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How a career making people laugh has surprised Will Arnett

He's been making people laugh for a long time, but Will Arnett never expected his humour would provide his livelihood.

Canadian actor admits to being a former class clown, but never thought humour would be his day job

In 2016, actor Will Arnett talked to the CBC's Wendy Mesley about making a living by being funny. 1:08

"Who knew that being a jackass was going to pay off so well?"

It's not the kind of modesty you would expect from some of the confident, yet flawed characters Will Arnett has played over the years, but it is the way he views his own path to success.

The Toronto-born funnyman, who turns 50 on Monday, has said he's probably remembered as being a bit of a cut-up in his pre-stardom days in grade school.

"I guess I was funny, I mean, I don't know. Lots of people were funny," Arnett told the CBC's Wendy Mesley during a 2016 interview for The National, in which he talked about his Canadian roots and his life as an actor.

"I would probably be, I'm sure I was considered, like, the class clown, but I never really thought I was going to rely on my humour to provide a living, you know?"

An accidental career turn

Will Arnett's work on Arrested Development was rewarded with a Primetime Emmy Award nomination in 2006. He's since been nominated for his work on NBC's 30 Rock and Netflix's BoJack Horseman. (Chris Pizzello/AP)

His professional goal as an actor — at least at first — was to seek dramatic roles.

"I moved to New York initially and went to theatre school there to be a dramatic actor and I kind of fell into doing comedy, kind of by mistake, just to pay the rent," said Arnett, who attended the Lee Strasberg Film and Theatre Institute.

"But initially, I wanted people to take me seriously. I was young enough to think that that was important."

Will Arnett moved to New York as a young man with a desire to become a dramatic actor. 0:21

His work on Arrested Development made him a star, but Arnett has since shone in lots of roles, including doing voiceover work in animated films including Ratatouille, Despicable Me and The Lego Batman Movie.

And while his film and television work has taken him state-side for most of his adult life, Arnett has stayed connected to his home country, supporting various charitable causes, including the recent Stronger Together, Tous Ensemble fundraising broadcast.