Director Tom Shaydac poses with students at JEB Stuart High School after a screening of his documentary, "I Am." (Aaron Leitko/ The Washington Post )

In the 1990s,Tom Shadyac achieved every high school comedy-geek’s dreams.

The Fairfax native had hit it big in Hollywood, writing and directing goofball flicks such as “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “The Nutty Professor.” He hobnobbed with Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy. He bought a Beverly Hills mansion. Then he bought a bigger Beverly Hills mansion.

On Wednesday, Shadyac returned to his alma mater, J.E.B. Stuart High School, with a message for students: Don’t be like me.

In 2007, a concussion from a bike accident plunged Shadyac into a life-altering depression. Once he was feeling better, the director, now 52, decided to turn his back on showbiz and travel the world in search of life’s deeper meaning — but being a showbiz guy, a movie inevitably resulted.

Shadyac screened his documentary “I Am,” a soul-searching series of conversations with deep thinkers, to an auditorium of slightly squirming J.E.B. kids. Lessons: That you don’t need money to be happy. That your heart can see three seconds into the future. Something about electrodes in a bowl of yogurt registering your negative mental energy.

Questions, kids?

“Do you like Metallica?” asked one smart aleck, assessing the filmmaker’s long, heavy-metal locks.

“Led Zeppelin, that’s my band,” Shadyac replied, his mellow unharshed, before steering the conversation back to healing the world, reports our colleague Aaron Leitko. He explained that he has traded his posh homes for a modest pad in a mobile-home community. “If you admire a life like mine, which used to be at the top, then the system will stay the same,” he warned.

You had to admit: The guy knows how to read a vibe. “I can feel the bladders, I know you want to head to the bathroom,” Shadyac said, to wrap up the Q&A. “I was just there. You guys need to flush. There was pee in there from my year.”

Read also: “I Am” reviewed: New age theme is just old hat, 3/25/11