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Peter Ponders... What’s Funny and What’s Not

Featured Photo from Peter Ponders...  What’s Funny and What’s Not

In which Toy Story’s Tim Allen has the last laugh

With the release of the hit summer movie Toy Story 4, I must give Tim Allen credit for listening carefully to my career advice and doing exactly the opposite.

My stint as Tim’s boss started in 1989 when I scored two tickets to see the rising comic perform stand-up at the Governor’s Comedy Club in Stamford, Connecticut. The tickets were $15 apiece, as I recall.

Looking back, the only thing more incredible than the cheap ticket price was Tim. He was hilarious. Throughout the evening, he played a modern caveman with a thing for power tools. He was a do-it-yourselfer who nearly did himself in on occasion.

Call it kismet, serendipity, or dumb luck, but at the time I was an editor at Practical Homeowner, a do-it-yourself home-improvement magazine based in Connecticut. And I had the brilliant idea that Tim should write a column for the magazine. I thought readers would get a kick out of Tim’s impractical approach to doing things yourself.

I contacted Tim’s manager and, to my surprise, Tim thought it was a good fit. He promised he would turn in his first column within the week. I eagerly awaited its arrival. 

Finally, it landed on my desk in a plain manila envelope. Don’t forget, this was back when manuscripts were delivered on actual paper. I took out the draft and began reading. It was funny, but it wasn’t hysterical like Tim’s stand-up routine. I took the column to my boss and told him I’d like to ask Tim to make a few changes. “Sure,” he agreed.

But when I got Tim’s manager on the landline – again, that was all we had in ‘89 – he was less than thrilled.

“Tim is a professional comedian,” the manager said. “We’re not making any changes.”

I tried to reason with him.

“Tim’s very funny,” I said. “But so much of what makes him funny is his body language, gestures, and the sounds he makes like a quizzical gorilla who’s just discovered fire. The readers can’t see his facial expressions or body language. In print, Tim just has the words.”

After consulting with Tim, his manager made it clear that the comedian was not going to take my advice. He’d become successful on his own, and he wasn’t going to take any suggestions now.

“Practical Homeowner is very popular, and it would be good for Tim’s career to be part of it,” I argued, desperately throwing a Hail Mary pass that wobbled to my office’s 50-yard line and bounced off a cubicle.
And with a few choice words over the phone, Tim quit.

So that was that.

A few months later, Practical Homeowner went out of business and Tim Allen signed a megabucks Hollywood deal to become a huge success on TV’s Home Improvement. That was followed by The Santa Clause movies and Toy Story. 

Some guys sure know how to rub it in. Geez, you could’ve been successful with just one franchise, Tim. But three... Really?  

Wait, there’s more. If Tim hadn’t showed me up already, he’s currently starring in the TV show Last Man Standing, all while Toy Story is still going strong.

So, I admit it: I was wrong. Tim Allen is just plain funny, whether on TV or in the movies.

But in print, I still think I got him beat.

Peter Reilly lives in Lake Mary with his wife and son. He can be reached at


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