I hesitate to read too much into an interview, but this Q&A with Jim Carrey from a few years ago is a great look at someone who has submerged themselves so deep in a role (in this case, as Andy Kaufman, Carrey’s comedic hero) that he either a) suffers some kind of psychic break, or b) has gained a kind of Buddhist/existentialist insight into the nature of existence, or c) both. Thanks to Matt Webb and his Interconnected newsletter for reminding me of this:
Mr. Carrey, have you ever had a spiritual epiphany?
Well, I have gone through a lot changes in the last few years and a lot of realizations — and I guess you could say awakenings about things. Everything is touched by that, everything I am doing creatively right now seems to point to the awareness of a lack of self. What are we? Why are we here? And the answer to both of those questions is: nothing, no reason, as far as I am concerned.
What do you think prompted those awakenings?
I guess just getting to the place where you have everything everybody has ever desired and realizing you are still unhappy. And that you can still be unhappy is a shock when you have accomplished everything you ever dreamt of and more and then you realize, “My gosh, it’s not about this.”
Is that what happened to you?
Yeah, sure. It didn’t happen to me. There is no me. But it happened. And it pushed me towards the realization there is no individual here. There are only energies. Playing Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon in 1999, for example, I realized that I could lose myself in a character. I could live in a character. And when I finished with that, I took a month to remember who I was. But there was a shift that had already happened. And the shift was, “Wait a second. If I can put Jim Carrey aside for four months, who is Jim Carrey? Who the hell is that?”
What do you mean?
If you want to talk scientifically, break it down to a cluster of tetrahedrons that somehow believe they are athing. But they’re ideas — just ideas. Jim Carrey was an idea my parents gave me. Irish-Scottish-French was an idea I was given. Canadian was an idea that I was given. I had a hockey team and a religion and all of these things that cobble together into this kind of Frankenstein monster, this representation. It’s like an avatar. These are all the things I am. You are not an actor, or a lawyer. No one is a lawyer. There are lawyers, law is practiced, but no one is a lawyer. There is no one, in fact, there.