Tim Allen hasn’t performed in Utah since … well, a long time ago.
“I haven’t been to Salt Lake City in years,” he said. “I can’t even remember when.”
He does recall performing in a small comedy club (maybe Wiseguys?) before his hit sitcom “Home Improvement” premiered in 1991 and he became a huge star. And he remembers visiting Temple Square.
“I’m kind of a philosophy and religious studies guy from college, so I went and visited,” he said. “I took their tour. But Salt Lake City [has] moved up the food chain a little bit.”
And so has Allen, who returns Friday to perform in the Eccles Theater. Since his last visit here, he has starred in two successful sitcoms (including “Last Man Standing”), given voice to Buzz Lightyear in the “Toy Story” movies and headlined movies ranging from “Galaxy Quest” to the “Santa Clause” trilogy.
TIM ALLEN Live! On Stage
When • Friday, Oct. 20, 8 p.m.
Where • Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main St., Salt Lake City
Tickets • $40-$135 at artsaltlake.com and the box office
His live performance is preceded by a bit of a Tim Allen retrospective of career highlights, and he likes to joke, “I hope some of you are aware of what I do. … I say, ‘I think a lot of you thought I was going to come out and sing or something. Or, worse yet — come out and fix something.‘”
It’s been 18 years since “Home Improvement” ended, but the show lives on in reruns. And Allen lives on as Tim the Tool Man to millions of fans.
“But this is really where it started — standup,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune.
He never stopped performing live. He appeared regularly in Las Vegas. But he’s currently on a cross-country tour the likes of which he hasn’t done since “the first couple of years of ‘Home Improvement’” back in the early 1990s.
“To me, it’s absolutely bliss,” he said. “I’ve done movies. I’ve done live theater. … I love making people laugh. But there’s only one thing where there’s no middle man, and that’s standup comedy.”
He has time to tour now because ABC unexpectedly canceled “Last Man Standing” in May after six seasons and 130 episodes. Allen had never been through that before — he decided to end “Home Improvement” after eight seasons — and he’s still unhappy about how it happened. It was a rude awakening for a guy who had been on ABC for 14 years and admits he thought of the network as family. And he “never saw it coming.”
“It was really brutal,” he said. “And they waited until the last minute to tell us, which was kind of weird. … It felt malicious. I didn’t quite get it.
“But that’s their job. We’re not their family. And if there’s some financial or some business reason to get rid of the show, they get rid of the show.”
The immediate conjecture was that the show was canceled because Allen’s character, Mike Baxter, was an outspoken, right-wing Republican, and both Allen and his character backed Donald Trump — an accusation made by the show’s fans, not Allen, and denied by the president of ABC Entertainment.
“I just kept my mouth shut and moved on, but it never stopped,” Allen said.
Fans got about 400,000 signatures on an online petition to save the show, to no avail.
Allen wondered at ABC canceling a show that averaged about 8 million viewers on low-viewership Fridays in Season 6, and scoffed at the network’s explanation that it decided to go “in a different direction.”
But Allen wants to make it clear that while his standup act might “dip into public opinion on stuff as a comedian, I’m not a political satirist by any means.”
“The stuff I talk about is food, grandparents, my particularly skewed little view of growing up, men, women,” he said. “I don’t do politics. But I can make fun of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and anybody else.”
What he really wants to do is make you laugh.
“It’s an act,” he said. “It’s only there to entertain and make you laugh, like Richard Pryor made me laugh. That’s the only thing I do.
“He made me laugh so hard when I was a kid, I said, ‘I want to do that.’ And do it like that. Where he doesn’t let up. I put my foot on the throttle.”
And, while he’s best known for sitcoms and movies that are G- or PG-rated, “Make sure you understand that, as much as I do family-friendly entertainment, my comedy is anything but.”
His act is neither “provocative” nor “sexually inappropriate,” but “I come from a lot of boys, and sometimes I speak a little along the edge,” said Allen, who is the third of five brothers in his family.
The show is billed as for mature audiences 18+.