Tim Allen is one of America's favorite comics.
He's the guy who parlayed years of standup into the top-rated sitcom Home Improvement and The Santa Clause and Galaxy Quest films.
So why does the funnyman turn all serious when asked about his latest project? Maybe it has something to do with his level of involvement.
Allen, 56, makes his directorial debut in the comedy Crazy on the Outside, which opens Jan. 8. He also stars in the movie.
"I've got a lot on the line here. I financed this thing — private financing," Allen said. "I used Kevin Costner's model. He helped me through this — on how to direct it, how to put it out."
Besides Costner, Allen consulted with director Barry Sonnenfeld and read books on directing written by Francis Ford Coppola, an Allen favorite.
Not only did he seek advice from industry pals about working behind the camera, Allen also persuaded friends to get in front of it.
Sigourney Weaver, who worked alongside Allen on Galaxy Quest, and Allen's Wild Hogs co-star Ray Liotta have prominent roles in Crazy on the Outside, which also features Kelsey Grammer and Julie Bowen.
Liotta said the set was "loose and fun."
"He surrounded himself with great people," Liotta said. "If he called me again, I would definitely do it."
The movie opens with Allen's character being released from prison and follows him as he deals with life. Weaver plays his sister, Liotta his former partner in crime, Bowen his ex-flame and Grammer her fiancé.
Allen is pleased with the finished product, calling it "a great romance" and "a very high-end comedy."
"I really worked hard to make it special," he said.
Allen also worked hard to promote it.
He traveled to eight cities in 10 days earlier this month, doing his standup act before screening Crazy on the Outside.
It was a unique twofer. How many directors do standup?
The last stop on the tour was a movie theater in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham, not far from Allen's boyhood home.
He had the audience — including family — in stitches, riffing on President Barack Obama and Congress, bodily functions and superheroes.
The idea was to generate buzz by showing the film ahead of its release to comedy fans in select cities.
In an interview ahead of the Birmingham event, he said he warned audiences that a comedy movie isn't the same as standup.
"The movie's a movie," he said. "It doesn't start out with a pie in the face."
He told the Birmingham audience: "Two years of my life I put together in a movie. Please sit back and enjoy it. If you love it, tell everybody. If you don't like it, tell everybody that it's the new Tom Hanks movie."