The Tools of His Trade
Tim Allen's New Book
”Right now I haven’t a stitch of clothing on. I’m trying to find a pair of underwear so I can go looping (for the film, The Santa Clause).” On the phone is Tim Allen, author of the obviously very appropriately titled new book, Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man (Hyperion).
The star of ABC’s hit show Home Improvement is almost (but not quite) as revealing about the motives behind the project, the latest book by a comic in the wake of Jerry Seinfeld’s best-seller SeinLanguage (which, incidentally, Allen insists he’s never read): ”I did the book because, well, Disney (which owns Hyperion and is behind Santa) is holding my cat. No, I thought that I could get some comedy material out of it, and that it would be fun.”
As it turned out, writing the book, in which Allen playfully harpoons everything from boyhood war games to men’s love of power tools to his prison stint for selling drugs, was tougher than, well, your average sink installation-despite the fact that Allen admits he got help ”organizing the material” and ”forming complete sentences” from one David Rensin.
”(The experience) fried me. It was so impossible,” says Allen, who worked on the book between takes of Santa. ”Just remembering it makes me upset. That’s it, I’m going into a stove.”
Allen’s only kidding about the stove. But the pain that he felt growing up with the name Tim Dick, a subject he deals with only half-humorously in the book’s penis-joke-rich opening chapter, was obviously very real. ”I tried to make that chapter as relentless as (the teasing) was for me. When my mother read it, she said that she didn’t remember (our name) being that big of a deal. What’s important is that I saw it that way. The smallest differences can create major problems.”
Speaking of which, fully half of Don’t Stand is devoted to the battle between the sexes-one of Allen’s, and Home Improvement’s, trademark themes. ”My favorite line in the book is about the fact that no matter how much trouble men are to women-and it’s a lot-it’s women who raise us, who form us, and so they have to take credit for what we are.” Of course, not all the women in Allen’s life agree.
”I’m always arguing about this stuff with my girlfriends, and with Pat (Richardson, his sitcom wife). Our real-life relationship is similar to our TV one because I make a lot of adjustments to my character. I’m not an experienced enough actor to play someone totally different.” So how would Tim Taylor, Allen’s macho TV persona, like the book? ”He’d probably buy it, expecting it to be just jokes, and then be disappointed. (He’s) not quite as bright as I am.”
In that case, Tim Taylor had better steer very clear of Tim Allen’s next literary creation: ”I’ve been reading a lot about particle electronics, advanced physics, and subatomic particles. I would love to do a book about that.”
Such proclivities notwithstanding, Allen says that he’s not ready for a title change: ”I am not a writer. I wrote one script for Home Improvement to see what our writers went through, which was very hard. Now I’ve done this book, but I don’t even consider myself an actor. I’ve only been doing that for four years. What I am is a very good comedian.”