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The early role that introduced CBC viewers to Jim Carrey

One of Jim Carrey's early efforts in blending comedy and drama was seen on CBC-TV at the very start of his career in 1981.

'Introducing... Janet' featured Carrey showing off his comedic and dramatic acting chops

In 1981, Jim Carrey was appearing in a CBC-TV movie called "Introducing Janet." 0:30

For as long as we've been hearing about Jim Carrey, he's always been kidding around.

That was true back when he made a name for himself as an up-and-coming comic playing clubs in Toronto, and it's just as true in 2020 as he appears in the latest season of Showtime's Kidding — a role in which he also shows off his dramatic side as well.

In fact, he's been showing us glimpses of his comic and dramatic potential since the very early days of his career, like when he appeared in a made-for-TV movie that more than 1 million CBC viewers saw almost 40 years ago.

The film was called Introducing... Janet. As TV Guide summed it up: "A teen-age girl conceals her insecurity behind a barrage of jokes — until she meets an aspiring comedian who asks for her help with his new act."

Carrey, just 19 years old when Introducing... Janet first aired in September of 1981, played the comedian. He had second billing in the film, behind its star, Adah Glassbourg, who played the title role.

"It's a warm and humorous story to which a lot of young people will, I'm sure, be able to relate," said Nada Harcourt, then the head of CBC's children's department. She is credited with coming up with the story idea for the film.

'Trying to perfect my craziness'

Adah Glassbourg and Jim Carrey are seen performing in the film "Introducing... Janet." (Cineflics Ltd.)

In Introducing... Janet, Carrey's character was supposed to be a not-so-skilled comedian — somewhat of a stretch for a comedian as talented as Carrey was.

"It was a great experience, but it was weird playing a bad impressionist when I've spent so long trying to perfect my craziness," Carrey said, according to promotional notes issued for the film. The notes also mentioned his stature as "a popular guest" on Toronto-area talk shows.

And while most of Carrey's on-screen moments in Introducing... Janet tend to highlight his talent for zany faces and voices, he also had some more grounded scenes with his co-star talking about the problems their characters were facing in their respective lives.

Carrey would be nominated for an ACTRA award for his work on the film, which would win the Canadian Film and Television Association's Best Drama award. 

Some future CBC personalities also appeared in the film, namely author and Doc Zone host Ann-Marie MacDonald and Marla Lukofsky, the comic and frequent Midday contributor. 

The late Harvey Atkin also was part of the film, with viewers hearing his off-screen voice — instantly familiar to all who remember the many Leon's furniture ads he worked on.

A 'long time' spent dreaming of fame

The 19-year-old Jim Carrey tells CBC he's been dreaming of fame for a long time. 0:36

By the time the movie aired on CBC-TV, Carrey was setting his sights on further stardom.

When asked by reporter Ted Woloshyn if he was moving too fast in his career, Carrey politely said that was not the case.

"No, I don't think so," said Carrey. "I've been waiting for it for a long time — I've only been in it for two and a half years,  but I've been thinking of it since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. So it's nothing new, it's something I've always thought of doing."

When CBC-TV was re-airing Introducing... Janet just two years later, it had to update its press materials on Carrey.

According to CBC's promotional notes, Carrey was living in Los Angeles and was starring in a sitcom called The Duck Factory. The show didn't last, but Carrey's career in showbiz, obviously, did.

Jim Carrey is seen in a promotional image for the CBC-TV movie "Introducing Janet," which aired in 1981. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

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