The word “versatility” frequently comes to mind when you think of actor Jim Carrey, but that usually translates to the different levels of comic hijinks he attempts. But recently he’s raised his personal versatility — combining humor and drama — to a whole new level with the Showtime series Kidding, which has been renewed for a second season.
“We all have a full spectrum of feelings, emotions, spiritual yearnings and all of those things,” Jim mused at the recent TCA event held in Pasadena, California. “None of us are any different. For me, it’s just from the inside out and it’s been a matter of going, ‘Well, why not? Why can’t I? Who says I can’t? Who says where these boundaries are?’ I’ve never believed in them. I’ve always had a stupid confidence in myself of being able to stumble my way into different areas of creative endeavor and somehow find something interesting.”
He certainly found it with Kidding. Imagine the late Fred Rogers having a nervous breakdown, and you may get a sense of the character Jim plays on the series, which is officially described as following “Jeff Pickles, a man who is iconic in children’s television. Jeff, a.k.a. Mr. Pickles, is a pillar of kindness and wisdom to the impressionable minds of America’s youth and to the parents who grew up with him. When Mr. Pickles’ family begins to implode, his life starts to take a downward spiral. He must put the fables and puppets aside to get through this newest crisis in life. As the slow leak of sanity advances faster than he can cope with it, the cruel world breaks his heart.”
Without going into much more detail about the premise, for fear of spoiling it for those who haven’t had the opportunity to watch the show, suffice to say that the set up perfectly allows Jim, so well known for outrageous comedy, to layer in different sorts of messages.
As he explains, “To a certain extent somebody’s artistic expression comes from a sense of service and a sense of what you think the world needs. I started out thinking, basically, that the world needs to escape and they need freedom from concern more than anything. We still need that now, but we’re going through a period where we have to address the reality of being human and we’re really not dealing with it so well right now. We’re being shocked and surprised at who we are. With all this Trump stuff, all this political stuff that’s bigger than him, all this f–king ancient s–t we’re still dealing with. More than anything, I want to do something beautiful in the world that gives people a break from it, but I also want to show them that the way around it is the way through it sometimes. You know what I mean?”
“We’ve all come to the realization that the real depression in the world right now is that we’re not as good as we thought we were,” he adds. “We’re lost still in tribalism, and fear of loss, and insecurity; personal insecurity. And it’s amazing to get to a point where you realize, oh my God, in this day and age, in this new millennium, we’re not on a straight evolutionary path. We keep falling back to this fear.”
It’s a pretty dire portrait he paints, but he believes Kidding presents an opportunity to reach for the light, even if it’s a gradual process. “I feel completely deflated, and then I blow myself back up again,” Jim explains. “Like everybody, every day, I below myself back up again. Hopefully this show is a way to blow yourself back up. So you look at it and you go, ‘Yeah, there’s pain; everybody’s dealing with confusion and pain and conflict of character. What do I be I the world? Who am I? What am I?’ Hopefully this show shows you that underneath it all there is goodness, and we’re all struggling to find it. To solidify it forever, that’s the trouble, right?”
When it’s pointed out to him that people like Mister Rogers and painter Bob Ross are very much in the zeitgeist these days, and represents variations of the the types of people he’s being given the opportunity to tackle in one form or another as of late, he laughs, “I don’t know what’s going on, but they seem to be gravitating toward me, these characters, and I feel kind of gratified about that. I like who I’m playing. They’re absurd and messy, but there’s a good soul in them and a good soul in the world. I’m happy about that. That’s all I really want.”
Kidding kicks off its second season November 3 on Showtime.
Be sure to check out and subscribe to our Classic TV & Film Podcast for interviews with your favorite stars!