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Thomas Peter Shadyac (born December 11, 1958) is an American director, screenwriter, producer and author. Shadyac, who was the youngest joke-writer ever for comedian Bob Hope,[1] is widely known for writing and directing the comedy films Ace Ventura: Pet DetectiveThe Nutty ProfessorLiar Liar, and Bruce Almighty. In 2010, Shadyac departed from comedic work to write, direct, and narrate his documentary film I Am, in which he explores his abandonment of a materialistic lifestyle following a bicycle accident three years earlier.

Shadyac is a former adjunct professor of communication at Pepperdine University's Seaver College.[1][2] In 2011 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.[9]

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 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 and Liar Liar.

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 with Steve Carell. 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, which follows Shadyac in the aftermath of a bicycle accident in which he suffered significant injuries, he interviews scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists and philosophers, including David Suzuki, Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Lynne McTaggart, Elisabet Sahtouris, Howard Zinn and Thom Hartmann. The film asks two central questions:[10]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][11] The film received a twenty-minute standing ovation at its premiere screening.[12]


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.[13] The book was published by Hay House on April 30, 2013[14] and in his review for the New York Journal of Books, Martin A. David states:


Shadyac is a former adjunct professor of communication at Pepperdine University's Seaver College.[1][2] In 2011 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]

Personal life[]

Shadyac was married to Jennifer Barker in 1997.[6] They eventually divorced.[15]

In 2007 Shadyac suffered post-concussion syndrome after a bicycle accident in Virginia,[16] 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.[11] 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."[17]

Following his eventual recovery from the 2007 accident, Shadyac sold the bulk of his possessions, donated significant amounts of money, opened a homeless shelter in Charlottesville, Virginia,[12] 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 17,000-square-foot (1,600 m2) Los Angeles mansion[11] and moved into the exclusive Paradise Cove trailer park in Malibu, California, US.[18] 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.[17] When he was later asked if his change of direction would have occurred if he had not experienced the concussion, Shadyac replied:

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.[19]

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