On The Daily Show, Carell once mocked himself with the tune “Steve Carell Salutes Steve Carell,” with the lyrics, “How does he do the things he does to us?” And somewhat less melodically, “What are the processes by which you accomplish these things of which we are speaking just now?” And though he plays a literary critic in Sunshine, he’d prefer not to parrot one in real life.
“As soon as you try to deconstruct any sort of comedy, it’s immediately not funny,” says Carell. “It’s just not like doing something serious, where there are these shades of meaning. With comedy, it makes people laugh or it doesn’t. It’s a Hail Mary in every way.”
So far, he seems to be pulling it off. The Office has been renewed in its plum Thursday-night time slot (his salary has more than doubled), and he’s set to headline a raft of Hollywood projects, including a Get Smart remake and Evan Almighty, the just-wrapped sequel to Bruce Almighty. Carell supported Jim Carrey in the original, but he fills Carrey’s leading-man shoes in the sequel, as a local politician asked by God to build a giant ark. It’s his first big-budget vehicle—though of course he would never describe it that way.
“The way I look at it, it’s not a movie with a big bankable movie star, like a Jim Carrey movie or an Adam Sandler movie,” he says. “I’m just not in that kind of league.”
And then he has to go, in a limo no less. “Oh, no,” he says. “I’m being very Hollywoody again.”