CARELL: I'll take that as a compliment, but I don't necessarily think it's true. I can think of a bunch of comics who have endured various levels of discomfort. Look at somebody like Will Ferrell: He will do almost anything, sometimes at the expense of his physical well-being. Guys like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton wouldn't think twice about putting their body in harm's way for the sake of a gag. Harold Lloyd lost a couple of fingers in search of laughs. I didn't even lose a nipple.
PLAYBOY: How did you survive your chest waxing without losing a nipple?
CARELL: I was very lucky. They put wax on my nipple without any oil, which is what you're supposed to use to protect the nipple from actually being detached. My waxer wasn't a professional. She was just an actress who said she had some experience with waxing, but obviously she hadn't. I came dangerously close to becoming...what would you call it? I'm sure this magazine has a word for it. What would you call somebody who has just one nipple?
PLAYBOY: A mononipple?
CARELL: Yeah, something like that. Mononiplistic?
PLAYBOY: What's your chest-hair situation these days? Are you keeping it cleanly shorn?
CARELL: Not a chance. I'll never endure that again. And I don't think my wife would like it much either. When I came home after the shoot and she saw my chest, she was horrified. She thought my chest was smiling at her. She does not care for the man-o'-lantern.
PLAYBOY: Your wife, Nancy Walls, is also a comedian, formerly of Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. What's the secret to a successful marriage between two comics?
CARELL: My wife probably makes me laugh harder than anyone else. We share the same sense of humor. When we read or watch something funny, we'll laugh at all the same parts. She's pretty easy on the eyes as well. I married up, that's for sure. We have a pretty normal life together. We have two kids, eat sloppy joes once a week and take trips to the mall and the zoo. It's a happy house but certainly not a zany, crazy, laugh-a-minute kind of existence. If anything, it's a diaper-changing, kid-chasing madhouse.
PLAYBOY: In your 2006 Golden Globe acceptance speech, which she wrote, you thanked her for putting her career on hold and enduring a painful labor. Was she really responsible for that speech?
CARELL: We came up with the idea together. Well, actually, I guess it was mostly her idea. I didn't think I had any chance of winning, but on the off chance that I did, I thought I should have something in my back pocket. I talked to Nancy about it, and she said, "You should just thank me. Forget everybody else. Just thank your wife." And it sort of snowballed from there.
PLAYBOY: You haven't won any acting awards since, but almost every movie you've appeared in over the past few years has been a hit. Are you feeling your star power yet?
CARELL: That's a dangerous way to think about yourself. If you start feeling your power or even think you have any power at all, you run the risk of turning into a huge dick.
PLAYBOY: But you do have power now. You are aware of that, aren't you?
CARELL: [Scrunches up his face] I don't think so.
PLAYBOY: You don't like the idea of being a Hollywood celebrity with clout?
CARELL: That intimates you are somehow changing, you're not the same person you were before. I don't feel any different or assume anything now I didn't assume before. I don't want to be some asshole who expects the world to bend to his will just because he sold a few tickets at the multiplex. That said, I do love prostitutes.
PLAYBOY: You did flex some star power during the writers' strike. You were one of the first marquee-name actors who refused to cross the picket line. Was that frightening?
CARELL: Yeah, it was a little scary. But I just did what I thought was right. It gave me a chance to grow a beard for a while, which is always fun.
PLAYBOY: According to some rumors, you called NBC and said you couldn't show up for work because you had a "case of gigantic balls." Please tell us that actually happened.
CARELL: That was attributed to me, but I never said it. I wish I had said it, but it's far too clever for me to have come up with on my own.
PLAYBOY: The real question is, do you have gigantic balls?
CARELL: Not in terms of personal courage but in sheer physical volume, yes.
PLAYBOY: A few years ago you said your goal was to "become completely overexposed in the next nine months and then disappear in a fiery wreck of a career." That didn't work out for you, did it?
CARELL: Maybe I undershot it by saying nine months. But I'm still holding out for my eventual career demise. Obviously, I said that in jest, but there's an element of truth in it. I want to enjoy every second of my success, have fun with it and never take it for granted. At the same time, I don't want to worry too much about its ending or not working out.
PLAYBOY: But why jokingly predict the fiery wreck of your career? Is it a defense mechanism?
CARELL: Absolutely. I know that's what it is, because I'm naturally a glass-half-empty kind of person. Which is sort of sad in a way, too. I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it protects me from disappointment. The irony is, there's no way to truly protect yourself from being disappointed. No matter what you do, you're going to be disappointed.
PLAYBOY: That's a pretty grim personal philosophy. Does that come from years of struggling as an actor?
CARELL: It does. When I got into acting I knew I was going to be disappointed most of the time. I would be rejected more than accepted, and that's generally the case. So early on I decided I'd be happy with whatever success I could get. Even now, with whatever success I've apparently had, I don't buy into it. I'm happy about it, but I don't believe in it.