3 Questions for Tim Allen

There are a lot of f-words in Tim Allen’s life: family, faith, fat-suit … and that other one.


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Tim Allen built his stardom as Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor in the hit 1990s TV series Home Improvement and then doubled down in the equally popular sitcom Last Man Standing as the struggling patriarch Mike Baxter. His popularity has led to sold-out stand-up performances and starring roles on the big screen, from Galaxy Quest’s Jason Nesmith to the Toy Story series’ Buzz Lightyear.

The 69-year-old actor, who earned a reputation for raunchy humor in his stand-up act, will be both naughty and nice this fall as he reprises his role as Scott Calvin, the man who took on the role of jolly St. Nick in The Santa Clause and its silver-screen sequels. The new Disney+ TV streaming series The Santa Clauses, premiering on November 16th, also stars Laura San Giacomo and a very special young actress, Tim’s daughter Elizabeth Allen-Dick, making her screen debut. In the series, Scott is ready to retire, which means Tim can cheerfully give up sweating and itching in the big red suit he loved to hate.

Allen remembers that his penchant for using words that shouldn’t be shared with younger cast members got him into trouble on the set of the original The Santa Clause. “I did give a Disney exec some bad moments trying to explain the f-word to kids on the set,” he says. “But I’ve mellowed since then.” In fact, as Tim talks about where he’s been and where he’s going, you feel that, like Scott Calvin, he’s ready to open new doors in his own life.

Jeanne Wolf: You always teased, “No more Santa!” But you seem very proud of this new series.

Tim Allen: I’m thrilled with all the co-stars and all the effort that went into making it extra special. I wanted it to be magical, like the magic that I love in Pixar movies where adults get into it as well as children. We set out to make a spiritual, mystical family story, and everyone from the actors to the crew got on board with it.

I know Santa Claus is a legend, but he was not easy to play. The fat suit is still horrible. Wearing it makes me moody because I’m so freaking hot. I’m sweating like crazy. Before we started, my wife reminded me that I get bitchy in the makeup and that itchy beard. So, I did my best to be more pleasant this time.

It helped that my daughter was in it. She plays Santa’s daughter. Every time I watch her on set, my heart leaps. I guess you could call it nepotism, but I had asked them to let her play one of the elves in the background. I wasn’t thinking about a major role. Instead, they asked her to test for the lead as Santa’s daughter. She did a Zoom audition, and I was holding my breath, but everyone liked it and she got the part.

It was the best Christmas present I could ever have. From elf to co-star and she’s never really showed any interest in acting. So, we’ll see what’s next.

One night at dinner, my daughter was doing some jokes because she thinks it’s fun to be funny. I just looked at her and said, “It didn’t land.” It hurt her feelings to hear her dad say that. Then I said, “It’s nothing personal. Just got to work the joke a little bit better.” Now she does it to me because I work stuff out on my family all the time. Just random stuff comes out. And she just stares at me and goes, “Didn’t land it.”

JW: You’ve been known for dropping a few four-letter words in your stand-up performances. I hope Santa didn’t have that problem.

TA: Not on camera. There is some adult comedy because I didn’t want to be politically correct. But I’m kind of lazy. When I can’t think of a better word, the f-bomb comes out. But when you do stand-up now, you have a sense there’s this fragility in various groups of people about what you say about them. I understand the feeling. Growing up there were a lot of bullies in our neighborhood. I hated it when they called me names. My mom said, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” I took that to heart, but no one believes that anymore. Words have power that they never had before.

Times are tough, and I end up making jokes about the fact that it’s a tough time. I’m making jokes about people from many groups. I didn’t used to take my Twitter account seriously, and just as a joke I put up something provocative which I won’t repeat. My following went down because I said something the little blue bird doesn’t like, and it got picked up by a bunch of we used to call tattle-tales.

So, I do try to find humor in what’s happening in the world. Like, what seemed to be a great idea is the dumbest joke ever: Everybody in California should have a car that you plug in. Ridiculous that you plug in every car. We can’t. Our electrical grid is ancient. Let’s fix the grid first. A lot of the forest fires have been caused by lousy equipment. Let’s spend some time and money to get our grid up to snuff before we mandate plug-in cars.

The idea of “practical” needs to be rebranded as “spectacular.” Practical is spectacular. What we’ve lost in all this mess is compromise.

I try not to let my ego get involved; that’s the other thing. I don’t want to take life too seriously. Being funny is God’s gift to me. I’ll do the best I can with it.

JW: Even Santa says, “I can’t do this forever.” And I know you think about the future.

TA: I’d like to go out of here like a lion, not a lamb. I watch the news and then I constantly get to a point where I’m like, “Let’s go get some ice cream.” I certainly want to take care of my family as best I can, and the charities I love. Other than that, I don’t feel like it’s necessary to make a signpost, build a sarcophagus. And lately, because of age, and friends of mine who have passed, and as life goes on, I say, “What was this all about?” The answer is my faith and my comedy. Thank God I got comedy.

The question I’ve always had — and it’s not unpleasant, it’s a challenge — is, Where were we before we were born? What are we doing here, and where are we going? That’s the fundamental question. You’re not here for very long. It’s like I’ve watched the kid grow up in front of me or furniture wear out in my house. I’m in the fourth quarter of a football game and it’s amazing how fast this went by. So what was it all about? Whatever we screw up, we can unscrew up. I think that’s the one thing about life that still gives me hope is that all that we’ve damaged, that we’ve done to this planet, to each other, we can undo. The same amount of energy that takes to make it bad makes it work.

Jeanne Wolf is the Post’s West Coast editor

This article appears in the November/December 2022 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. As a child, I used to look through my parents’ copy of Saturday Evening Post, and rediscovered it when a friend said they got a subscription to it as a gift. Now, I intend to continue to gift myself with it, as I feel like I’ve rediscovered a part of life that has been too often skipped: thoughtfulness. In this case, I’m enjoying the different ways the magazine keeps me being thoughtful, whether in being nicer to others or in the thinking it causes.

    Not the only article that I’ve read, but I want to mention the 3 Questions articles, and one from August 18, 2022
    titled “Why Giving People Advice Almost Never Works” by Katy Milkman. I have referenced this article many times, and occasionally reread it.

    I enjoy the Post again so much more than the pictures and comics from years ago. Thank you for still being both current and a conduit to my past.


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