Tim Allen is a busy man. From the Fox reboot of Last Man Standing — which was unceremoniously canceled by ABC in 2017 for reasons many people believe go beyond ratings or production costs — to a national stand-up comedy tour and the 2019 release of Toy Story 4, Allen admits to being “completely exhausted.” If only Tim “The Toolman” Taylor was around to figure out a way to give Allen “more power.”
However, he says this isn’t the busiest he’s ever been. That honor belongs to 1994, when he simultaneously had the No. 1 TV show (Home Improvement), the No. 1 movie (The Santa Clause) and topped The New York Times’ best-seller list (Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man). “When I look back at how lazy of a kid I was, I can’t believe it.” Allen’s stand-up tour swings through the state this month with stops at the Palace Theatre in Stamford Nov. 15 and Foxwoods Resort Casino Nov. 16.
One night in Connecticut wasn’t enough for you?
[Laughs] Well, I used to have a really good bunch of friends who lived in Cos Cob. I went there a lot, spent a lot of time there and it was really good because I had a house in Manhattan — or a floor, whatever the hell you call houses in Manhattan — for years and years and I just don’t get back there.
I’ve been seeing you everywhere lately. Are you completely exhausted yet from promotion for Last Man Standing?
Completely exhausted. I just got into my production office and I’m going, “I’m so tired, I don’t feel well.” We had a long rehearsal today. We’ve been pushing hard, giving 20th Century Fox and the Fox network kind of an upgraded software, if you will, of Last Man Standing. And it’s worked out very well for Fox. (The Sept. 28 season premiere was Fox’s most-watched comedy in almost seven years.)
Who gets the most credit for bringing the show back?
I’m not one to soapbox, but I never gave up on it. I never felt like it was over. It was like a sudden death, and unfortunately I’ve had them in my life. Very dramatic, and you don’t ever feel like the person — you never got a chance to say goodbye. There’s no way to lose a person nicely. Illness or protracted sickness, something like that, you get a chance to modulate what loss will feel like to you. But this was just over. And I kept sticking with it. And then Dana Walden and Gary Newman from Fox, more specifically Dana, out of nowhere said I think we might have room for it.
Your stand-up shows come with the “for mature audiences only” label on them…
It’s only because I swear! I don’t talk about sex, particularly, maybe I have one reference to it. I use four-letter words. I’m kind of a lazy linguist. When I’m lazy I just swear. I swear in front of my children. My wife hates it, my mother hates it. All the good role models say, you’ve gotta apologize for that. Even the kid, Jet [Jurgensmeyer], that plays Boyd on the new reboot, he says, “I’ve got a little swear jar.” I said you better get a swear bucket, because my god, I can’t, sometimes I’m like a pirate. I can’t believe how stupid I am about my language. But I don’t want to swear in front of people’s children, so I think [the audience] should be 18.
Well, my question on that is it seems like being offended is a trendy thing now, so…
Look, you get me started on this I can’t even get away from it. I don’t know what happened to us. I hear shit now that, are you kidding me? I have to explain words sometimes so the crowd doesn’t boo in the middle of the act. I have a routine about that, and I push it right to the edge, about words you’re not supposed to say and then I say a version of the word. If I say “S-word,” we all know what I’m saying. So why is that any different than saying shit? My mom told us when we were little kids, sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never break them. Now 35, 40 years later I hear people out here in the People’s Republic of California saying words matter. They completely flipped it on its ear. I said, “Wait a minute. Words don’t matter, the intent of the word matters.”
Toy Story 4 is coming out next year…
Terrific. I can’t say enough about it. I can’t imagine the stress and the workload that Pixar’s had to go through, moving through the lifespan of their creator, John Lasseter, and what he’s had to go through, and what people had to go through with and around him. And they had to move past him because of his troubles, and they had to come up and make a fourth Toy Story over the 1, 2 and 3 that were terrific, 3 being so powerful. And they did it, on paper, and I’ve done my first pass at it. It’s very, very good.
What did your career mean to you when you were first starting out and what does it mean to you now?
First starting out it was ignorance is bliss. I wasn’t aware of what I was creating, what I was part of. It just happened so fast and I did what I was told. I did a lot of stuff that I just wouldn’t do now, because I was stupid. I’m less stupid now, but I still go head first into this thing. It’s really about the work and the people I’m around. I’m grateful to a god of my understanding, and grateful to my family, grateful for my friends. I’m so grateful that I’m in this business. My skill set was suited for this. I love the fact that I do comedy. When I first started out it was just about paying my bills. Eventually I got Home Improvement. As I heard from another movie star who was told the day he did his big movie, you’re gonna lose something tomorrow that you’ll never gain back and you didn’t realize you had. It’s called anonymity.
My brother is in his early 50s, very conservative. His oldest daughter is in her early 20s, very liberal. Do you have any advice for them?
I grew up with a family, whatever they were, they just said, “Who’s gonna pay for it?” And when you’re in your 20s you struggle with that. And I have a daughter in her 20s, and they struggle in their 20s. As soon as they get how this works, things change a little bit. As you get older, I think you get more fiscally conservative because you have to pay for it. They’re all malleable. I don’t want anybody put into a box, I don’t want anybody putting me in a box. I’ve got some very liberal friends that are pro-life and I’ve got some very conservative friends who are pro-choice. I just traveled to 44 cities. This country’s much broader and more divergent and more tolerant than L.A. and New York think. My advice? I did a joke on Last Man Standing, which I did for the vlog, which is written by a great writer, Kevin Hench, and I said, “There’s left and right. You gotta listen to both of them, but literally, one side’s got the word ‘right’ right in it.” [Laughs]