Richard Karn is famous for his incredible eight seasons as Al Borland on ABC's "Home Improvement," America's number-one family comedy, which is also popular worldwide. "Everywhere I go, it's incredible," he says. "People love our show, and they love Al -- I think because he is such an everyman, an underdog."
But while Karn, a native of Seattle and a graduate of the University of Washington's Professional Actor's Training Program, is considered an "overnight success" by many fans, he had a career before "Home Improvement." A veteran of a dozen years of regional, off-Broadway, and Broadway theater, Karn earned his first credit on the Great White Way as the "suit of armor" in the smash-hit musical "Me and My Girl." Accustomed to playing the comic lead, he starred in the title role of Larry Shue's "The Foreigner," and includes among his many credits starring roles in off-Broadway productions of "Losing It" and "The Other Shore," the play in which he met his wife, actress Tudi Roche.
Although Karn landed small roles in the New York films "Desperately Seeking Susan" and "House of Games," a desire to raise a family brought Karn and Roche to Los Angeles in 1990. Karn's prime-time debut soon followed, as a sketch player on Carol Burnett's "Carol & Company." Karn also found stage work, starring in "Our Father," which earned a "Critic's Choice" award from the "Los Angeles Times."
But Karn's life changed forever on the day he rolled through a stop sign on his way home from a rehearsal of "Macbeth." He promptly landed in traffic school, where he met an agent who told him about "Home Improvement." The series was being produced by several writers Karn had met while working in repertory several years earlier at the New Harmony Project in Evansville, Indiana, a script workshop for playwrights and screenwriters. A few phone calls later Karn had a meeting, although all the parts in the pilot were already cast. With nothing to lose, Karn auditioned anyway, and then fate intervened when the actor set to play Tim Allen's sidekick landed a movie role. Karn was given the job -- but just for the pilot episode, because the original actor was slated to return for the series. When Al's trademark line, "I don't think so, Tim," landed the biggest laugh of the pilot, Karn's fate with "Home Improvement" was sealed. Not willing to trust his luck, he kept his day job as an apartment manager until the end of the first season of "Home Improvement." The show ranked number-three among all prime-time shows that year.
In its seven years on top, "Home Improvement" has afforded Karn other opportunities. He is the spokesperson for Wayne-Dalton, the world's largest garage door manufacturer, and sponsor of the annual Wayne Dalton/Richard Karn Celebrity Golf c, which raises funds for the internationally renowned Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle's Overlake Hospital. The tournament is broadcast on ESPN, and focuses attention on the disease that claimed the life of Karn's mother, noted Pacific Northwest artist Louise Wilson.
Had Karn so chosen, he could have become a fourth-generation builder. His father, Gene Wilson, is a retired Seattle architect and builder who gets a big kick out of seeing his son as the brains behind "Tool Time," the show within the show on "Home Improvement."
During his recent summer hiatus, Karn completed production on the television movie "The Pooch and the Pauper," opposite George Wendt ("Cheers") and Fred Willard ("Roseanne"), for "The Wonderful World of Disney." In 1995, Karn starred in and produced his first television movie, "Picture Perfect." He has also starred in the ABC Afterschool Special "Boys Will Be Boys," opposite Ami Dolenz. Karn and Shelly Fabares cohosted "Before They Were Stars" (ABC), which featured a clip from his very first (non-theater) job: a Michelob commercial filmed in 1979. He also hosted "People's Funniest Animals" (ABC), "Chariots of the Gods" (ABC), and "Secrets of the Internet" (Discovery).
Karn and his wife, Tudi Roche have been married since 1985 years and have a son named Cooper Andrew Wilson (born 1992). In addition to being an avid golfer, he also enjoys skiing and fishing.