Though it's often said that great comedy comes from inner pain, funnyman Jim Carrey says "you have to come at it with a smile. It's like the seed of a joy-gasm. There's something going on behind the person's eyes, you know? That's why I love Bill Murray... there's something behind his eyes that tells the audience, 'I am not serious in any way.'"
Murray aside, it seems the onetime Ace Ventura: Pet Detective star is less likely to take cues from his human idols than from wildlife. "I get a lot of my inspiration from animals for some reason," Carrey grins. "I used to have a cat that was really squirrelly. He would get this look where his ears would go back and you knew he was going to do something horrible. It hit me one day that that is the feeling I want inside when I'm on camera. I want the audience to feel that I'm about to climb the curtains!"
Carrey's performance is slightly more understated than that in The Majestic (opening Dec. 21), about an amnesiac Hollywood screenwriter who's mistaken for a long-lost World War II vet. One scene in particular wherein he faces off with a nasty McCarthy-era Congressional committee has even drawn him comparisons to James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
"I don't try to compare myself to other people," the actor demurs. "Jimmy Stewart is an unreachable star to me. He [did] his thing and no one could ever reach that again. I'm lucky to be working in the same town and in the same business he was!"