A successful standup comedian, the headliner of one of television's most popular sitcoms, a movie star, and a best-selling author, Tim Allen spent much of the '90s being a "Male Pig," a source of pride for countless men, and a franchise unto himself. He was born Timothy Allen Dick, in Denver, CO, one of ten brothers and sisters. Mercilessly teased by his peers because of his last name, Allen developed a keen sense of humor to protect himself. His father died in an auto accident in 1964 when Allen was 11, and his mother later married an old high school flame who had also lost his wife in a car crash. Eventually the family moved to a suburb of Detroit. In 1976, Allen graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in television production and went on to work in a sporting goods store and then in an advertising agency. He made his debut as a standup comedian at Detroit's Comedy Castle in 1979 after accepting a dare from a good friend, but his career was cut short when he was arrested for dealing cocaine and sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. Following his release, Allen decided to turn over a new leaf and concentrate on his standup career.
His early comedy routines were characterized by their vulgarity, and Allen did not find success until he perfected his "Men Are Pigs" routine. A glorious celebration of the masculine mystique centering on the joys of big block engines and tools (especially power tools), punctuated by his trademark manly grunting, the routine made him a hot property on the nightclub circuit and led to a series of televised specials on the Showtime cable network in the early '90s. While constructing his career, Allen moonlighted in television commercials, including spots as Mr. Goodwrench. It was while performing for a Showtime special that he got his break in series television. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chairman of Disney Studios, saw his act, liked it, and with Walt Disney Company chairman Michael Eisner, offered him the lead in a couple of planned series based on popular films; but Allen didn't feel they were right and suggested instead that they do a series based on his comedy character. They agreed, and Home Improvement, the continuing saga of bumbling TV handyman (whose show somewhat resembled This Old House) Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor and his brood, debuted on the ABC television network in September 1991. It quickly went on to become one of the most consistently highly rated shows on television.
Allen made his starring feature film debut in 1994 with the box-office busting The Santa Clause. That same year, he also published a best-selling book, Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man. In 1995, he provided the voice for the heroic toy astronaut Buzz Lightyear in Disney's computer-generated extravaganza Toy Story, and the following year published his second book I'm Not Really Here, a more philosophical look at his life, his fame, and his family. In 1997, he starred in the largely panned Jungle to Jungle, and could not be seen on the big screen again until 1999. That year -- the same year Home Improvement ended its highly successful run -- he reprised his Buzz Lightyear role for Toy Story 2 and starred in the sci-fi spoof Galaxy Quest. Though his next film, Big Trouble, was pulled from its original release date and delayed by Touchstone (the studio thought audiences may find the plot involving a missing nuclear bomb distasteful after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks), fans could still get their fill of the popular funnyman with the release of Joe Somebody in late 2001.
When Big Trouble and Joe Somebody proved to be box-office duds, Allen returned to familiar territory in 2002, starring in the sequel The Santa Clause 2. With the success of that sequel under his belt, Allen stuck with the holiday genre for his next starring role. Playing opposite Jamie Lee Curtis, Allen filled the lead for 2004's adaptation of John Grisham's Skipping Christmas, Christmas with the Kranks; in what was becoming a pattern in his career, the movie was reviled by critics, but did well at the box-office.
Allen fared slightly better with his first 2006 effort, a remake of Disney's The Shaggy Dog. Summer 2006's superhero-school comedy Zoom came and went; a second Santa Clause sequel, entitled The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, did modest business considering the franchise. The early-2007 weekend-warrior comedy Wild Hogs -- in which Allen joined Martin Lawrence, John Travolta and William H. Macy -- may not have seemed like a good bet on paper, but its surprise success did much to establish Allen in a new, non-holiday franchise.
Allen went outside his comfort zone to play a spoiled Hollywood superstar in David Mamet's Redbelt in 2008, and a couple of years later he directed Crazy on the Outside. He reliably returned to voice Buzz Lightyear in a third Toy Story film, as well as in a handful of shorts created by Pixar featuring the character. In 2011 he returned to the small-screen as the star of Last Man Standing, and the next year he narrated the Disney nature film Chimpanzee. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi