That's all part of Allen's shtick, but it's not far from what he really believes. "Tim's very smart and very thoughtful but also very opinionated and doesn't hold his opinions back," says John Pasquin, a friend and director on Home Improvement and Last Man Standing. "Comedy is often drawn from anger, and I think that's true in Tim's case. He's able to joke about what really ticks him off."
And what ticks him off a lot is that men can no longer be men. On Last Man Standing, Allen plays Mike Baxter, a man's man lost in a world of soccer moms, citrus bodywash and Glee. Allen acknowledges the similarities to Home Improvement. Instead of hosting Tool Time on TV for a hardware store, Mike has a sporting-goods video blog. And it's three daughters instead of three sons. But the premise remains. What does it mean to be a man today?
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Allen has asked that question since losing his dad at age 11. His father died while driving the family home from a college football game in 1964; a drunk driver's car flipped onto theirs. Allen's mother and siblings survived. Tim was the only family member who stayed home that day, though he was hardly spared. "It changed everything forever," he says. "Part of me still doesn't trust that things are going to work out all right. I knew my father was dead, but I was never satisfied with why he was dead. I wanted answers that minute from God. 'Do you think this is funny? Do you think this is necessary?' And I've had a tumultuous relationship with my creator ever since."
To quiet his angst, Allen acted out. His mother remarried a man with three children of his own, and the brood moved to Michigan, where Tim was more class clown than star student. Although he made it through college, he turned to dealing drugs when his money ran low, and, at 25, he got busted at a Michigan airport carrying nearly a pound and a half of cocaine. Allen served 28 months at the Federal Correctional Institute in Sandstone, Minn. "It finally dawned on me in prison that I worked harder being a crook than I ever worked legitimately," he says. "I was doing 12-hour days running from the police and screwing up lives. Once I got that I could make money doing something legal, I turned it around." Ironically, doing time is what led the funnyman into the business of laughter. "The judge had suggested I get my act together," Allen once said of finding his calling for comedy in prison, "and I took him seriously."
Next: Why Allen likes to hang out with older folks. »