It's not every day you talk to a guy who once thought it'd be really funny to have a sweat-soaked, half-crazed naked man squirm out of an artificial rhino's rear end.

That guy would be Steve Oedekerk, the writer/director/producer of Barnyard, which opens in theaters this week. The family-friendly animated film stars a carefree cow named Otis who eventually learns some valuable life lessons about responsibility and growing up.

Barnyard features all sorts of "party animals," but no fake rhinos, a la the bizarre but hilarious scene described above from 1995's Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, written and directed by Oedekerk and starring his good friend, Jim Carrey, in the title role. (Oedekerk and Carrey had met while working together on the TV series In Living Color, and later together in Bruce Almighty, starring Carrey and co-written by Oedekerk.)

"Wacky" is perhaps the best way to describe Oedekerk's varied career, which essentially with his reputation as the class cut-up as a schoolboy. He later became a stand-up comic before moving on to TV and film as a writer, director and producer behind such movies as Bruce Almighty and next year's sequel, Evan Almighty, plus Patch Adams, both Nutty Professor flicks, and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.

On the side, Oedekerk, 45, is also known for Thumb Wars, a hilarious Star Wars spoof with all of the characters played by thumbs—just one of several similar projects starring that indispensable digit—and for such humorous cult classics as Kung Pow: Enter the Fist and, aka The O Show.

Behind all the silliness is simply a lifelong desire to make people laugh. Oedekerk, a Christian, loves nothing more than seeing—and hearing—that end result … and he ...

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