'Toy Story' star Tim Allen: 'Being funny saved my life while I was in prison'

Danny Thompson
Tim Allen arrives at the premiere of Disney and Pixar's "Toy Story 4" on June 11, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

Toy Story’s Tim Allen has revealed his first foray into comedy was to avoid being beaten up - while serving time in prison for a cocaine bust.

The 66-year-old actor told The Mirror he met some rather scary inmates after being imprisoned in the US when he was 25. Allen served just over two years in Minnesota prison, after pleading guilty to drug trafficking charges in 1978.

Talking of inmates he encountered, the Buzz Lightyear star said: “They could kick butt any time.

“But you don’t get to laugh that much in prison. It proved very valuable to me.”

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And he thinks his love of childhood cartoons was his key to prison survival with his Elmer Fudd impression in particular saving from a beating from one particularly aggressive inmate.

He said: “He never did because I knew that every time I started talking like Elmer Fudd he’d lose it.

“It would devastate the guy.”

Talking of his criminal past, Allen admits prison was “the worst and the best thing that ever happened to me” despite it giving him the opportunity to hone his comedy craft. He said: “Prison takes away your freedom in a way you can never imagine until you spend time there.

“Anyone who says prison is great or they can do it… fine, so explain to me why, if you open the door, everyone would walk away.

“Once you lose your freedom, you never want to lose it again.”

Tim Allen & Tom Hanks during "Toy Story" - Hollywood Premiere at El Captain Theatre in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)

But he added: “I had a few uninterrupted years with no responsibilities to work on my material – there’s nothing like a glass that’s half full.

“Being funny saved my life - on the inside, in my inside and, I was soon to discover, on the outside.”

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Addressing how fans react to finding out he spent time behind bars, Allen said: “It’s a big shock to people that I spent time behind bars.

“They say, ‘You’re not that kind of guy’. Well yes, I was that kind of guy. Half model citizen, half hooligan.”

Toy Story 4 is in cinemas now.