Tim Allen says nothing in his career compares to the kick he gets out of performing stand-up comedy. Unlike his roles on TV and in films, stand-up offers the freedom to use his own material. "I don't have to get anyone's approval," he said in a recent telephone interview. "Don't get me wrong, I appreciate and respect what is written in the script, but some of the best moments in my movies were in between takes." He says he can break up the cast and crew with his improv, going off script. Sometimes his ad-libs are added to the script. Allen, who first rose to fame in the 1980s as a comic, is back on the comedy stage in a Las Vegas show built around new, more adult material. It's his first long-term gig in Vegas, playing at the Venetian.
Best-known as the grunting, "more power" family man from the 1990s TV comedy "Home Improvement," Allen also was the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the "Toy Story" movies and the star of the "Santa Clause" movies. He has a TV comedy, "Last Man Standing," that begins its third season this fall. And he will perform on Thursday night at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. "Because of all that I have done in films and TV, I have this family-friendly reputation, but parents should not bring the kids to see my stand-up," he says. "I'm not dirty, but I do use adult language." Don't expect to see Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor, that clueless, stereotypical "real man" character. "I pay homage to Tim and tools - I may even give a grunt - but I have new things to talk about. I am much different now. I don't mean to shock people, but I tend to swear a little bit. I'm not G-rated, and I have a lot of emotional baggage," he says. The oldest of six boys, Allen had a rocky childhood after his father died in an automobile accident when Allen was 11. His mother remarried to a man with three children. Allen says he rebelled as a teenager. And after he started performing at Detroit comedy clubs in the 1970s and found some success in Los Angeles, he was arrested and spent some time in prison for drug dealing. He came out determined to change his life. Calling from a vacation cabin in Michigan, Allen, who turned 60 in June, says he got away from stand-up when "Home Improvement" became a hit. In 1994, Allen had the top TV series, a best-selling comedy book and a hit movie. His personal life was not so smooth. His marriage fell apart, and in 1997 he was arrested for driving under the influence. This year marks 14 years of sobriety. He has a 4-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, and a 24-year-old daughter, Katherine, from a previous marriage. He has been married to actress Jane Hadjuk since 2006. His new series, "Last Man Standing," is scheduled to air Friday nights on ABC. He plays Mike Baxter, a spokesman for a sporting goods chain who has a wife (Nancy Travis) and three daughters. He's an old-school guy at odds with the modern world and liberal ideas. "I call this show a little Labrador puppy that is growing," he says. "I loved 'Home Improvement,' and leaving it when it ended (in 1999) was an emotional experience. And now I have grown to love 'Last Man.'?" The character he plays is more mature and more educated. "He's a Michigan grad and he's got inflammatory opinions, so he can take on the annoyingly conservative and the annoyingly liberal," Allen said. "I love debating those extremes."