How to Use Physical Comedy Like Jim Carrey

By Robert Russell
Actor Jim Carrey smiling on the red carpet at a movie premiere.

Jim Carrey is a mega movie star and one of the reigning kings of physical comedy. Carrey's over-the-top comedy is powerful because it catches the audience off guard most of the time. At times, his facial expressions and body contortions can defy belief. At the same time, Carrey makes his physical antics seem effortless and natural. The truth is that Carrey spent years practicing and refining his physical comedy style.

Carrey's Comedy Style

Carrey's comedy style combines a number of elements such as bizarre voices, incredibly elastic-like facial movements and strange body contortions. He has an almost cartoonish ability to animate his face and body as he turns into a particular character. As a serious student of the physical comedy genre, he watched and soaked up various influences from his comedic heroes.The first step in learning how use physical comedy like Jim Carrey is to watch him at work. Study his film and television performances and watch how his body moves to replicate his style.

Body Language

Carrey exaggerates everything he does, and this includes his physical antics. Carey is able to bend and contort as if his body was made of rubber. Practice yoga poses to help you acquire the strength and flexibility to perform some of Carrey’s antics. Dissect his body contortions step-by-step as you watch his movies or skits can give you the clues and insights you need to imitate him. Practice in front of a mirror.

Facial Gymnastics

Carrey’s facial gymnastics represent a major element of his comedic style. His control over his facial muscles rivals the bizarre control he has over his body. His face appears to be equally elastic and rubbery. The big smile is a characteristic Carrey trademark that is on display in “Ace Ventura,” “The Mask,” and even “The Grinch.” Exaggeration is the key. The lips are open and spread wide while the teeth remain tight and clenched together. Mimicking Carrey’s facial gymnastics requires agility and control over facial muscles. As your practice in front of a mirror, focus on different areas of your face -- eyebrows, lips, nose, cheeks, the corners of the mouth and forehead -- to learn how to manipulate these muscles back and forth.

Colorful Characters

Carrey's physical comedy is always centered on the characters he is portraying.. During the “In Living Color” days, Carrey had a cast of colorful characters such as “Fire Marshall Bill.” Carrey's characters serve as a point of departure for the faces, body language and voices he uses. Transforming yourself into one of Carrey's characters, such as The Cable Guy, Ace Ventura, or Lloyd from "Dumb and Dumber" provides a context to mimic Carrey's physical comedy antics. The three characters have different personality traits that Carrey exploits, and all three allow Carrey to showcase his physical comedy genius. Watch the movies and focus on the body language and facial expressions of the three characters. Dress the part and practice in front of a mirror until you feel the character feels natural. Improvisation plays a major role in Carrey's physical comedy and improvisation requires feeling at home in the character and your body.

About the Author

Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.