Jim Carrey never grew a beard like this when he was just a teenager from Canada looking to make it in Hollywood.

But as Carrey explained Monday night to Jimmy Kimmel, he really did temporarily live in a closet, smoke a joint with Richard Pryor and more in the late 1970s. “It’s an incredible time in history that I got to live,” Carrey recalled. “To me, it’s like The Big Bang of comedy.” He’s not throwing praise or shade at the CBS sitcom, but comparing the 1970s comedy scene to the origins of the universe. He’s similarly in awe of comedians today, who are speaking truth to power as they once did in the ’70s.

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Carrey put parts of his real life into the otherwise “fictitious history” of I’m Dying Up Here, the new series debuting in June on Showtime that’s based on The Comedy Store and the upheaval of the late 1970s when everything shifted toward Hollywood, Johnny Carson and the idea of paying stand-up comedians in comedy clubs. You can watch a slightly edited version of the premiere episode early via YouTube.

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