A successful standup comedian, the headliner of one of television's most popular sitcoms, a movie star, and a best-selling author, Tim Allen spent much of the '90s being a "Male Pig," a source of pride for countless men, and a franchise unto himself. He was born Timothy Allen Dick, in Denver, CO, one of ten brothers and sisters. Mercilessly teased by his peers because of his last name, Allen developed a keen sense of humor to protect himself. His father died in an auto accident in 1964 when Allen was 11, and his mother later married an old high school flame who had also lost his wife in a car crash. Eventually the family moved to a suburb of Detroit. In 1976, Allen graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in television production and went on to work in a sporting goods store and then in an advertising agency. He made his debut as a standup comedian at Detroit's Comedy Castle in 1979 after accepting a dare from a good friend, but his career was cut short when he was arrested for dealing cocaine and sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. Following his release, Allen decided to turn over a new leaf and concentrate on his standup career.
His early comedy routines were characterized by their vulgarity, and Allen did not find success until he perfected his "Men Are Pigs" routine. A glorious celebration of the masculine mystique centering on the joys of big block engines and tools (especially power tools), punctuated by his trademark manly grunting, the routine made him a hot property on the nightclub circuit and led to a series of televised specials on the Showtime cable network in the early '90s. While constructing his career, Allen moonlighted in television commercials, including spots as Mr. Goodwrench. It was while performing for a Showtime special that he got his break in series television. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chairman of Disney Studios, saw his act, liked it, and with Walt Disney Company chairman Michael Eisner, offered him the lead in a couple of planned series based on popular films; but Allen didn't feel they were right and suggested instead that they do a series based on his comedy character. They agreed, and Home Improvement, the continuing saga of bumbling TV handyman (whose show somewhat resembled This Old House) Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor and his brood, debuted on the ABC television network in September 1991. It quickly went on to become one of the most consistently highly rated shows on television.