Canadian actor Jim Carrey seems like a happy-go-lucky, simple kind of guy, doesn't he? He's always smiling, joking and, yes, even borderline manic. But behind that funnyman persona lies a rather dark and desperate past, one filled with heartache and struggle.

But this is what makes Carrey's story so interesting: He pretty much came from nothing and rose to become one of the most successful actors of all time. Want to know more about him? You're in luck. Here are several facts about the elastic-faced actor that you probably didn't know.

Jim Carrey 101 after the jump!

He Is a Born Entertainer
Carrey has always been the class clown. His elementary school teacher, instead of punishing him for being rowdy and disruptive, made a deal. If Carrey would sit quietly during class without bugging his classmates, in exchange he would get a bit of time set aside at the end of every day to put on an act for them. It was in these early "performances" that he mastered his impressions and battled his self-proclaimed introversion and shyness.

His "True Self" Is Actually Quite Shy and Introspective
Carrey insists that he comes up with wacky characters like Ace Ventura so he can step outside of his normally quiet self. He claims that he is actually rather shy, but acting can often be an expression "to be something you're trying to be in real life." Carrey has never kept his struggle with depression a secret.

His Early Stand-Up ('Unnatural Act,' for One) Is Killer
Before there was Ace Ventura, before Lloyd Christmas, even before Fire Marshal Bill, there was Jim Carrey the stand-up comedian. To say that his early stuff is funny is a massive understatement. After dropping out of high school at 16 and multiple failures at local Canadian comedy clubs, Carrey slowly honed his routine and eventually it turned into pure comedy gold. Check out this bit:

He's Never Been Afraid to Make a Name for Himself
At the very young age of 10, Carrey mailed his resume to 'The Carol Burnett Show.' Burnett was an early inspiration, and he really wanted a job on her show. Ever a fan of the written word, Carrey also wrote letters to Tupac Shakur when he was in prison to help him laugh and smile. (Shakur, before his death, insisted that Carrey was his favorite actor.)

He Lived in a Van With His Family for a While
At one point, Carrey's father (with whom he was very close) lost his job, and as a result the whole family had to take jobs as janitors and security at Titan Wheels factory in a suburb of Toronto. Carrey worked eight-hour shifts after school was over. When the family finally left their jobs at the factory, they lived out of a Volkswagen van until they could return to Toronto.

He Once Wrote Himself a $10 Million Check
According to Biography, Carrey wrote himself a post-dated check for $10 million in 1983, hoping to be able to cash it by then. He allegedly carried it around in his pocket for over 10 years. Biography also featured a clip from a 1999 interview where Carrey stated he put the check in his father's pocket after he died in 1994.