Jim Carrey has never played any role halfway. The Canadian-born actor and comedian takes the same approach in the political cartoons he regularly posts on Twitter.
Carrey, who lives in Los Angeles, has a muse for his scathing caricatures: Donald Trump. The “deviant force working in Washington,” Carrey writes, led the celebrity actor back to the cartooning of his childhood, “as a way of publicly resisting the devolution that is currently endangering one of life’s most precious resources: The God’s Honest Truth.”
Last year, an L.A. gallery held an exhibition of 80 of Carrey’s cartoons. The Phi Centre in Montreal has followed suit with a new show of more than 50 drawings and one installation: of shark fins crossing the floor and gliding up a wall-sized page from the U.S. Constitution.
The drawings pillory Trump and many in his entourage, as well as the U.S. President’s relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. A video display in the gallery shows Carrey working on a large artist’s pad with coloured markers, and then finishing the scanned drawing on his computer screen.
Some of Carrey’s caricatures show the same manic excess as his physical comedy. Moron Motherlode depicts a huge-bellied, MAGA-hat-wearing Trump, covered with sticky green stuff spewing from an oil derrick. What is this goo, Dr. Seuss’s Oobleck? Clue: An image of U.S. Attorney-General William Barr testifying before Congress is also streaked with green, or as Carrey says, “a monsoon of vomit.” Another Barr caricature shows him chomping down pages of the Mueller report, above the legend: “House Democrats vow to subpoena the attorney-general’s turds.”
If puke and poo jokes seem the low road to political comedy, Carrey does offer some sharper satire. A drawing of earnest, 1940s children walking to school is peppered with bleeding bullet holes, above the faux signature: Abnormal Rockwell.
In other drawings, rage is pretty much all Carrey’s got to show. One caricature of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon has the word FOOL written across it in big red letters.
Many of the images are straight-on, selfie-like portraits. Carrey does display a more sophisticated composition in The Adults’ Table, in which Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping crowd the upturned face of Kim Jong-un. “Just take the damn meeting and pretend you’re disarming,” the caption reads. “When democracy is dead, we’ll give you a seat at the grown-ups’ table.”
There’s also a wall of heroes, reserved for images of people Carrey admires. When not doing caricature, however, his draftsmanship loses its steam. His portraits of Robin Williams and Martin Luther King Jr. are very poor likenesses, and a sketch of Barack Obama is frankly terrible.
Carrey has more than 18 million followers on Twitter, although “likes” for his drawings seldom top 60,000 and are often much less. Trump, who never stints on vilifying news outlets through his Twitter account, has yet to respond to the comedian’s roastings. But the granddaughter of Benito Mussolini did object to his monochrome drawing of the Italian fascist leader and his mistress, hanging dead from a scaffold. “You are a bastard,” tweeted Alessandra Mussolini, a far-right deputy in the European Parliament.
So far, Carrey’s drawing pens have stayed away from his ill-informed views on issues such as vaccination and the “real" causes of autism. In 2015, he called California Governor Jerry Brown “a corporate fascist” for passing a strict pro-vaccine law. After seeing this show, it’s easy to imagine a furious Carrey drawing on that theme, of a Duce-fied Brown stabbing helpless children with corporate needles of death. As Carrey himself would probably agree, nobody said satire has to be tasteful.
This Light Never Goes Out: Political Cartoons by Jim Carrey, continues at the Phi Centre in Montreal through Sept. 1 (phi-centre.com/en/).