The third oldest of five brothers, 22-year old Timothy Alan Dick began his comedy career on a dare. In 1973, at the urging of his buddies, a collegiate Tim stepped up to the microphone at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle, a suburban Detroit comedy club. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Tim’s burgeoning comedy career soon took him from Detroit to Los Angeles, where he developed his signature grunting, men-as-pigs routine and did quite well on the regional standup circuit. Well enough, in fact, that he turned down ABC’s first two attempts at wooing him for a sitcom.
“I had had a career touring. I was making great money, and really doing what I wanted to do, so I didn’t need the gig,” Tim Allen recalls. “When Jeffrey [Katzenberg, Disney Studio Chairman] called, he said, we want to offer you this. I said, well, I don’t think so. And if you don’t know Jeffrey Katzenberg, I’ll tell you, he doesn’t like being said ‘no’ to; especially when he’s being really nice and sweet like he is. And he said–he called me at home–he said, ‘maybe you didn’t hear me.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I heard you.’”
When he finally relented, Tim reserved the right to create an entire show from scratch, based on his standup persona and his love for home remodeling television shows like PBS’s This Old House. The resulting sitcom, ironically titled Home Improvement, framed Tim as the star of his own public access-style handyman show, Tool Time. Flanked by a slew of oddball co-workers and a supportive, if rowdy, family, Tim Taylor was a well intentioned screw up who charmed his way into million of American homes. Beloved for its slapstick antics, hilarious family dynamics and compelling story lines, Home Improvement was met with immediate success and maintained high ratings throughout its 8-season run.
Like many of his fellow Standup to Sitcom entertainers, Tim Allen’s career grew directly out of his onstage persona. Even after his sitcom had wrapped, Tim’s subsequent film and television roles continued to evoke the dopey, lovable father-figure character he had created so many years before. Tim’s most famous parts, including starring roles in The Santa Clause series, the Toy Story trilogy and ABC’s Last Man Standing, are all variations on this theme. When discussing the limitations this kind of typecasting might present, Tim served up a dose of his signature, down-to-earth humor: “You get paid to be a certain guy,” he concluded. “They don’t want to see me do Othello.”