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Tim Allen finds pure comedy, ‘Pure Michigan’ much to his liking

Tim Allen attends the 100th episode celebration of ABC's "Last Man Standing" at CBS Studios - Radford on January 12, 2016 in Studio City, California. |Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

That creamy smooth voice that beckons one and all to experience “Pure Michigan” in those gorgeous television ads belongs to Buzz Lightyear. OK, it’s really Buzz’s human intoner Tim Allen, and for a long time, it was one of those “THAT’S Tim Allen?” moments if you brought up the fact in casual conversation.


When: 8 p.m. July 14

Where: Laugh Factory Chicago, 3175 N. Broadway

Tickets: $35-$50


“I have done voice-overs, but never like this, where I clearly just used the best parts of my pipes. I’m proudest of some of that work more than anything else,” said the comedian/actor (who has lived on and off in Michigan since he was 11 years old) in an Ad Age interview nearly a decade ago.

In a phone conversation last week, Allen reiterated the campaign “captures the best of Michigan, a state that has struggled. Every state has their beauty. But to have this much coastline. It’s more than Florida.”

Of course most movie-goers will forever connect Allen’s voice with the role of Buzz Lightyear in the series of “Toy Story” films that made “To infinity and beyond!” the rallying cry for many a kid (and big kids, too).

“I can say with some degree of confidence, by the second or third [‘Toy Story’] movie [the filmmakers] listened to me,” Allen said when asked about his input into his animated alter-ego. “I didn’t trump anything that they wrote, however.”

Allen — whose other film credits include “The Santa Clause,” “Wild Hogs” and “Galaxy Quest” as well his Golden Globe-winning and Emmy-nominated turn in the TV sitcom “Home Improvement — is in Chicago for a stand-up gig Thursday night at Laugh Factory on Thursday night, while he preps for some upcoming concerts and awaits the start of the sixth season of his newest ABC sitcom “Last Man Standing.”

In the series, Allen stars as Mike Baxter, a University of Michigan (natch) graduate and the highly opinionated marketing director for a chain of sporting goods stores. He’s married to Vanessa (played by Nancy Travis) and is the father of three daughters (in real life Allen is the father of two girls, ages 7 and 26). He is also best friends with his boss, Ed (played by Hector Elizondo), who, much like the character of Wilson on “Home Improvement,” provides him with a sounding board and sound advice.

“The character [of Mike] has a conservative bent, but the show’s writers are liberal,” Allen says with a chuckle. He’s fond of referring to Baxter as “the educated Archie Bunker,” adding that having a point of view these days can “make people angry.”

He felt the backlash of social media to some extent for a comment in a recent interview in which he compared the Clintons, that’s Bill and Hillary, to herpes.

“The Clinton comment was actually said on the TV show,” Allen says, setting the record straight. “But on the show, my character said ‘the Clintons were like shingles.’ I didn’t realize I had changed it in the interview. [After the interview came out] one of my writers said to me, ‘I wrote that.’ So I said herpes in the interview; that’s the same virus. People on both sides [Democrats and Republicans] thought it was a funny line.”

Allen (who describes his political ties as “all over the map; I’ve done both Democratic and Republican fundraisers”) is not shy when discussing the presidential campaign — sans viruses.

“I heard the comment at a Democratic fundraiser that ‘we can spend our way out of this debt,’ ” Allen says. “That seems to be the current view our government has. I’d love us to get out of debt. Most of us know how to do that; it’s not hard: Spend less than you make. … I wish [Ohio Gov. John] Kasich had gone farther than he did. You don’t realize what a problem-solver he is until you sit down and talk with him. What a bright spot he would have been for [voters]. He’s not about blaming, but about solving. … I come from a family of ‘Who’s gonna pay for it?’ Whatever party it is, I want someone to tell me who’s gonna pay for it. … I lost interest in Hillary and Bernie [Sanders] and their whole free s— giveaways. It was remarkable pandering from my point of view. Free college, free this, free that, it all sounds good. Who’s gonna pay for it?

“I met [Donald] Trump. He reminds me of Howard Stern. Stern will get in front of a microphone and say just about anything. In private he’s the sweetest, nicest person. Trump is kind of the same. My mom said it best: ‘I like a lot of things he said; I just wish someone else had said it.’ He just stretches every patience button you have with his choice of words.”

“As a comedian, I can’t wait to see [Trump and Clinton] on the [debate] dais,” Allen continues. “The only thing better would have been to see [Gov. Chris] Christie and Clinton. That would have been a cage fight.”

As for his Chicago show, Allen, who’s been doing stand-up for 30 years, says he can’t wait to return to the city that once was his comedy club stomping grounds.

“I’m extremely excited to be in Chicago,” he says excitedly. “I started at so many clubs in Chicago back in the day. It’s not L.A. and it’s not New York. Chicago is the beacon of Midwest values, the best in each of us. I also have close family and friends in Chicago. My brother-in-law will surprise me when it comes to where we’ll go out to eat. He loves doing that. The food there is always great!”

Buzz Lightyear (voice by Tim Allen) and Woody (voice by Tom Hanks) in a scene from “Toy Story.” | DISNEY/PIXAR
Buzz Lightyear (voice by Tim Allen) and Woody (voice by Tom Hanks) in a scene from “Toy Story.” | DISNEY/PIXAR