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Tim Allen was a sporting goods salesman, drug dealer, and stand-up comedian before Home Improvement made him a sitcom star (and the voice of Buzz Lightyear).
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Tim Allen Dick was born on June 13, 1953. Early on, he found a sense of humor vital to dealing with his unfortunate last name. It also came in handy later on when he served time for drug dealing. After prison, Allen developed an act that eventually became
Actor, comedian. Born Tim Allen Dick on June 13, 1953, in Denver, Colorado. Allen is the son of Gerald and Martha Dick, and one of six children. Allen discovered his penchant for comedy early on — as his last name became fodder for childhood jeers, he often used his wit to deflect insults. In his formative years, Allen had an especially strong connection with his father, who instilled a love of all things automotive in his son. "I loved my father more than anything," Allen remembers. "He was a tall, strong, funny, really engaging guy. I so enjoyed his company, his smell, sensibility, discipline, sense of humor — all the fun stuff we did together. I couldn't wait for him to come home."
In 1964, on his way home from a football game, Gerald was killed by drunk driver. Allen was 11 years old. In the wake of the tragedy, Allen's mother moved the family to Detroit, Michigan. Several years later, she married her high school sweetheart, a successful businessman with strong Episcopalian values. The pair raised Allen and his siblings.
Teenaged Allen was an indifferent student with a passion for shop class. After receiving his high school diploma, he attended Central Michigan University. He later transferred to Western Michigan University to earn a bachelor's degree in television and radio production. It was there that he met long-term girlfriend, Laura Deibel, and began making money on the side as a narcotics dealer.
Following his college graduation in 1976, Allen took a position at a sporting goods store, where he was quickly offered a job at the company's in-house advertising agency. Despite his accomplishments in the ad business, and his happy marriage to Deibel in 1978, Allen continued to deal drugs. His criminal activity caught up with him in October 2, 1978, when Allen and an accomplice were arrested at the Kalamazoo, Michigan, airport for possession of nearly a pound-and-a-half of cocaine. He was released on bail, and a trial was scheduled for November of that year.
In the time before his sentencing, Allen tried his hand at stand-up comedy. He made his successful debut at Detroit's Comedy Castle and a month later, on November 26, 1979, Allen made his court appearance. The comic received a reduced sentence after agreeing to testify against his partner, and was given eight years in federal prison. He ultimately served only 28 months at Sandstone Federal Correctional Institution. The time in prison seemed to whet his sense of humor, and Allen became known for his ability to wrench laughs from the toughest guards and prisoners alike.
After his parole in 1981, Allen returned to Detroit. Working at an ad agency by day, he became a regular at the Comedy Castle in the evenings.
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