Apparently, saying "yes" can change your attitude. Saying "yes" to everything can change your life. Or so Jim Carrey learns in Yes Man, a romantic comedy that follows a depressed, overly negative loan officer, Carl Allen, invigorate his downer existence by willing himself to say yes to absolutely everything asked of him. Take this pamphlet: yes. Throw your best friend's fiancée a bridal shower: yes. Drive a random homeless dude across town: hell yes. Allen must even say yes to his 70-something neighbor who offers him a, um, a creative favor for helping her hang her shelves.
I recently sat down with Carrey to talk about being a "yes man," the power of comedy, and putting your life on the line for a role. It's shocking -- and by "shocking" I mean "shockingly funny" -- the scattered, sometimes random things that come out of this guy's mouth.
Cole Haddon: When you look back at your own life, have you been mostly a "yes man" or a "no man" over the years?
Jim Carrey: [A pensive pause...] I would say "yes," even when I say "no" -- [laughter] -- because sometimes saying "no" is saying "yes" to your own self-worth. You know what I'm saying? I like to enjoy life. I like to engage in life, so I would say I'm a "yes man." I've said "yes" to so many things, from a sex change to gastric by-pass surgery, so it's always paid off for me.
CH: What's the stupidest thing you've ever said "yes" to? You know, besides the sex change.
JC: It was the Sea Cadets for me. I was, like, 11 years old and I joined the Sea Cadets, which is like a military version of Boy Scouts. They shave your head, they humiliate you, they yell at you, and they parade you around in front of the rest of the people you know in town with this uniform on. But, you know what? If I hadn't done that, I wouldn't know that I'm a useless maggot [laughter]. So I'm glad. "Yes" always leads to something good.
CH: Your character, Carl Allen, is stuck in a rut before he learns to say "yes!" He's shut down. Have you been there in your own life?
JC: Well, I go in and out of shut-in. My social life goes in bursts, where I get like, "Oh, I got to get out and do something, man, I got to do something." And I'll plan a trip, and go on a motorcycle trip down the Baja [Peninsula] for 900 miles, and I'll hang out with my friends for like a month. And then they [won't] see me for two or three months or whatever, and I won't answer any calls. I go back and forth, you know, so it's just kind of a see-saw effect, but I need both. And I don't think I'm ever going to have the kind of life or schedule [where] I can really have a steady way of doing things.
CH: We're in the middle of a recession, and Carl Allen is a loan officer...
JC: I'm not in a recession. [Laughter] I'm doing very, very well. I'm doing incredibly well. I just want to be honest. I really am kicking ass.
After a quick bout of laughter from both sides...
CH: But we are going through tough times at the moment. Does that affect how Jim Carrey the artiste picks his roles? Is now the right time for comedies like this?
JC: This is what comedy is about. To laugh at the pain, laugh at the confusion, whatever. I mean, you need it. Comedy is always welcomed, but especially in times like this. It's like, what else do you want to do? You want to have something positive happen in your life? I think this is it. This is the answer to everything. Yes Man is the answer!
CH: Following up on the roles you take ... you've tackled a few dark ones in recent years, but Yes Man feels like a genuine throwback to the broader, sillier comedies you built your career on. How does it feel to be doing that kind of movie again?
JC: I like doing everything, I love it all. It's just being creative. I just like being creative, whatever way I have to do it. It's really the storytelling aspect that's great. But it's always fun to do something that you know ultimately is not about the money, and it's certainly not [for] the fame -- because it's a pain in the ass. But it's really the person in the [theater] seat you think about when you sit in a room and write. It really comes down to thinking about someone sitting in a seat laughing, and that's it when you do a movie like this. It's really that that gets me off, the idea of people actually laughing and maybe having something to think about when they leave the theater.
CH: You also bungee jump on screen in Yes Man -- your first time, too. Something most actors wouldn't dream of doing. In retrospect, what was going through your head as you plummeted off that bridge?
JC: Death, death, a lot of thoughts of death. You know, thoughts of crossing over were actually going through my mind [laughs]. It was very strange. It was like, "Well, they do this all the time, this is no big [deal], they've got this down. It's no problem." And then [when] I got to the bridge I went, "Oh my god, what have I done? What am I doing here?" When I got my feet up on the ledge, it literally was like a freight train going through my veins, through my entire body, the whole time until I jumped and everything... It was insane, it was unbelievable. I actually had post-traumatic stress after it [laughter]. For about a week after it, I dreamed of hitting the ground.
CH: Will you be jumping again?
JC: No. I did that, crossed it off the list. They didn't want me to do it at all, and I said, "Well, I'm going to do it once in my life, so you might as well get it on camera."