Personal detailsName: Steve Carell
Born: 16 August 1962 (Age: 51)
Where: Concord, Massachusetts, USA
Height: 5' 10"
Awards: Won 1 Golden Globe, 2 Emmy Nominations
All about this star
Quite rightly, much is made of Saturday Night Live's track record in churning out top-line film comedians. Less credit, though, is given to Second City, where many of SNL's stars served their apprenticeship. Formed in Chicago and spreading into Canada and beyond, the organisation has served as a comic college for such heavyweights talents as Alan Arkin, Joan Rivers, Peter Boyle, George Wendt, John and James Belushi, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, John Candy, Gilda Radner, Dan Castellaneta, Mike Myers and Chris Farley. More recently, it also spawned Steve Carell, one of the biggest breakthrough stars of the mid-Noughties.
Serving six years at Second City, both as an improv performer and teacher, Carell would first gain national attention as a field reporter for spoof news programme The Daily Show. Then his association with the Frat Pack - that extended brotherhood of funnymen including Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller and Jack Black - would lift his profile still higher, his career reaching a new peak when he scored mighty hits with The 40 Year Old Virgin and the US version of TV series The Office, and then won the title role in Evan Almighty, the most expensive comedy film ever made. Many saw Carell as something of an overnight success. However, well into his forties when he found worldwide fame, he had been working at his craft for over twenty years. It had been a hard road, indeed.
He was born Steven John Carell on the 16th of August, 1962, in Concord, Massachusetts, growing up in nearby Acton. He was the youngest of four sons born to Edwin and Harriet. A Catholic, Edwin was of Italian ancestry and had changed his name from Caroselli before Steve's birth. During WW2, he'd served in the 100th Infantry Division that had landed at Marseille in 1944 and helped to drive the Germans out of France. Harriet, meanwhile, was the sister of Stanley Koch, a highly skilled glassblower who'd worked closely with Allen Dumont in creating cathode ray tubes that proved vital in the large scale production of televisions and also in the US Navy's radar systems during WW2. Springing from a family of 8 kids, Stanley and Harriet came from tough stock, their mother Francis having worked as a cook and run a boarding-house in Mineville, NY, during the mining boom of the early 1900s, their father Zygmond actually being a miner, sadly dying young of silicosis.
25 miles north-west of Boston, Acton was the epitome of rural New England, a place of neat stone walls with a well-groomed village green. Close by was the Old North Bridge where, during a skirmish on April 19th, 1775, "the shot heard around the world" was fired, heralding the start of the American Revolution. This sense of US history was certainly felt in the Carell household, Edwin being not only a war vet but also a longstanding member of the Acton Minutemen, a society formed to commemorate their ancestors' treacherous actions on Patriots' Day.
The Carells were not born into riches, they worked hard to give their boys a good start in life Harriet would work as a psychiatric nurse between 11pm and 7 in the morning, arriving home in time to prepare the kids for school, then grabbing a few hours sleep before their return. It was, she reckoned, the only way she could earn decent money and have a life with her children. Their home was a happy one, and many of the laughs would stem from young Steve. Though in later years he'd deny he was ever a funny kid, his mother would reveal that he was a constant source of amusement at mealtimes. The others might tell the same story, she said, but never with the same effect.
Growing up in the Sixties and early Seventies, when hit kids' shows included the manic, surreal likes of The Monkees, The Banana Splits and HR Pufnstuf, Steve was clearly touched by the anarchic humour of the time. He'd later recall a daily ritual where his father would arrive home from work, put down his car-keys, turn on the hallway light and open the closet door to hang up his coat. This is when young Steve, hidden in the depths of the closet, would leap forth, scaring the bejesus out of Edwin, who never appeared to expect it. There'd be another time when one of Steve's brothers invited a new girlfriend to dinner, the girl arriving at table to find Steve dressed as an alien, covered in tin foil with a large motorcycle helmet and flashing light on his head. He wasn't after laughs necessarily, later explaining that he was interested in people's reactions when confronted with such lunacy. This curiosity, this interest in normal people in strange circumstances, would heavily mark much of his future work.
For his official schooling, his parents' efforts would see Steve sent to The Fenn School in Concord. A small establishment teaching some 300 boys, this was an independent day school on a former farm, with huge playing fields, science labs, art studios, gyms, library and woodwork shop, all of it designed to develop confidence and character. Average class sizes of 13 would help in that. From here, he'd move to The Middlesex School, also in Concord. Co-ed and deliberately non-denominational, with its campus designed by the sons of Frederick Olmsted (who created New York's Central Park), Middlesex had a close traditional affiliation with Harvard and attracted students from all over the States.