Director Judd Apatow on Friday praised star Jim Carrey while presenting the actor with the Generation Award at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal.
Apatow first witnessed the Canadian-born comic's genius when watching Carrey do endlessly brilliant improvisational sets in Hollywood comedy clubs during the late 1980s and 1990s.
"He would go onstage every night and improvise his entire set. His goal was not to repeat one line from any other night. It was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life," Apatow said of Carrey's early performances at The Improv. Apatow later saw Carrey create, out of thin air, his Fire Marshal Bill character from In Living Color at the Comedy Store.
Around that time, Carrey asked a young Apatow, then a relative unknown and often between gigs, to co-write comedy sketches and gave him $5,000 for the work he did. "That paid my rent for about a year," Apatow said appreciatively.
Carrey, upon accepting the award, recalled first meeting a young "fresh-faced" Apatow as he introduced himself backstage at The Improv. "He said to me, 'Hi, Mr. Carrey, I'm a young comedian. My name is Judd Apatow," Carrey remembered. Carrey's response to Apatow: "Fuck off, narc!" He jokingly said Apatow came across as "one of those 21 Jump Street dudes — he looked 18, but was really 35 — looking to make a bust."
But Apatow pleaded with Carrey, insisting he was a young comic and wanted to write and direct. "So I said, okay. And I made him do heroin with me," the three-time Golden Globe-winning actor said. "I'm not into drugs, but I had to make sure I knew who I was dealing with," Carrey added.
Carrey is a co-executive producer on Showtime's I'm Dying Up Here, and also appeared this week at Just for Laughs with the series' cast.