Has Jim Carrey Flipped Out?

The film funnyman is trying to rebound from a career slump with a new thriller — and a new spiritual path. Joel Stein peeks into the eternal weirdness of Jim Carrey's mind

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Giuliano Bekor for TIME

Jim Carrey, photographed in Los Angeles, January 2007

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But amid all this Zen-whatever-man flow of it all, as he picks at his sashimi and salad (he's too enlightened for wheat, dairy, alcohol or sugar), little bits of the $10 million-check-writing Carrey show up. He's given lots of thought, for instance, about how to present himself for this interview, whether to hold off on the enlightenment stuff or share it with the world. (He went with the sharing, apparently.) And he's torn about whether to wear this damn blingy ring the stylist gave him for the photo shoot that is just so not him, but then why get all hung up on perceptions? (He wore it.) And he brings out a list of talking points--all typed out--that he is going to tell me about the number 23, in which he's been interested for years (his daughter has a '23' tattoo), whether I want to hear them or not. "Blood takes 23 seconds to circulate the body ... Jim Carrey plus Virginia Madsen is 23 letters ... Jim Carrey plus Joel Schumacher is 23 letters ... I was born at 2:30 a.m ..." I shall spare you the rest. Especially since I'm not sure how his observation that O.J. Simpson wore No. 32 fits in.

But for the most part, Carrey seems free of that guy who only cared about his career. It's hard to imagine him being so immersed in his work that he refused to admit he wasn't Andy Kaufman during the entire filming of Man on the Moon. Carrey says he has a documentary he's cut together of that period that he will release one day. "It is basically the story of an actor gone mad," he says, more distantly amused than proud. "It's amazing to see [director] Milos Forman begging Andy Kaufman to come out of his trailer."

Maybe this is the healthiest evolution of the jester, to go from safely wrapping your truths in comedy to bravely stating them unadorned. Maybe it's more advanced than just yanking heartstrings, like Robin Williams; or getting increasingly frustrated at the world for not listening to you, like George Carlin; or just making the same movies over and over, like Eddie Murphy (see box).

And maybe there's the slight possibility that he won't become a punch line. That there's something so truthful about him, it's plausible he can succeed at even this impossible task. If he can go from being famous for making his butt talk to being famous for being a Jimmy Stewart nice guy to perhaps getting people to believe him as a threatening sex symbol in The Number 23, then maybe he can be a guru. "It's not any of that that people have liked about me," he says of his humor and characters. "It's not what I do or what I say. I don't believe it was this genius routine. It's the light that gets through me. I just need to get out of the way." When you hear that, it's hard to bet against punch line, but I'm not sure I would.



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