On the ABC comedy series Last Man Standing, actor Tim Allen (Home Improvement) plays Mike Baxter, world voyager and one daredevil of a marketing director who must spend more time in his female-dominated household after his wife (Nancy Travis) receives a promotion at work. Not the best at finding common ground with 20-year-old Kristin (Alexandra Krosney), who’s trying to raise her own son, celeb-obsessed Mandy (Molly Ephraim) and sporty Eve (Kaitlyn Dever), his old-fashioned, hot-headed ways create all kinds of friction for the family.
During a recent visit to the set, Tim Allen (best known as the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story features and shorts) talked about how much of what’s on the show resonates with his own life as a dad, what it’s like to work with girls this time instead of the boys his character on Home Improvement had, whether being an outdoorsman comes naturally for him, and what he still loves about doing stand-up. He also talked about the possibility of more Toy Story shorts or features. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Question: You’ve got an older daughter and a baby daughter. How much of what you see on the show resonates with you as a dad, in real life?
TIM ALLEN: Well, these are very well-behaved kids, who are only here for about 20 minutes. They’re really good kids. My kids are good, but these kids are exceptional because they’re actors. As television often is, it’d be the idyllic situation, if you could get your conflicts resolved in 22 minutes. Actually, it’s less than that because we’ve got a tag and all the bumpers and stuff. It’s a wonderful situation. I can’t tell you how much I adore these girls. It’s television and I tend to get attached very quickly. I like this life. I like this house. I like this job. It’s just like Home Improvement. I really adored those boys, and now I’ve got the best of both worlds, which was the idea.
Is there a secret to good parenting?
ALLEN: If you’re a parent, you know that nobody knows. I always feel like I’m coming up a little short. Like I’m not there, I don’t engage, I don’t focus enough. I do the best I can, and just hope I don’t get arrested.
Are you and Hector Elizondo tech savvy, in real life?
ALLEN: We both have Chevy Volts and we both are very happy with them. He’s very tech savvy. He actually gets better electric mileage than I do. I just love anything that plugs in. I’ve gotten so far past the Android and iPhones that I’m back to a flip-phone. It’s funny, you can buy antique flip-phones online. A lot of us collect them. Clearly, they’re considered antiques.
What is it like working with girls this time?
ALLEN: Well, I grew up with a huge family of boys. There were seven of us, and I appreciate it and love it, but I get along with girls, too, and I really adore baby girls, especially. I love women. I actually prefer girls, as a parent, because they disappoint at a different age. They go through that, “Dad’s an idiot,” which lasted a little longer than I’d like. I have a 22-year-old now. My older brother has girls, too. He says, “At about 26, they come back, but from about 18 or 16 on, they just think Dad’s horrible.” That’s a little painful.
What’s it like being surrounded by women on set?
ALLEN: I have a staff of women. There are a lot of women here. If you’re around women long enough, you’ll see they have the cracks in their armor just like being around boys, all the time. Boys can be disgusting. You can’t leave us alone for any length of time because we will burn something, blow something up or paint something. We’re just obnoxious. Women attack, in a different way. They’re emotional terrorists. They go, “Oh, I’ll get you back!”
The Tool Man on Home Improvement was such an icon. Is being an outdoorsman just as natural for you?
ALLEN: You know, it was funny and by design. Construction was my first love. I love that whole trade. This is the whole other side of that. I grew up around hunters. I love guns, bows, arrows, compasses and binoculars. I don’t do any of that stuff, I just like the stuff. I shot one animal, in my life, and I didn’t like it. If I had to skin an animal to eat it, I’d probably eat vegetables. I don’t like fishing, for that reason, because you yank them out of the water, and then there they are looking for oxygen that I have to take that away from them. I love this outdoor stuff and I used to work at a store where we sold guns and ammo. I’m really good at selling stuff, so I appreciate it. All the big game hunters tend to be really intense environmentalists. It doesn’t make sense, but they are. People that hunt and use the outdoors tend to want to keep the outdoors the way they are. It’s a weird, strange dichotomy. The people that hunt are the guys that really vehemently protect the environment. You find that people that live on ranches tend to want to keep it that way, and I’ve always loved that about the hunters that I’ve known. They eat what they kill, and they carry it out. They don’t shoot for sport. They carry these big sheep out on their backs, and they gut them and they eat them later. I’ve always admired that. I love fishing gear, boats, outboard motors and all of that, and this is the flip-side. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what I did here. Instead of three boys, it’s three girls. Instead of Tool Time, I have a vlog that we’re developing, where we get to do live ranting.
What do you like to do outdoors?
ALLEN: I’m a boater, so I like being on lakes. I have a boat in upper Michigan, that I’ve had for years and years. I have a cabin in upper Colorado. I’m one of these guys that just spoils the environment. I like ATVs and snowmobiles. I have a motorcycle up there, and I like cruising through the hills. I’ve camped all my life with my brothers, but I prefer a cabin, so I can walk down by the lake and go get a cup of coffee. I like being outdoors and I love the mountains.
Why doesn’t the show include the baby more?
ALLEN: He’s actually quite in demand, so we get him when we can. It’s one of those things that, all of a sudden, you get an episode where he’s napping or he’s upstairs. The logistics of bringing a child on the set is incredibly difficult because he’s only got a short timeframe and his attention span is literally shorter than mine. They’ve got to manage each person’s story time. Christoph [Sanders] has become a major player. Hector [Elizondo] and my story bloomed into something else. The older daughter, who is the mother of Boyd, has got her own story. I don’t know how they manage it. Logistically, they want to get the show launched. Our old joke is, “So is anybody watching the kid? Where is the kid now?” It’s a great question, and it’s really a management situation, trying to manage his time as best as possible.
What TV shows have had an impact on you?
ALLEN: I liked all the [Bob] Newhart stuff, and Mary Tyler Moore, and the classic sitcoms. What a great era. That’s what reminded me how grateful I am to be in this business, in movies and television, and how grateful I am to be in another hit.[Bill] Cosby has done it, but there are very few people that have done what [Bob] Newhart did, where he had three hits in a row. He’s still a hit to me. I like the classic TV sitcoms, which is why we’ve done our best to keep a live studio audience, although I swear we almost have to remind people that it’s, “Filmed in front of a live studio audience at CBS.” Even my mom goes, “That laugh track sounds so in-your-face.” I go, “Well, it’s 250 people laughing,” and she says, “Yeah, but it sounds like they’re right there,” and I go, “Well, they are right there.” It isn’t done so much anymore. It is as upgraded as you can do a sitcom, but it’s a live sitcom. It’s a mix between stand-up and theater. It’s just wonderful.
Do you still think about doing stand-up?
ALLEN: I still do it. I’m in the Venetian, all year. This is the second year I’ll be at the showroom at the Venetian, and I still pop in to various clubs in Los Angeles to warm up. I don’t know why I ever got away from it. I love doing it. It’s the same stress as it was when I did it 30 years ago, waiting in line with other comics, but now I’m the big cheese. I’m the guy I hate.
What kind of pressure is it to be the big cheese?
ALLEN: If you’re not funny, people are going to be shifting in their seats and going to the bathroom. I can get up there and do a question and answer for 20 minutes, and say, “Oh, what’s your favorite episode?” I can talk about Buzz Lightyear, and all that stuff, for any length of time. But, when I first started two years ago, I rebooted. I did some big concerts and fell on my face. The crowds still got a show because I did some old stuff, but it’s taken me probably 18 months of hard work to get it back up to a level that you can come see in Vegas.
How does that change your game for a sitcom?
ALLEN: I get around. I’ve been around great actors and there’s something smoking hot about working with them because they sustain a vibe. I don’t know how to describe acting. From a comedy point of view, stand-up keeps me razor sharp, so that I can ad-lib. That’s why they hire me. I can add value to a scene that’s a little flat, or do a facial gesture, or whatever. It’s been wonderful, but it’s been stressful because I’ve got a family and I’m on the road again. I was on the road a lot when I was young, and I don’t want to do that, so I do Vegas, where I really feel like I need a sequined suit. It’s not my gig, but I do love it. I like the Venetian. They’ve been real good to me. I’m going to continue doing that twice a month, and pop up around here. It just keeps me sharp and keeps my motor running.
Will there be more Toy Story shorts, in the future?
ALLEN: You know, working with Pixar and Disney is like working with the CIA. They really don’t want me to stay anything. Talk to [Tom] Hanks. He seems to get away with whatever he wants to say because no one ever messes with him. Disney would just prefer I don’t talk about Toy Story because I think they’ve got big surprises coming. They want to manage it because they don’t want expectations. It takes a long time to put those together – both the shorts and the big ones. They time their own deals. All I’ve got to say is that the shorts are doing very well, but the last gasp of that movie series was that little girl. We’re supposed to be waving on the porch. It was so sad, even to all of us that do it. And then, that little girl came from behind her mom’s leg and it looked like she was going to take care of the toys. And the audience went, “Well, why doesn’t she just take care of them?” Pixar felt it, and so did Disney. All of us did. Maybe that girl wouldn’t be the end of this thing. So that’s where it’s sitting right now.
Last Man Standing airs on Tuesday nights on ABC. You can learn more about the show at www.abc.com/shows/last-man-standing