Us old timers recall In Living Color with a fondness Gen Z probably reserves for SpongeBob or whatever the hell those kids grew up on. Although not as prolific as SNL, the FX sketch comedy series remains iconic—not only for its characters, but for the massive stars it spawned, including Jennifer Lopez and Jim Carrey, whose Fire Marshall Bill was a huge fan favorite. During a recent appearance on WTF With Marc Maron, Carrey discussed his new memoir (with an asterisk?), Memoirs And Misinformation—of which the actor says, “None of this is real and all of it is true”—and took a little trip down memory lane to revisit his time on In Living Color. The series, created by Keenen Ivory Wayans and Damon Wayans, made Carrey a household name, and though he had a handful of memorable sketches and characters, none was more popular than Fire Marshall Bill—a cartoonish fireman prone to getting hurt in fires and various calamities. Bill had a particular manner of speaking, due to the fact that his lips had been burned off. He kind of looks like the prototype for Gary Oldman in Hannibal.
Fire Marshall Bill was, obviously, a darkly comedic character, but as Carrey explained to Maron, his real-life origin story was much darker. Carrey co-created the character with Adam Small and Steve Oedekerk, and, he explains, Bill “was born out of a sketch...called The Death Wish Foundation. It was a sketch about kids who were passing away, and their posthumous wish is what we were concentrating on. My posthumous wish as this sick kid was to go to an amusement park after I died. So, it would be me, on the rides, flopping around in the seats on the roller coaster like Weekend At Bernie’s. That didn’t get on, but the character stuck. The character became Fire Marshall Bill.”
Not entirely sure how you make the leap from dead kids in Weekend At Bernie’s scenarios to a comically catastrophic fire marshal, but perhaps that is the enigmatic genius of Jim Carrey.