BEVERLY HILLS, California—“It’s not a choice,” Jim Carrey said during a panel promoting his new Showtime series, Kidding. “It’s a reflex.”
The actor, who appeared at the Television Critics Association press tour on Monday, wasn’t referring to his new comedy series, his first regular scripted show on television in more than 30 years. He was instead referring to a series of headline-making cartoons skewering Donald Trump and the current administration, a slew of politically charged paintings and drawings that he’s been posting on his social media channels in the past year with equally incendiary captions.
“It’s my reflex to what I’m seeing I don’t like,” Carrey said. “It’s just a civilized way of dealing with it, I think. To express it and to kind of get on board with as many voices other as possible that are shouting from the rooftops.”
Carrey first brought up the paintings on his own accord in response to a question about what moves him to pursue different types of work, be it transitioning from drama to comedy, or acting to political works of art. On Kidding, he gives a surprisingly, and admirably, tender performance as the host of a children’s television show in the tradition of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, whose family life and entire worldview is upended after the death of his son.
But from someone who was sitting in the room as Carrey spoke, it was clear that he was dying to bring up the art, not to mention his feelings about Trump and the state of the world.
Carrey’s attention-grabbing cartoons, the actor said, have been an impulsive form of catharsis. He’s been moved to do them because he “can’t just watch this nightmare unfold.”
“I have to alchemize it into something that is at least creative and decent,” he continued. “Even if it’s crass at times, it’s the crass that I’m expressing that everyone wants to express but can’t necessarily do so in their own lives. So when I stick a flag in Trump’s ass it’s because that’s what everyone is seeing. They’re seeing him owned, and I have to express that. And sometimes that’s the most crass way that I can express it because I’m done with it.”
Among his more attention-grabbing pieces include one in which Trump is opening his bathrobe and fondling his nipple while eating two scoops of ice cream. (Trump once bragged that he always gets two scoops of dessert, while everyone else gets one.) Carrey’s caption for the work, which he posted on Twitter, says, "Dear Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery @NPG, I know it's early but I'd like to submit this as the official portrait of our 45th President, Donald J. Trump. It's called, 'You Scream. I Scream. Will We Ever Stop Screaming?"
Other cartoons reimagine Trump as the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, complete with flying monkeys from his administration; a rendering of Marco Rubio with “the blood of innocent children on his hands” because of his ties to the NRA; one that depicts the refugee crisis, and a controversial portrait of Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“This is the portrait of a so-called Christian whose only purpose in life is to lie for the wicked. Monstrous!” Carrey captioned the piece, which he says was criticized for attacking Huckabee Sanders’s looks.
Speaking to the TV critics and reporters in Beverly Hills, he defended the interpretation in much the same way comedian Michelle Wolf did after being criticized for jokes she made about the press secretary at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
"When I did the Sarah Huckabee Sanders, everybody came out and said, 'The horrendousness. The ugliness.' I didn't say ugly. I didn't say anything. I drew her essence," he said. "To me, ugly is an inside job."
Carrey was asked if he’s gotten any feedback about the portraits from the commander-in-responding-to-criticism, a question Carrey was tickled to get to answer.
“He probably loves them on some level,” he said. “I’m sure it’s insulting and it probably pissed him off. But at the same time, we’re dealing with a narcissist, so it’s not always a straight shot. You can do something that’s really horrible to him, but because he’s just getting a lot of attention, horrible is alright.”