Tim Allen: The Drug Bust And Jail Time That Honed His Comedy

Entertainment | November 23, 2020

American actor and comedian Tim Allen in a mug shot following his arrest for cocaine possession, Kalamazoo, Michigan, US, 2nd October 1978. (Photo by Kypros/Getty Images)

He's famous as Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor, Buzz Lightyear, and the king of Christmas movies, but successful Tim Allen has come a long way since 1978's drug bust Tim Allen. Allen's upbringings were not as family-friendly as his roles in entertainment. Before becoming Santa Claus and a superstar TV dad, Allen faced serious trouble with the law, so much that he spent years in the tank after being caught dealing narcotics. Allen kept his scandalous past hidden from his fans to protect his innocent image, but his rough upbringings inspired him to turn his life around for the better.

Tim Allen’s Father Inspired His Future Passion

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Tim Allen was born Timothy Dick in 1953 in Denver, Colorado. His classmates teased him for his last name, and Allen used humor as a defense mechanism which helped him grow in his comedy. Allen and his father Gerald Dick had a strong bond, and Dick taught his son everything there was to know about cars, which inspired Allen’s passion for automobiles and mechanics. Tragedy struck when Gerald Dick was killed when he was hit by a drunk driver, and Tim’s grief caused his involvement in trouble as he grew older. He eventually attended Western Michigan University to earn his degree in film and television, but in order to afford life’s luxuries he began dealing drugs in his spare time. Along with his side hustle, Allen was also beginning his career in comedy in 1975, and was gaining local attention in Detroit through his stand-up, especially when he appeared in some local commercials and cable shows including Some Semblance.

Tim Allen Was Busted For Possession Of Nearly 1.5 Lbs. Of Cocaine

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When he graduated from college in 1976, Allen continued his narcotics dealing after being so accustomed to the wealth he gained from this lifestyle. That’s when he soon reaped the consequences of his actions. On October 2nd, 1978 Allen met up with Michael Pifer at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport. He infamously threw a brown Adidas gym bag full of 0.65 kilos (1.43 pounds) of cocaine inside a locker, and nonchalantly handed Pifer the keys. Allen expected to collect $42,000 from his client, but instead he received another surprise. It turned out Pifer was an undercover officer who had been following Allen for months, so Allen was surrounded by a team of cops who cuffed him at gunpoint. 

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During his court appearance, Allen used his comedic skill to his advantage as he delighted the judge with jokes and humor. The judge was amused and told Allen he expected he would become a very successful comedian, but unfortunately the charm did not excuse him of his crime. Allen pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and was facing life imprisonment, but cut a deal for informing on the other dealers in the scene for a lighter sentence. There were twenty others in this drug world, and four major dealers were convicted and sentenced with the help of Allen’s information. Allen was now only facing seven years, but ended up only serving two years and four months at The Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone Minnesota, and was released on bail on June 12, 1980.

Allen Entertained The Guards And Prisoners With Humor

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Allen was not the most thick-skinned criminal and really struggled his way through prison. With twenty other men in his cell, the thought of experiencing seven years in the tank drove him crazy, and he often considered suicide to escape. However, eventually Allen used this obstacle to grow himself and kick his comedic skills up to another level. Allen was up for the challenge, and soon he became the prison clown and was able to make the depressed, angry, and stern prisoners and guards laugh. This was probably the toughest audience Allen ever performed for in his entire life, and he still managed to succeed. Prior to his jail time, Allen was so angry over his father’s death that it stunted his progression, but now he used this adversity to become a better person.

Tim Allen Turned His Life Around When He Became A Television Star

Source: PBS

Immediately after his release, Allen sought to transform his entire life and become a man to look up to. He was determined to turn his life around for the better. No time was wasted as he got right to work at a Detroit ad agency and performed stand-up in the evenings at Comedy Castle. He began appearing in commercials including his famous appearance as Mr. Goodwrench. His wife Laura Deibel gave birth to their daughter Katherine in 1989, inspiring Allen to be an even greater role model. Through his minor roles, Allen developed his trademark: the manly and deep grunt that he would be most known for. Later in 1989, Allen booked a special on Showtime called Men Are Pigs, a comedy routine revolving around the male admiration for hardware, lawn mowers, and power tools. Here, Allen was able to fully let his famous grunt shine.

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Disney Studios was so impressed with Allen’s persona that they offered him roles in some of their own films, but Allen rejected them as he felt they did not match his style. Eventually, Allen pitched the idea of Home Improvement, which was an adaptation of his character in Men Are Pigs. Thus, Tim Allen turned into the ultimate family-man/mechanic Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor, and his career further took off with a series of successful family-friendly films, most famously The Santa Clause series. From then on, Allen would no longer be seen as a notorious criminal, but an example for fathers and kids to look up to.  

Tags: Criminals | Drugs | Standup Comedy | Tim Allen

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Emily Morenz


Despite her younger age, Emily Morenz (Emo) is a serious 1960s/1970s enthusiast who is pretty much the Austin Powers of this decade. Through her all-vintage wardrobe, obsession with old time rock 'n' roll, and her mid century bedroom and 1,200+ vinyl collection you might think she just stepped out of a time machine. Emo plays the rare gems of the ‘60s and ‘70s on her radio show on OC’s 101.5 KOCI and teaches rock ‘n’ roll history on her podcast “The Rock & Roll Sweetheart.” When there's not a pandemic, she's rockin’ out with all the middle aged-men at every single classic rock concert happening around the town, and she will battle her away to front row and dance hard. Paul McCartney even once brought her up on stage to dance...while she was in a walrus costume. You also might find Emo surfing waves, skateboarding through a neighborhood, groovin' '60s gogo style, and pretending like she can play bass. And she's obsessed with peanut butter and corgis.