Tim Allen has carved out a career cheerfully skewering human foibles. To laugh at his antic comedy act is often to laugh at ourselves.
So is it too much to say he’s performing a public service? Maybe not.
Allen of course starred on two long-running hit TV series, “Home Improvement” and “Last Man Standing.” He is also known for playing a dad transformed into Kris Kringle in “The Santa Clause” film trilogy and is the voice of courageous space ranger Buzz Lightyear in “Toy Story,” the animated feature franchise.
Off-screen, the 64-year-old comedian boasts a striking collection of American and European automobiles. It may be no coincidence that he is the headline performer at the 12th annual Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance, a weekend of entertainment, automotive seminars, gourmet dining and a car-and-motorcycle exhibition, eligible – among other awards – for the Jay Leno Big Dog Garage Award and the Tim Allen Award. The three-day event takes place Feb. 23-25 at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
Q: Why is restoring old cars something you love to do?
A: It’s the authenticity, the charm, the values that were inherent in the build. I have a ’49 woody wagon that doesn’t run well, but it’s unbelievable. I recently drove a Model ‘T’ [Ford] with Jay Leno.
Q: What was that like?
A: I couldn’t believe the thing runs, but Jay says it’s the most important car in the world – it started the production of cars so everybody could afford to get around. But they’re not worth very much since there are still so many of them – they’re very sturdy and literally don’t decompose.
Q: Did you like taking shop class as a kid in school?
A: I loved it. We males like tools because they keep us focused on the beginning and the end of a process. In shop: You took your time, set up your tools, did your job and cleaned up your area.
Q: What did you make?
A: In one woodworking class, we had to make a box; but I built a chair instead. The teacher said, ‘That’s an amazing chair. You did something above and beyond a box. But I’m giving you a D because you didn’t make a box.’ It was very common for me to get D’s from misbehaving or doing something I wasn’t supposed to do, like making a chair.
Q: In a single week in 1994 you simultaneously starred in the highest grossing film, “The Santa Clause,” your movie debut; your autobiography was No.1 on The New York Times bestseller list; and “Home Improvement” was the No. 1 TV show. How did that feel?
A: It was a cool accomplishment, like having a no-hitter in baseball or winning five Super Bowls. But when we were growing up, my mother always said, ‘Just show us what you can do. We don’t have to constantly give you credit for it.’ So it was easier for me to go, ‘Yeah, that’s nice.’
Q: You can be hard on yourself, then?
A: It’s tough for me to take a compliment because I’m a sick person. I can get very self-critical. Human beings have a dark person living in the basement called the ego that’s constantly looking for trouble. In my case, it’s always telling me that I’m no good. I’m constantly battling this idiot that has no place in my life.
Q: What was your mother like otherwise?
A: Her slogan was ‘Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never harm you.’ She said that to me all the time when my brothers called me names, like ‘stupid,’ ‘idiot’ or ‘loser.’ Her point was that words are meaningless without intent. That’s what Lenny Bruce tried to say.
Q: You’ve joked in your act: ‘My mom said the only reason men are alive is for vehicle maintenance.’ Oh, really?
A: She didn’t say that. I bought that line from a very funny comedian. My job is to exaggerate details so that the center of what I’m saying becomes magnified.
Q: Do you ever do political humor in your stand-up act?
A: I do the ground underneath political humor: our human behavior. [My act] centers around my relationships with my mom and her sisters and her mom. I was raised by these women.