GETTING THE GIG
Karn wasn’t the first choice to play Tim’s sidekick on the fictional show within the show, Tool Time. In fact, he only got an audition for Home Improvement because he had met the show’s producers a decade earlier.
“Fast forward years later and when I found out they were having auditions for Home Improvement, I called them up,” Karn said.
“They said the whole show was already cast and there really wasn’t anything in there for me. They didn’t think I was right for the role of Al because they originally wanted someone who was much taller and older than Tim. They wanted that diversity between the two characters and they felt like I was too much like Tim.”
Karn was invited to come and audition for the show in case they could find a role for him in the future.
They asked him to act out as a scene as Al Borland (who was originally going to be called Glen) and then Karn got lucky.
“I got a call about two or three weeks later from the casting director asking if I still had my beard,” Karn said.
“He said that the actor (who had been cast as Glen/Al) by the name of Stephen Tobolowsky got a movie and couldn’t do the pilot. Because they knew me, they hoped that I would be OK with just doing the pilot and if the show got picked up, they would bring Stephen back for the series.”
But Karn was so impressive in the pilot that they decided the gig was his, permanently.
SACKED AFTER THREE DAYS
Patricia Richardson played Tim’s wife, Jill Taylor, but like Karn she wasn’t the first choice for that role.
“At the very beginning, the role of Jill was going to be played by Frances Fisher,” Karn said.
But after just three days of rehearsals, the writers changed their minds.
“Frances is a great actress, but in this role with Tim, she came off more as a victim to him than his equal,” Karn said.
“I didn’t quite understand that until they brought Pat (Patricia Richardson) in and after the first read-through it was a very different thing going on with the same words. Pat was way more of an equal to Tim.”
When most people think about Al Borland, they think of two things.
His catchphrase: “I don’t think so Tim,” and his signature move: A salute to the audience at the start of each Tool Time episode.
So who came up with the salute?
“When we had a studio audience for the first time, it was odd because I walked out there and saw all these people and I felt like I should do something,” Karn said.
“It wasn’t anything I had planned. I just did a little salute. I don’t know why I did it. And then all of a sudden it was the in the script the next week and every week after that.”