‘Home Improvement’ star Tim Allen promotes his film ‘Crazy on the Outside’

During the film "Crazy on the Outside" in theaters Friday, Tim Allen's character jokes with his probation officer.

“I do my best to be unappealing,” he says, “but man, it’s a losing battle.”

Allen’s persona on his hit sitcom “Home Improvement” and those warmhearted “Santa Clause” films are very much like that, too. But the stakes for Allen are even greater this time around. He’s not only starring and directing this more adult comedy but also financing the $15 million budget.

“This has turned into a greater risk than I had expected,” said Allen at the Plaza Theatre in Midtown last month, where he held a screening and did a bit of standup comedy, too, as part of a 10-city tour. “But fortunately, the movie turned out well. I love watching people watch it.”

Your favorite Tim Allen role

  • Tim "The Tool-Man" Taylor on "Home Improvement"
  • Santa Clause in the"Santa Clause" films
  • Buzz Lightyear in the "Toy Story" films
  • Jason Nesmith on "Galaxy Quest"
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He screened the film in Los Angeles, where the audiences, he said, are notoriously “tainted. They know they’re being tested. They’re all Siskels and Eberts. But against their better judgment, they scored us in the high 80s. That’s very good.”

The film is more light than dark, despite a serious plot set up. Allen’s a man just out of prison for counterfeiting videos, torn between a possible “clean” life starting a painting business and the comforting siren call of his old criminal past.

“I wanted the film to have some absurdity in it but also some drama,” he said.

And Allen nabbed some formidable actors to help make it happen. His biggest get: Sigourney Weaver, who worked with Allen in "Galaxy Quest," to be his quirky sister Vicky. She has no qualms lying to Allen's character Tommy to get her way. "I'm kind of like Charlie Brown and she's Lucy with the football," he said.

Julie Bowen ("Ed," "Modern Family") and Jeanne Tripplehorn ("Big Love") play Allen's competing love interests.

And Ray Liotta ("Goodfellas") is his bad guy buddy who tries to draw him back into the counterfeiting business. "Ray really likes to make it real," Allen said. "At one point, I'm supposed to throw him to the ground. He wouldn't let me do a phony one. He put his feet apart and said, 'Throw me to the [expletive] ground!' It took me a long time. I was the director and I was getting [peeved] at him."

Allen also spends a good portion of the film wearing a pirate uniform since Tommy works at a pirate-oriented fast-food joint out of prison. “That was not my idea,” he said. “I really hated it. I look like a portly gay guy, like Nathan Lane from ‘The Birdcage!’ ”

Allen said many people who know him as an actor don’t recall he was a standup comic in his early days. In fact, he was a regular headliner at the local Punchline comedy club in the 1980s. “They had great steaks,” he said. “And it smelled like Smoke Eaters and old liquor.”

He also had a soft heart for Mary Mac’s Tea Room, the Midtown Southern dining mainstay. “Amazing fried chicken,” he said. “Fried chicken is illegal in California. You can’t find it!”

Just bringing that topic up whetted his appetite. He went over to Mary Mac’s for dinner that evening.