side, he works with prestigious filmmakers like Peter Weir or Milos Forman.|| ||Good Direction: He doesn't have the big nose and glasses, but Farrell stands in for Woody Allen in the iconic filmmaker's latest, "Melinda and Melinda." It's the role that Woody-worshipping actors covet.|
|Christmas presence: Donned a full-body, green-colored, hair-covered costume to play the namesake of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." It was an admirably animated performance, even if it couldn't outshine the original Boris Karloff cartoon that inspired the movie.|| ||Christmas presence: To play Buddy, the elfin man-child who eats candy canes for dinner in ELF, Ferrell donned a big, bright green costume and held his own onscreen opposite the greatest cinematic Santa Claus in history, distinguished thesp Ed Asner.|
|News-worthy: In "Bruce Almighty," he plays a shallow newscaster who's disgraced after dropping an F-bomb on live television.|| ||News-worthy: In "Anchorman," he plays a shallow newscaster who's disgraced after he blabs about having sex with Christina Applegate on live television.|
|Write stuff: Edgy screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" gave Carrey a meaty, challenging role that elevated his acting to new levels.|| ||Write stuff: Formerly edgy writer-director Kevin Smith gave Ferrell a forgettable role as a bumbling flat-foot named Willenholly in the now-mostly-forgotten "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back."|
|Accolades: Won Golden Globes for "The Truman Show" and "Man in the Moon," but got all uppity when the Oscars snubbed his Andy Kaufman portrayal.|| ||Accolades: Won an Emmy for his "Saturday Night Live" work. Ranked at No. 51 in Premiere magazine's Power 100 last year. |
|Payday: Scored his first $20 million salary back in 1996 for "The Cable Guy." Supposedly, Jim wrote himself a check for that amount years before, and kept it in his wallet until the day he could afford to cash it. || ||Payday: To convince Will not to leave SNL for greener pastures in Hollywood, in 2001 the show's producers made him the highest paid cast member to date, with a season salary of $350,000.|
|Replacements: Scored two of his least popular roles, the "Cable Guy" namesake and the Riddler in "Batman Forever," when other actors (Chris Farley and Robin Williams, respectively) bowed out.|| ||Replacements: When Carrey decided not to play Darrin Stephens, the exasperated husband of a beautiful and funny wiccan in the upcoming big-screen "Bewitched," Ferrell snagged the role, which pits him opposite Nicole Kidman, perhaps his most famous co-star so far.|
|Quotable: "I like people. They're entertaining. I just may laugh at different things than most people. I laugh at mistakes. I laugh at how you recover from mistakes."|| ||Quotable: "I'm no tortured, anger-stoked, deeply neurotic comic, just a pretty low-key normal guy. A 'hey, the glass is half-full' kind of a guy. But please keep it quiet, or I may never work again."|
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