Steve Carell says comedy has become 'uber-cynical,' 'borderline mean'

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By Stephen Galloway

It's become a cliche that every comic has a dark side, but scratch Steve Carell's surface and that darkness barely seems to exist. Indeed, he's so considerate and self-effacing, you start to wonder: Has the one-time improv king merely wrapped himself in a new Second City skin? Is he punking this reporter?

Ask him the worst thing he has been through, and he thinks carefully before responding: "I got knocked out with a puck, playing hockey. I got a puck right between the eyes when I was 12."

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Inquire what makes him angry, and he answers: "I don't like to get angry. It doesn't make me feel good. It is very human, but it's also a loss of control, and I like to have that kind of control."

The antithesis of what we've come to expect from a comedy master, he's an avowed Catholic, a passionate family man and deeply averse to the cynicism he sees in society as a whole and comedy in particular.

"It's not like I want to put sunshine and lollipops into the world," he says. "But I do believe there's been a turn toward an uber-cynical point of view, and it's borderline mean."

Asked about Daniel Tosh's recent rape joke (in response to a female heckler, the 37-year-old comedian asked a Laugh Factory audience, "Wouldn't it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now … like right now?") -- which would seem to represent everything Carell despises -- he deflects. "Taste in comedy, like fashion, changes all the time," he says.

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Carell's own taste is almost frighteningly normal. He watches regular-guy TV shows such as "New Girl," "Top Chef" and his personal favorite, "Deadliest Catch" (as well as NBC's "The Office," even since his departure in 2011: "It's fun; I enjoy it"). He reads frequently but not compulsively (Gore Vidal's 1973 novel "Burr" is a favorite, as is "An Improvised Life: A Memoir" by one of his heroes, Alan Arkin). And he numbers among his closest friends unknowns from his Second City days.

He stays in touch with Jon Stewart, who gave Carell a break in 1999 as a regular on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," and with his former Second City understudy Stephen Colbert. But again, it's their humanity he singles out more than their comedy.

"When we were working in Second City, one of the staff members left and we had a tribute to him," recalls Carell. "I remember Stephen went onstage and sang a song, and it was so moving and beautiful and poignant. He's supremely intelligent, but he also has an enormous heart."

Which is precisely what Carell's colleagues say of him. "He worked a long time before he broke through, and that makes a huge difference," notes "Date Night" co-star Tina Fey, who plans to reteam with Carell in "Mail-Order Groom," a comedy about a hopeless romantic and her relationship with a Russian "male bride." "What's weird is that he is so mature and civilized."

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If this seems un-starlike, it is -- after all, how many other stars would spend hundreds of thousands to save a small grocery store, as he did three years ago in Marshfield, Mass., not far from where he grew up in Acton? "I don't want to take up any more space than I'm given; I don't feel I'm entitled to any more than anyone else," insists Carell. "If I'd had a great level of success early on, who knows how I would have responded. I might have been a complete jerk."

Continue reading this article at The Hollywood Reporter.

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