Tim Allen is not having a midlife crisis. He's been too busy to deal with such a thing. He seems free and clear of doing anything irrational to make himself feel young and invincible. These days, at 59, the Last Man Standing actor is coasting through life like a well-oiled engine from any one of his (we think over 30) favorite cars that he owns -- no serious body damage and running on a full tank. And, he's smart. Quantum physics smart. Who the heck knew that?
Mr. Home Improvement -- or, as the kids know him: space ranger Buzz Lightyear from the animated film Toy Story -- who still performs his standup comedy act in Vegas, had a very revealing conversation with The Huffington Post to discuss the afore-mentioned quantum physics, how the aging process is going for him, why he became determined to do standup comedy after he got out of prison, how he conquered his alcohol addiction (loved this candid revelation the most) and his interpretation of the meaning of life. (Finally, we find out what Is the meaning of life?)
You do standup in Vegas. How hard is it to do standup after all these years? Do you have to revise your act often and refresh your routines?
I started this whole thing in '89. I did that until I got the gig with Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner. They saw me in concert, gave me the show, so my whole Home Improvement was based on that characterization. I did tools and guys. I don't want to do my old act, and it really was a lot of work to get another act. I don't have a hook but I don't really need one. Now I can just be myself -- a much more authentic guy. I really love doing standup. I like being a part of the family of comedians throughout history. It's a very small, select, wonderful group of men and women that enjoy making people laugh.
When AARP magazine called you to be their cover boy, did you stop and think, 'Gosh, I'm over 50, when did that happen?' You look so young.
Thank you for the young part. I guess it really hit me on my 50th birthday because my brother gave me a subscription to that [magazine], and I'm OK with it... some days I'm not OK because I have a very broad range of friends age wise. I have some 80-year-old men that I still call good friends. I watch them turn into old men. You go through these periods of everybody's life where you go through a plateau where you don't change at all, then all of a sudden you turn and you see a man that you've known for years, frail... and then kind of collapse and move on into the death spiral -- for good or bad.
Age didn't really hit me until I'd see pictures of me when I'd do Last Man Standing. I've never been that concerned. I've never been a pretty boy. I do the best I can to clean up well, but when I see myself on TV I'd go, 'Good Lord, if I stoop or bend in the wrong way, my solar plexus looks bigger than it is, then TV puts about 20 pounds on you, and if I bend over the right way, I've got a head of hair, but if you get the right light, I say, 'Gee, Am I losing my hair?' Then, all of a sudden, your neck looks bigger and your skin is a little saggier, and, as my mother or grandmother would day, 'Just wait!" There's no sense complaining about it, we're all waiting in line for a ride we don't want to get on.
Tell me your worst midlife crisis moment. Have you had one yet?
Nah, I'm really not like that. I'm a lucky guy. I'm a very interested person. I've always got something that interests me. I love science and medicine and people and I'll always find something interesting.
I was at Steve Jobs funeral, and that was -- not a midlife -- it was a very emotional day for me because I was able to have whatever you call it -- a nice relationship with him over the years and the way he passed kind of put a real blue on me for awhile. You miss creative people a lot. I don't know how to describe it. It made me sad and it made me think of my age.
The AARP article suggested you have a fresh look on marriage this time around. How so?
I don't want to be too dramatic about it, but the first go-round I was an unsettled man in my heart and soul. I was on the road a lot. I was doing my comedy, and I literally abused every privilege God gave me, whether it be time with my family -- certainly I wasn't there very much, and I drank heavily -- heavily for me, but it got in the way of things. I had baggage from my bad past. I wasn't settled and it showed up in many different ways. I just wasn't present, and now I've been an active sober guy for just 14 years, and it's just a different person I'm dealing with. I engage. The engagement in life is where magic happens. But it takes energy and focus, and I said this time around, I engage more but I realize it's very tiring for me on a spiritual level. I don't know that human beings are built to engage in the world. Only bits and pieces I think. When people say, 'Smell the roses,' and 'Live every day like it's your last,' sounds good. I've never met anybody who does that.
I didn't really know you had a drinking problem until I read about it. I'm not asking this to be a smart ass -- I have someone in my family who's dealing with this problem, and it's breaking my heart in two. So what brought you around? How did you stop drinking?
I hate to say it but I think you get picked. For me, I was done! I was just done! And I didn't know where to turn. A physician friend of mine told me a long time ago, he said you've just got to ask for help. One of the best pieces of advice I've heard recently was, if you want help, it's the first thing you go to in the phone book, and it's free. How can it be simpler? It's a program that's always got its doors open, there are no dues or fees, there is no leader, there's no organization. You've just got to go! You've got to be ready, and if you're not ready, and you don't think it's time, then it's not time. It is a disease of the soul and the mind, and it will tear up the people around you. It's a matter of hitting a personal bottom. And for me, I was done. D.O.N.E. I was tired of my excuses, I was tired of the shame and the guilt... so much energy to manage it. It was unmanageable. But I was done, and I sat there -- maybe not on my knees -- but I said to whatever God that was watching over me at the many times that I felt that it was: 'Help me! I will do what you want.' And phone calls came in, oddly enough, got me to a program... and I'm a guy who doesn't like 'organized' anything but AA is just brilliant to me.
Your book: 'I'm Not Really Here' "focused on midlife, family and quantum physics." What is quantum physics?
It's the science of ... they call it reductionism. That's what I call it. I took my older daughter to Switzerland to see one of those nuclear accelerators to show her that people are involved in a spiritual quest and don't even know it. She doesn't like religion, and I love it so I said: They keep reducing a table to its component parts, its cellulose and then wood gum and all the things that make up wood, and then if you keep going smaller, it's packets of cellulose and carbon put together and if you keep reducing stuff, everything gets down to these very peculiar world of protons, electrons, neutrons, positrons... we used to call them molecules, atoms and electrons in high school...blah, blah, blah...
I think you just spent five minutes talking way over my head. I failed math and science in fourth grade. Let's talk about Last Man Standing. You recently tweeted, 'Save Last Man Standing.' Were you afraid it wasn't going to be picked up? I think it's laugh-out-loud funny.
I've got to be honest. I'm not sure what I do on Twitter. I think what I did was I retweeted. Somebody kept asking: "What if we want this show on the air?' And I had no idea that it was a question. ABC won't make a decision until May. We've done every single thing we were asked of. We got moved twice. And it's still doing great numbers. But it's a business decision as usual. I love this show. I like it so much that it's like our old black Lab Home Improvement died, and when that dog died, I said that I would never get another dog. And when this show started there were some deaths, and some real tragedies in our staff that we had to get over. And time change, cast change, there was all these horrible things I've never dealt with and we still survived. The scripts are getting better and better. It's about real stuff in a family. I said, 'Good Lord I like this.'
I just love these girls [in the cast] to death. They are so talented. It's my dream. I went from three boys that I adore to these three girls... four actually because the original girl, Alex, (Alexandra Krosney) I still think about quite a bit.
Is she the actress who was replaced?
Awww, is that a tough decision to make?
It wasn't mine. It came from outside. I found out literally 25 minutes before she did. And I called her. I think she was finding out when I called her. I don't get involved in casting. I do a lot of other things, but that is not one thing that I do.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who was your son on Home Improvement and came back in a guest role on LMS, recently said that he's not sorry he walked away from fame. Is that a hard thing to do in general? Could you do that?
I don't know. I'm kind of a center-of-attention guy. Jonathan's not like that. He really wasn't comfortable with that. He came back on and was so fun to be with. He did real well not knowing where he fit in. He just killed it. It was so much fun working with him. I just adore that kid.
I read that you got your calling for comedy in prison. How did that happen?
I just was a lazy good for nothing. Raised well, great parents. My father died. I got a new stepfather, he was a great guy. I just was a f**kup. I relate to entitlement. I wanted a government job. I wanted to be taken care of. I deserved it. Why do rich people make more money? They should be taxed more. I was really into that. That's where I grew up. My parents weren't like that but I wanted to f**k around. I didn't want to work hard. I grew up near a very fancy neighborhood and I thought it was weird that people had more money than me. I was just as important as them, why don't they just give me some of their money? I grew up feeling entitled, and that got me lazy and opportunistic. And really nobody's fault but my own. I need hard lessons. And I got into prisons, and I do not belong here. Well, it's too bad. It's like saying you don't belong in an AA meeting. It's a little late at that point. You're at an AA meeting. You're in prison, you idiot. You got yourself here. Nobody's to blame, and it was the first time I took responsibility. I worked hard to study and when I got out... actually before I went in, I went up on stage, and I just dedicated myself with that. I actually worked six months, got my act together and I was called and my bond was revoked and I went to prison. But I kept all the contacts. It was a life changer, I'll tell you that.
You must be pinching yourself that you got to do the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movies.
That to me is a pleasure watching that grow up. From infancy to idea to the first thing with Michael Eisner who looked at that and all of us said, 'What is this thing?' Because it was the first computer animated movie of that size, and who knows? Thank God we stuck with it because it was just a wonderful story.
Your mom is in her 80s. What's the best advice she's given you as an adult and do you listen to your mom?
Of course I listen to her. You know most of it is personal stuff that I can't get into, but she's been really good about being authentic. There's no sense in being guilty or shameful over behavior that's you. That's who you are. If you can't change it, accept it.
You're going to be the big 6-0 on June 13th. I bet when you were 10 you thought people who were 60 sat around on deck chairs with blankets over their laps.
Oh, God, you're singing to the choir.
Last question. What is the meaning of life Mr. Quantum Physics guy?
Leave it better than you found it. That's all that He asks.