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Tim Allen Spent Two Years in Prison — a Look Back at the 'Santa Clause' Actor's Troubled Past

Edduin Carvajal
Jul 20, 2020
01:30 P.M.

Actor and comedian Tim Allen, best known as Tim Taylor in "Home Improvement," spent a couple of years behind bars for smuggling cocaine.


Born in Colorado in 1953, Tim Allen Dick has been involved in the entertainment industry for over four decades, working in several films and TV shows like "Toy Story," "The Santa Clause," and "Christmas with the Kranks."

Once you lose your freedom, you never want to lose it again.

Tim Allen in a mug shot following his arrest for cocaine possession, Kalamazoo, Michigan, US, 2nd October 1978 | Photo: Getty Images

Tim Allen in a mug shot following his arrest for cocaine possession, Kalamazoo, Michigan, US, 2nd October 1978 | Photo: Getty Images


One of Allen's most characteristic features is his sense of humor, something that he has been developing since he was a child when other children would make fun of his last name (Dick).

It is fair to say that he used his wit as a defense mechanism to deflect the jokes and insults. Years later, Allen was forced to use his humor as a shield again, but to avoid beatings in jail.


After earning a bachelor's degree in Television and Radio Production from Western Michigan University, he met his long-term partner Laura Deibel, and they tied the knot in 1984 after dating for years.

Apart from that, he landed a job at a sporting goods store, and later, at the company's advertising agency. On the side, Allen was a narcotics dealer.



On October 2, 1978, Allen and an accomplice were arrested at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport for possession of almost one and a half pounds of cocaine.

Initially, he was sentenced to eight years in federal prison: a reduced sentence because he agreed to testify against his partner in crime. However, he ended up serving 28 months.


It was during Tim Allen's time in jail that he polished his comical skills, as making his fellow prisoners laugh was the best way to avoid beatings.

Tim Allen's prison mates could "kick butt" whenever they wanted to. Laughing, on the other hand, was not as common, which is why it was a "very valuable" skill for him.



The actor revealed that there was a particularly aggressive inmate who never hit him because of his impression of the famous Looney Tunes hunter Elmer Fudd. About his time behind bars, Allen said:

"Prison takes away your freedom in a way you can never imagine until you spend time there. […] Once you lose your freedom, you never want to lose it again."

Allen also recalled a particularly tough period during his incarceration, revealing that he and 20 other people were put in the same holding cell with just one toilet in the middle of the room.

The famous actor pointed out that, at some point, he thought about taking his own life. However, he forgot about it after realizing that his attempt would have failed.



For Allen, his two years and four months in jail felt like "a watershed moment" as it put him in a position of great humility. Allen also got the chance to make amends with friends and family and to redirect his life.

In 1981, he was released on parole and began to seriously pursue a career as a comedian, doing stand-up shows in Detroit and eventually moving to Los Angeles. Once there, he landed some gigs on late-night shows.


It wasn't until 1991 that his career skyrocketed after he got the part of Tim Taylor in "Home Improvement," a show that ran for eight seasons and put him on the map.

From that point on, Tim Allen started working on movies like "The Shaggy Dog," "Wild Hogs," "Crazy on the Outside," and the "Toy Story" franchise.

As per his love life, he was married to Laura Deibel between 1984 and 2003. Together, they have a daughter named Katherine. In 2006, he gave love a second chance and married actress Jane Hajduk. With her, he had another daughter named Elizabeth.

At the moment, Tim Allen is very much active in the entertainment industry. Since 2011, he has been portraying Mike Baxter in the famous sitcom "Last Man Standing" opposite Nancy Travis.

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