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Tom Shadyac

Tom Shadyac
Born Thomas Peter Shadyac
(1958-12-11) December 11, 1958 (age 57)
Falls Church, Virginia,
United States
Nationality American
Education University of Virginia
Occupation Comedian, screenwriter, director, producer, author, occasional actor
Years active 1984–present
Notable work Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
The Nutty Professor
Liar Liar
Bruce Almighty
I Am

Thomas Peter "Tom" Shadyac (born December 11, 1958) is an Aramean-American comedian, director, screenwriter, producer, author and occasional film actor. Shadyac, who was the youngest joke-writer ever for comedian Bob Hope,[1] is widely known for writing and directing comedy films, most notably Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty. In 2011 he departed from past comedic work to write, direct and narrate the documentary I Am, in which he explores his abandonment of a materialistic lifestyle following a 2007 bicycle accident.

Shadyac is a former adjunct professor of communication at Pepperdine University's Seaver College.[1][2] In 200 he was a participant in the Conference on World Affairs.[3] In 2015, Shadyac began teaching film at the University of Colorado Boulder, beginning with that year's Spring semester,[4] Shadyac now teaches film at the University of Memphis.[5]

Early life

Shadyac was born in Falls Church, Virginia to Julie and Richard Shadyac, a lawyer.[6][7] His mother was of Lebanese descent, while his father was of half-Irish and half-Lebanese ancestry.[8] His mother, who died of cancer in 1998, had become semi-quadriplegic and spent much of Shadyac's adult life in a wheelchair.[1]

Shadyac attended J. E. B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, where he had played basketball, participated in the Key Club, and made the Junior National and National Honor Societies. In both 1975 and 1976, Shadyac was included in the now-defunct "Who's Who Among High School Students" website and book, prior to his graduation in 1976.[citation needed]

As a pre-law student at the University of Virginia, Shadyac produced a poster entitled "Are You a Preppie?" Borrowing from the style of National Lampoon magazine, and based on the large number of preppies in Charlottesville and nearby Richmond, Virginia, the poster preceded the more well-known The Official Preppy Handbook. The poster went into multiple printings and served as a fundraiser for his fraternity, Sigma Chi.[citation needed]

He graduated from UVA in 1981, and later received his master's degree in film from the UCLA Film School in 1989, after completing the critically acclaimed short film Tom, Dick and Harry.[citation needed]



Shadyac moved to Los Angeles in 1983 and, at age 24, was Hope's staff joke writer. Shadyac briefly acted during the 1980s, appearing in an episode of Magnum, P.I. and in the 1987 film Jocks. He then worked on movies-of-the-week, rewritten and directed for 20th Century Fox.[citation needed]

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective was Shadyac's first major film success and featured an up-and-coming Jim Carrey, described by Shadyac as "the only white guy in Living Color [television program]." Following Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Shadyac attained a prominent status in Hollywood and received frequent offers from significant figures in the comedy industry, keen to collaborate with him.[7] He frequently cast Carrey in lead roles and his hit films with Carrey include Bruce Almighty, Liar Liar, and the Ace Ventura movie series.

Examples of other Shadyac films include his collaboration with Eddie Murphy on The Nutty Professor movie series; Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams; Dragonfly with Kevin Costner; and Evan Almighty, the sequel to Bruce Almighty. He was also the executive producer of the ABC TV series 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

In his 2011 documentary I Am, created by Shadyac following a significant bicycle accident, he interviews scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists and philosophers, including Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Lynne McTaggart, Elisabet Sahtouris, Howard Zinn and Thom Hartmann. The film asks two central questions:[9] What’s Wrong With the World? and What Can We Do About it?. The film is about "human connectedness, happiness, and the human spirit," and explores Shadyac's personal journey, "the nature of humanity" and the "world's ever-growing addiction to materialism."[1][10] The film received a twenty minute standing ovation at its premiere screening.[11]


In 2013 Shadyac published a book entitled Life's Operating Manual and appeared on HBO's live broadcast show Real Time with Bill Maher as part of the promotional campaign.[12] The book was published by Hay House on April 30, 2013[13] and in his review for the New York Journal of Books, Martin A. David states:

Many, if not most, of Mr. Shadyac’s elucidations are mundane truisms. But this absolutely does not discredit them ... Books like his are frequently read by people who already understand the messages contained but desire booster shots of energizing inspirations. Preaching to the choir is not a bad thing, but the preacher has to do something more to keep the choir awake ... Tom Shadyac’s view of what we need to keep our world from continuing on its downward spiral would have carried more gravitas he had said it better and with more convincing clarity. It would, indeed, be helpful if a how-to book for existence were available.[13]


Shadyac is a former adjunct professor of communication at Pepperdine University's Seaver College.[1][14] In 200 he was a participant in the Conference on World Affairs.[15] In 2015, Shadyac began teaching film at the University of Colorado Boulder, beginning with that year's Spring semester,[16] Shadyac now teaches film at the University of Memphis.[17]

Personal life

Shadyac married actress Jennifer Barker in June 1997 and they eventually divorced.[11]

In 2007 Shadyac suffered post-concussion syndrome after a bicycle accident in Virginia, US[10] and experienced a prolonged period of acute headaches and hyper-sensitivity to light and noise. The injury followed the cumulative effects of previous mild head injuries Shadyac had suffered surfing, mountain biking and playing basketball.[10] Shadyac was forced to sleep in a darkened closet in his house due to a constant ringing in his ears that lasted beyond a six-month period, and his treating doctors were unable to determine if and when the ringing would cease. Shadyac later explained: "I felt suicidal at points. It was a disaster."[18]

Following his eventual recovery from the 2007 accident, Shadyac sold the bulk of his possessions, donated significant amounts of money. He opened a homeless shelter in Charlottesville, Virginia[11] and made a key donation to an initiative in Telluride, Colorado, US to set aside a natural area at the town's entrance. He sold his Script error: No such module "convert". Los Angeles mansion[10] and moved into the exclusive Paradise Cove trailer park in Malibu, California, US.[19] Shadyac sought to reorient and simplify his life—he removed himself from the film industry—and wrote about his experience in Life's Operating Manual.[18] When he was later asked if his change of direction would have occurred if he had not experienced the concussion, Shadyac replied:

I was already reevaluating the dissonance between making all this money and being on the set with people, the crew, many of whom couldn't afford the basic needs of their families. It didn't seem fair to me. So I don't think the concussion did it although it was definitely a crisis and crisis will often trigger things like this. I didn't give up everything to be happy. In fact, I'm not even sure what happiness is. Happiness comes from the word "happenstance" which relates to things going on outside of you. What was happening to me was definitely on the inside. But after I gave up everything I felt a lot more joy in my life. A lot more contentment. There's nothing wrong, though, with making a lot of money ... this is not a judgment on anyone at all. I was just taking in a lot more than I needed and this wasn't good for me.[18]

His father, Richard C. Shadyac, Sr., a Washington D.C. attorney, was a longtime friend of comedian, actor and TV producer Danny Thomas. Thomas's charity and lifelong efforts were aimed at the founding and development of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, US. Shadyac's father served as the CEO of St. Jude's fundraising arm, American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), from 1992 to 2005. Richard C. Shadyac, Sr. died in September 2009.[20]

Shadyac stated in a 2013 interview that he equates the concept of "God" with "mystery source."[7]


Year Film Director Producer Writer Actor Role Notes
1984 Magnum, P.I.
X markN
Danny (Student) TV Show
1987 Jocks
X markN
1994 Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
X markN
X markN
1996 The Nutty Professor
X markN
X markN
1997 Liar Liar
X markN
1998 Patch Adams
X markN
2000 Nutty Professor II: The Klumps
X markN
2002 Dragonfly
X markN
2003 Bruce Almighty
X markN
X markN
2006 Accepted
X markN
2007 I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
X markN
Evan Almighty
X markN
X markN
2010 Finding Kind
X markN
2011 Happy
X markN
I Am
X markN
X markN
X markN
2012 Full Scale
X markN
2015 Ernest: The Movie
X markN
X markN
X markN
X markN


  1. ^ a b c d e "Tom Shadyac is Not Your Typical Hollywood Director". Pepperdine Magazine, Apr 8, 2011, Sarah Fisher. 
  2. ^ "Letter to the Editor 04.23.14 edition". Pepperdine Graphic, Apr 23, 2014, Tom Shadyac. 
  3. ^ "Tom Shadyac". Conference on World Affairs, University of Colorado Boulder, 2011. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  4. ^ Casey, Michael J. (February 19, 2015). [ "Shadyac's Travels"]. Boulder Weekly
  5. ^ Cannon, Joshua (March 6, 2015). "Director's class creates community in Memphis". USA Today.
  6. ^ Tom Shadyac Biography (1958?-)
  7. ^ a b c "Director Tom Shadyac - Happiness, Faith, & Jim Carrey" (VIDEO UPLOAD). TYT Interviews on YouTube. Google Inc. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Collins, Scott (March 12, 1997). "Eye to Eye, Lie to Lie". Los Angeles Times. 
  9. ^ "Bridgewater native co-produces 'I AM – The Documentary' by director Tom Shadyac". The Messenger Gazette, November 27, 2010, Lynn Weckworth. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Tom Shadyac: the hit movie director who turned a camera on the Hollywood world he gave up". London: The Observer, Sunday January 16, 2011, Paul Harris. January 16, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b c "Director Tom Shadyac: 'I've been called crazy many times'". USAToday, Mar 24, 2011, Ann Oldenburg. March 24, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Tom Shadyac and Bill Maher talk about Money and Cooperation" (VIDEO UPLOAD). Bright Geist on Vimeo. Vimeo LLC. July 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Martin A. David (2013). "Life's Operating Manual: With the Fear and Truth Dialogues". New York Journal of Books. New York Journal of Books. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  14. ^ "Letter to the Editor 04.23.14 edition". Pepperdine Graphic, Apr 23, 2014, Tom Shadyac. 
  15. ^ "Tom Shadyac". Conference on World Affairs, University of Colorado Boulder, 2011. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  16. ^ Casey, Michael J. (February 19, 2015). [ "Shadyac's Travels"]. Boulder Weekly
  17. ^ Cannon, Joshua (March 6, 2015). "Director's class creates community in Memphis". USA Today.
  18. ^ a b c James Altucher (9 April 2014). "What Happens When You Give Away 50 Million Dollars and Move Into a Trailer Park?". James Altucher. James Altucher. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  19. ^ "Bohemian Cove". Vanity Fair, Vanessa Grigoriadis, March 2011. 
  20. ^ Jody Callahan (17 September 2009). "Richard Shadyac, retired fundraising leader for St. Jude, dies". The Commercial Appeal. Scripps Interactive Newspapers Group. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 

External links

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