A born comedian, Carrey mailed his résumé to The Carol Burnett Show when he was 10 years old. The teachers in Carrey's high school gave him a few minutes at the end of each school day to do a stand-up routine for his classmates.
The Carrey family fell on hard times and were forced to move to Scarborough, a Toronto suburb, where they took security and janitorial jobs in the Titan Wheels factory. Carrey began working eight-hour shifts each day after school. Eventually, the Carrey family escaped life at Titan by living on a relative's lawn out of the family Volkswagen van until they could move back downtown.
Carrey dropped out of high school, and began to work in comedy clubs and develop his act, which included impersonations of celebrities such as Michael Landon and James Stewart. In 1979 he moved to Los Angeles and started working in The Comedy Store, where he was noticed by comedian Rodney Dangerfield. Dangerfield liked Carrey's act so much that he signed Carrey up to open Dangerfield's tour performances.
Carrey began to work occasionally in television and small parts in movies, which eventually led to a friendship with Damon Wayans. Wayans's brother, Keenen Ivory Wayans, was in the process of putting together a sketch comedy show for Fox called In Living Color, and hired Carrey to be a cast member. Carrey's unusual characters and on-screen behavior caught America's attention.
Carrey's first starring role in a film was in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994). Through the 1990s, Carrey released one highly successful film after another, including The Mask in 1994, Batman Forever in 1995, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls in 1995, Liar Liar in 1997, and The Truman Show in 1998.
In 1999, Carrey fought hard for his next role as comedian Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. There were quite a few actors fighting for the role, including Edward Norton, but director Milos Forman and the other filmmakers knew Carrey was their "Andy" when they saw him audition. Carrey performed for them as Kaufman with Kaufman's actual bongo drums.
He is an inductee of Canada's Walk of Fame.
Carrey has been listed on a number of lists of famous people that are claimed to have or have had bipolar disorder, but the truth of these rumours is not known.