The comedy legend co-writes a hallucinogenic sci-fi pseudo-memoir with Dana Vachon.

By Darren Franich
July 07, 2020 at 10:45 AM EDT
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David M. Benett/WireImage; Penguin Random House

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and Jim Carrey isn’t feeling fine. The comedy legend lies naked and alone in his Brentwood fortress of celebrity solitude, “bearded and bleary eyed after months of breakdown and catastrophe.” Where to begin? The romance with a Survivor contestant-turned cable actress who reminds him of his mother? His declining power as a box office draw? Those flying saucers over Malibu? Maybe a solid acting gig could fill the Oscar-shaped void in Carrey’s heart. So he gorges himself on Wendy’s Honey Butter Chicken biscuits to prepare for his greatest role yet: Chairman Mao Zedong. Did we mention the flying saucers?

Memoirs and Misinformation, out Tuesday, is not a typical tell-all. Carrey co-wrote the alleged novel with author Dana Vachon, and the eight-year passion project blends moving autobiography, name-droppish tabloid fodder, science-fiction, and anti-capitalist screed. “It’s difficult to describe what the book is,” says the real Jim Carrey, 58. Speaking to EW in May on his first-ever Zoom call, he looks unbearded, un-bleary eyed, and as fine as anyone can be in our months of breakdown and catastrophe. “We write about celebrity as a device to talk about the human condition,” he explains. “Yes, it’s about an apocalypse. But it’s also about the apocalypse of the interior, of the ego.”

What interiors, what egos! There are twilight Brazilian jiujitsu fights at Nicolas Cage’s Bel-Air mansion. At an oh-so-exclusive Carbon Beach spiritual retreat, Gwyneth Paltrow waxes poetic about beheading a pig fetus. And Taylor Swift’s big toe gets caught in a skull buried in a mass grave for victims of the Great Leap Forward. “There’s nobody in the book that I don’t admire in some way,” Carrey swears when asked about the celebrity caricatures. “I hope they can see the joy in it, and the love in it.”

In fairness, no one gets vivisected more vividly than Carrey himself. The character clings to brighter yesterdays of his megastar heyday. He’s also tormented by difficult memories: “his mother lying brainless on the floor” from pain and painkillers, and his struggling father Percy, “whose smile grew apace with his family’s descent into poverty.” It’s stunning and raw, more memoir than misinformation. “I’ve had to represent my family and its issues — and my issues, and my relationships — in a way that I’m not even sure my family will understand,” Carrey says. "But it is honest, and I hope it’s not too embarrassing for them."

Carrey is still a busy performer, with a TV show (Showtime’s Kidding) and a hit movie (Sonic the Hedgehog) that debuted the same week in February. But Memoirs and Misinformation crystallizes his Twitter Age persona as an eccentric strafing the internet with anti-Trump cartoons, confessional performance art, and R.-Crumb-ish paintings. The book’s genesis began almost a decade ago, when Vachon — a journalist who wrote the pre-crash satire Mergers & Acquisitions — met Carrey at his West Village art studio. “There were these amazing paintings,” Vachon recalls. “A picture of Jim that had been slashed and stitched back together. A painting of the fires in Malibu. I saw a story.” A close friendship grew over all-hours Skype conversations and monthslong writing retreats. “Celebrity memoirs are not actually famous for being terribly truthful,” says Vachon. “We thought: ‘Well, if we use the mistruths for the purpose of the truth, we could maybe make something that’s deeply true.’“

The result is a novel bound to trigger controversy. At a hypersensitive moment when even an outspoken mega-hyphenate like LeBron James goes mute from China anxiety, Carrey and Vachon conjure brutal visions of the Cultural Revolution. The satire hits closer to home in the hallways of showbiz power; wait till you see what happens to Walt Disney’s frozen head! “You take these chances at being authentic with your creativity and your opinions about things,” Carrey says. The book explores how Hollywood can “tame, control, punish” noncompliant stars into development hell. Is actual factual Carrey worried about corporate retribution? “It’s always a possibility. I don’t think I’m gonna affect the stock, you know?”

The novel’s final act edges toward global disaster, an evocative mood in a year of pandemic and uprising. Still, Carrey promises readers will experience “joygasms,” too. “It ends the world for you in the most absurdly amusing and wonderful way,” he says. He’s somber yet optimistic about a post-COVID society, describing the current shutdown is “a chance for the earth to breathe, to get us off its back.”  And he’s already pondering a persona-swapping movie adaptation of Memoirs & Misinformation. “It would be a really extraordinary thing to see really famous actors playing other really famous actors. Christian Bale playing Nicolas Cage.” Who would play Jim Carrey? “Ryan Gosling,” he says. So there’s something to look forward to when the apocalypse ends.

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