Jim Carrey is maybe two years from becoming a punch line. But he's cool with that. "Everyone gets to be the big joke for a year. That's this business," he says. "Last year it was Tom Cruise. I could be the next Kathie Lee Gifford. But you have to say to yourself, 'Wait a minute, dude, that's not you.'"
You see, Carrey has found spiritual enlightenment, and it's so awesomely awesome that he just has to tell you about it. For hours. Even if you didn't ask. In fact, he has to write a book about it. "It will be more representative of who I am than anything I've ever done," he says. "I feel like I know something. These thoughts make me feel like I'm wearing gold shoes." He's thinking of calling it Be Ready to Be O.K. If that weren't begging to be mocked on VH1's Best Week Ever on its own, he's also got a children's book in him. "It's called Cynthia's New Friend. It's about how we hate change. We hate people to change because we're afraid they'll fly away."
That's the thing you have to admire about Carrey even as you cringe at what he's saying: he's not afraid. He's not afraid of getting made fun of, he's not afraid of change, and he's not afraid of his audience flying away. In fact, every time he's become successful at something, he's stopped doing it. As soon as he became famous as an impressionist, he stopped doing characters. After he got traction as a stand-up, he retired his act, going onstage without any material, often being overtly hostile to his audience. When that got him a job on Fox's sketch show In Living Color and led quickly to a $20 million paycheck, he decided to ditch his devoted Adam Sandler--loving audience by making the disturbing, dark comedy The Cable Guy and dropped his price to make such dramas as The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And now he's made The Number 23, a cheapie $30 million horror film about a man consumed with numerology, in which he frequently appears shirtless, tattooed and with slicked-back hair. If he somehow manages to keep any of his original fans, he could still try to shake them with an Elizabethan costume drama.
"I don't want to pick scripts just to keep me in the status-phere," he says. "You have to take the plunge to expose your true self. If you're true to yourself, you'll turn someone on." Then he quotes Emerson's essay on self-reliance. And then the spiritual guru Eckhart Tolle, whom he's visited in Canada. Then he talks about his meditation practices. And the moment of his enlightenment. And how trying to fill a hole in yourself is pointless, since we don't have holes. And how time, man, time doesn't even exist. You don't need to bring many questions to a Jim Carrey interview.
The weirdest part is that, despite how it sounds, he wasn't at all annoying. Yes, he's a little too happy, but he seems very comfortable and mellow and unguarded and unpretentious. Joel Schumacher, the director of The Number 23, who has known Carrey for more than 20 years and worked with him on Batman Forever, says the actor didn't annoy anyone on the set with his inner being. "I'd rather hear someone spout to me about their spiritual journey then someone complaining that the studio didn't give them a trailer that's big enough," he says.