He has played a family man on television, a popular toy in the Toy Story franchise, even Santa Claus, but before Tim Allen was making everyone – especially kids – laugh, he was a young kid from Michigan dealing with some demons.
Allen recently stopped by the podcast WTF with Marc Maron, where he opened up about his early years, which included alcohol and drug use. The actor/comedian admitted that when his father was killed by a drunk driver when he was just 11 years old, he had already been drinking for a year.
He began drinking that early because of cowboy movies. He saw the cowboys slinging back shots, so he went to his friend’s house, poured Jim Beam into a jigger – not even a shot glass – and took it.
“I was an eff up,” he said. “After my old man died, I really just played games with people and told adults what they wanted to hear and then stole their booze.”
He revealed that he considered himself like Eddie Haskell from Leave It To Beaver, saying, “I knew exactly what adults wanted — make your bed, be polite, use a napkin — and then I’d go steal everything in the house.”
Allen continued this way of life into his early twenties, when he was arrested at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek Airport for trying to sneak a pound of cocaine in his luggage. He was charged with drug trafficking, and pleaded guilty, then spent 2 years and four months in federal prison at the age of 23.
Tim Allen went to jail in the 70s for drug trafficking. Buzz light year went to jail for cocaine in Kalamazoo! pic.twitter.com/LOQ2ZFpAQt
— penny cillin (@penny_chillin) September 20, 2020
“We were a bunch of college kids — a bunch of the kids who overdid it,” he explained. “Two of us took [the punishment] for about 20 guys.”
During his multi-year prison stint, which was spent at three different prisons, Allen did what he needed to do to get out in a timely manner.
“I just shut up and did what I was told,” he said. “It was the first time ever I did what I was told and played the game… I learned literally how to live day by day. And I learned how to shut up. You definitely want to learn how to shut up.”
Allen admitted that while incarceration is hard, after eight months, he “got used to it.” On Saturdays, there was better food, and his proudest moment while he was in was when he got his own cell. He called his mom on Thanksgiving to tell her the news.
Apparently he had called right as the family was eating dinner and now, he calls it “embarrassingly funny to me.” After telling his mom about having his own cell, he recalled her saying, ” ‘Oh, that’s good. Steve graduated from Purdue. Jeff’s on his way to Michigan State. One of my oldest sons got his own cell.'”
Now, Allen is 23 years sober and “grateful.”
“I love my life. I’m not any more mentally stable, I have the same issues I had. Now, I can’t hide from them,” he said.
Allen is currently starring on the final season of Last Man Standing, and gearing up for the premiere of his upcoming show with former Home Improvement co-star Richard Karn, called Assembly Required.