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A longtime standup comic in addition to his work in television and radio, outspoken funnyman Steve Harvey has time and again proven his dedication to changing the public perception of African-American humor by means of his unique gift for humor. Though his universal truth-style and observant eye have gained Harvey a loyal following with his top-rated show on the WB, Harvey still vocally articulates his frustrations with the racial sliding scale of prime-time success. Harvey grew up in Cleveland and began his career as a standup comedian in the early '90s. With his popularity leading to a long-running stint on television's popular Showtime at the Apollo a few short years later, Harvey's small-screen career was soon on the rise and he next landed a leading role (as well as a People's Choice Award nomination for Favorite Male Performer in a New Television Series) in television's Me and the Boys in 1994. With his own series, The Steve Harvey Show, close on the horizon, the comic's influence was gaining even more momentum in addition to a wider audience. And though he would earn four NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series for his show, Harvey was quick to point out that that doesn't necessarily entitle him to the perks of a role in a more Caucasian-oriented sitcom. One of four black comics featured in director Spike Lee's The Original Kings of Comedy (2000), Harvey was soon joined in prime time by fellow King Bernie Mac when Mac debuted his own namesake television series in early 2001. In addition to serving as host of KKBT-FM's The Beat, Harvey frequently takes part in speaking engagements in which he stresses the importance of goals and the dangers of drugs to impressionable youths.
Harvey was born on November 23, 1956. Raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Steve Harvey started started out as a stand up comedian. His first prime-time television venture, the 1994 sitcom Me and The Boys in which he played Steve Tower, earned him a People’s Choice Award nomination for "Favorite Male Performer in a New Television Series." He moved on to star in The Steve Harvey Show, winning four NAACP Image Awards as "Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series." He has also won an NAACP Image Award for his performance as host of the variety series It’s Showtime at The Apollo. In March 2001, Steve Harvey received the ultimate honor: NAACP Image Award’s "Entertainer of the Year."
Harvey’s two comedy specials -- HBO Comedy Half-Hour and Steve Harvey: One Man -- were turned into a platinum-selling DVD. He also hosts the number #1 morning drive radio show in Los Angeles, which was syndicated in Houston and Dallas early in 2003. Following a seven-year run as host of It’s Showtime at the Apollo and a six-year run of the WB’s The Steve Harvey Show, Harvey moved on to feature films, garnering leading roles in Paramount Picture’s The Fighting Temptations with Cuba Gooding Jr., Warner Brother’s Love Don’t Cost a Thing and Holy Wars with Fox Searchlight Picture.
Harvey, chosen in 2003 as the National Spokesperson for Burger King as well as a spokesman for GMC Yukon Denali, has twin daughters with his first wife and a son with his current wife, Mary Lee. He lives in Dallas, Texas.
Steve Harvey of "Love Don't Cost a Thing"
One of the “Original Kings of Comedy,” Steve Harvey, has a very serious side to him despite what you think. He takes his craft as a comedian very seriously, as he should, provided that it is one of the hardest lives in the entertainment business. Harvey, who previously co-starred in “The Fighting Temptations” earlier this year, stars in “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” opening December 12th. Harvey plays the father of Alvin (Nick Cannon), who notices his boy is going through some major changes after Alvin becomes Mr. Popular at his high school.
Harvey sat down to talk about his film and life as a comedian in New York City recently.
Q: So how much of your dialogue in the movie to your son is improvised, and how much was scripted?
STEVE: Maybe 50-50. They let me improv[ise] but first, you have to do it the way it’s on the script. The studios and writers with their tremendous egos feel like they’ve made a contribution to the project. Then, [director] Troy [Beyer] says, “Steve, what do you think?” She should say that. Then I say, “O.K., give me a minute.” I’ll then say, “I’m ready.” And then they say, “Action!” I haven’t seen the movie but a lot of the improv is in there from what I’ve seen.
When you’re working with a stand-up [comedian] and you’re trying to make a scene funny, you gotta [improvise]. Otherwise, what did you come get me for? There are other cats out there that would read just what’s on that paper verbatim and do a better acting job. But we ain’t talking about that now. If you want something funny, O.K., then let me show you this. They let me do it. I never felt like I was being restrained by Troy.
Q: Do you believe you will always be a comic first and an actor second? Or do you blend the two together?
STEVE: No, I’m a comedian. A comic is that guy who walks out on stage and he’s like a comic strip. They have to their show in order, verbatim, as in rehearsed or rewritten. That’s a comic. As a comedian, I go out on stage and start working the set but if I see something funny, I make a note of it. If that leads me to something that I think is funny, then that’s what I say, and then I go back to me [rehearsed] set. Or I might just dump the whole set out the window because the audience may look [the other] way. I might improvise for 30 minutes before I do a written joke. A comic can’t do that because he ain’t funny. He’s just doing his act.
But I’m a comedian first. I’ve learned how to act. I just draw on life experiences and that’s how I’ve learned. I didn’t take classes or anything. I don’t need no classroom.
Q: Do you think you will always stay in the comedy club circuit?
STEVE: I’ll stay in theaters. No more comedy clubs. “The Kings of Comedy” changed that life drastically. Everything “springboarded” from standup and that’s the key to everything. There would be no acting, no radio, no movies.
Q: Over the years, you hear about all the horror stories coming from comedy clubs. Do you have your own?
STEVE: I don’t know of a tougher life. I mean - I’m sure there is - but in entertainment, comedy is the toughest field. If you’re in a band and you have a bad night as a singer, you have your drummer play for five minutes. And then you go “Ricky!” And Ricky plays the guitar for five minutes. You can do that until you get your shit together. When you’re on stage as a standup, there is no moment for you to get yourself together. You are doing the most difficult thing in the world and that is to make a person laugh whom you’ve never met before. You don’t know anything about them and they don’t know anything about you. They’re in a comedy club, they’ve been drinking, and you know if this guy is racist or how he feels about you. You’re standing up there and trying to produce laughter from people who don’t know you and you don’t know them. There is nothing more difficult to do and it’s a very, very tough existence. Very few people rise above the comedy club level. I’ve been in fights in comedy clubs, I’ve had Ku Klux Klan totally destroy my car, I’ve been barricaded in my room for 24 hours. I had a woman chip my collarbone in Pensacola, Florida with a shot glass. I’ve got some stories man.
Q: How has that changed for you now that they know who you are?
STEVE: In the beginning, the first three minutes of your act is critical. You’ve got to instantly go out there and become likable. When you’re famous, the first three minutes is simple because they’re glad you’re here and they paid $75 dollars to see you. I got three minutes of g*d damn yelling versus three minutes of fucking “Who is this guy?” That’s a big difference man. Then, after your three minutes, you got to deliver. No matter how famous you are, you are still faced with the daunting task of making a person laugh at everything you say. I try to do a joke that will guarantee me a laugh from 80 to 85 percent of the room. I’m shooting for 100 but I got to get at least 80 to 85 percent of the room to laugh at the joke in order for it to be really successful. If I tell a joke three times and I don’t get 80 to 85 percent, I throw that joke out. That’s the tough part of my job.
Steve Harvey Speaks Out About MiJacs and Eminem
During interviews Saturday for his forthcoming film "Racing Stripes," we got a chance to sit down with comedian Steve Harvey and talk some serious Michael Jackson.
Harvey is one of the King of Pop's most vocal supporters in the singer's fight against child molestation charges, hinging his firm belief in Jackson's on the accusers' willingness to accept
money, rather than going after Jackson in court.
"See here's the deal, if you rape my son, my son, you can't give me no money," affirms Harvey. "I want you. You can't buy me out. And real men and real people who have real families feel
that way. If somebody molests your daughter, you're not buying none of that. That's how real people are. So how all of a sudden is some money gonna buy them off?
"You don't get the whole 20 [million]," he continues. "The lawyer's gonna get half of that. Then by the time you pay the taxes, you understand where you're at? You sayin', 'So it's okay to rape my son for $2 million?' That's how I know it's fake; it's just about money. Because real parents love their children so [much], that you can't do nothing to them and get away with it. I want ass.
You do something to my son, I'm getting' yo' ass. You not paying me off, I'm getting yo' ass. Trust me. I want you to go to prison, so I can call some of my cats I know that's down there so I can
make your life hell for 14 years."
Harvey, who accompanied Jackson during his surprise visit to L.A.'s First AME Church days before the infamous Jackson-family-in-white court appearance, says he and the singer are friends, and talk on the phone two to three times a week.
"He's a different kind of guy. Got that," Harvey says. "Would I have done some of the things he's done in public? No. First of all, ain't no kids comin' to my house to play, because I'm 48. I ain't got no eight-year-old buddies."
But Harvey feels those eight-year-olds are, indeed, just buddies to the Gloved One, and that District Attorney Tom Sneddon has trumped up the molestation charges against Jackson because the artist slipped through the state's fingers in 1994, when the family of an 11-year-old
boy accusing him of molestation a year earlier decided to settle out of court for an estimated $20 million.
"The D.A. has a vendetta against him because he thinks he got away the first time," says Harvey. "Michael Jackson just paid these people to leave him alone. Twenty million to you is a horrid amount of money. To Michael Jackson, it's nothing. He paid them just to leave him alone. And they went away."
In the wake of the disparaging Eminem video "Just Lose It," Jackson called into Steve Harvey's morning show on 100.3 The Beat in Los Angeles to let off some steam. Harvey, who joined Michael in denouncing the video's various digs at Michael's molestation rumors and plastic surgery, said Jackson's appearance on the show received mixed reviews from the fans.
"Fifty percent of the faxes were, 'It's just a video, you shouldn't feel that way,'" Harvey says. "Well see, it's easy for you to say because the video ain't about you. See, if you were in the video being depicted as a child molester, you would be as hurt as Michael Jackson, but see people forget that.
"I just thought it was really unfair of Eminem because he's in a custody battle for his child. He wants little Hailie and that's beautiful, but you know Michael is fighting for his life and his children, but you so insensitive you gonna do a video about the man like this when he's in the middle of a crisis."
When asked if he thought the charges and forthcoming court battle would serve as a death knell for his recording career, Harvey said: "'Over' for Michael is different from [over] for everybody else. Michael's last album sold over two, three million copies. It was considered a failure. That's because he done sold 40 million. Anybody else sell three million albums, it's party time at the house. It's over for Michael as far as the numbers he used to do, but nobody else is gonna sell 40 million because of Napster anyway."
Comedian Steve Harvey on faith in Hollywood
“My mama raised me in the church. I was not allowed to stay home on Sundays. There was no option. My father didn’t go, but he gave us a haircut and made sure we went,” said comedian Steve Harvey, who gives voice to "Buzz" the horsefly in the new family film Racing Stripes.
Stylish and hilarious, Harvey is a radio talk show host, movie actor, as well as long-time host of “It’s Showtime at the Apollo.” Additionally, he will soon be spearheading a new line of suits, shirts, ties, hats, and shoes called "The Steve Harvey Collection" sold in fine men’s clothing stores. After the press screening for Racing Stripes, he sat down with Thunderstruck and other faith-based media to talk about Hollywood, The Passion of the Christ, and his faith.
“I’ve always had God as a part of my life. It’s important out here, too, because it gives you a base, you dig? Out here, it’s like Sodom and Gomorrah,” he said. “This is Sin City. And if you don’t have a spiritual base, you’ll get caught up in it. It’s inevitable.”
He spoke about the importance of sharing struggles and prayer requests with friends such as Chris Tucker and Cedric the Entertainer. “We ain’t perfect—we say crazy stuff—I cuss every now and then. I ain’t no saint and I don’t try to fake nobody like I am.”
Almost relishing his opportunity to talk about his faith with press, Harvey perked up when asked about the effect of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. “Hollywood is run by people who sit up in their executive offices—who are not connected to Mississippi, Alabama, Chicago, South Carolina. They know nothing about that, they don’t go to church, and they make their decisions about what they think is right. So they had no idea that people would go see a film about Christ. But Christ is pretty big. In fact, He’s the biggest. So now they do a movie about Him and they discover that He’s the biggest of all time. You dig?
“There has never been a movie with an R rating that did that kind of money—ever. And they tried to kill that movie with an R rating…Well, what do you think happened back then, on that day? How do you think it went down? You think it was a cake walk?”
Does he think that Hollywood will make more movies like The Passion? Harvey deadpans, “People out here don’t like to hear the truth ’cause the truth makes them think.”
He was quick to point out how fame can distort reality in a celebrity-saturated culture. “I saw a guy accept an award and he said, ‘I want to thank my lucky stars.’ That confused me. ’Cause what’s your lucky stars, man? These are blessings from God. God endows you with blessings so you’ll become a blessing. You can’t get up in front of people and be ashamed to tell them about God. Everybody out here wants to make it look like something they did. Like you are that funny or that great an actor. There’s always somebody who is funnier or can act better than you. It’s just that God thought that He could trust you. That if you got there, you’d do the right thing with it. He trusted that [to] you, that you’d give Him honor and credit.”
Harvey confessed to seeing his own priorities change as his career matures. “You’ve got to grow up sooner or later. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have done this movie. But I have five kids. I’ve got to start saying something that they can be proud of.
“I cussed a lot—HBO specials and stuff—but as you get older, you start looking at your mortality. You start thinking, ‘I won’t be here too long.’ And you want to leave something behind for your kids.”
He pointed to the example of his friend Eddie Murphy. "You know, 'Daddy Day Care,' 'Shrek' 1 and 2, he's doing movies for his kids. He did 'Pluto Nash' just for his kids. It did horrible at the box office so people were saying, 'Eddie, get back to where you come from.' But you can't go back to where you come from. You gotta develop.
“I can’t cuss and tell jokes the rest of my life. I gotta say something meaningful. I gotta give something back to the Creator who’s given me so much.”
Steve Harvey on Steve Harvey's Big Time
Despite ending his seven-year run as host of It's Showtime at the Apollo and his six-year run on The WB's The Steve Harvey Show, the Grammy-nominated King of Comedy Steve Harvey remains one of the busiest and most talented comedians working in Hollywood today gracing stage, screen, television and radio audiences worldwide.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, and the youngest of five children, Steve makes his home in Dallas with his family. He and his wife continue their unending commitment to further opportunities in local schools in both cities with their generous contributions to the Steve and Mary L. Harvey Foundation. Mr. Harvey has been chosen as the National Spokesperson for Burger King and is currently a Spokesperson for the GMC Yukon Denali.
Harvey's first primetime television venture was the comedy series Me and the Boys, which earned him a nomination for a 1995 People's Choice Award for Favorite Male Performer in a New Television Series. As star of The WB's The Steve Harvey Show, he won four NAACP Image Awards as Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series. He also won an Image Award for Outstanding Variety Series for It's Showtime at the Apollo. In 2001, Harvey received the ultimate honor of his career when the NAACP Image Awards named him Entertainer of the Year.
Further proof that he's a success on numerous fronts, Harvey turned his two comedy specials, HBO Comedy Half-Hour and Steve Harvey: One Man, into a Platinum-selling DVD. In 2002, he also produced and released a music CD for MCA Records called Sign of Things to Come, featuring Mary J. Blige, Carl Thomas, Dave Hollister, Angie Stone and Yolanda Adams, among others. Mr. Harvey is now in the fourth year of hosting his top-rated daily morning drive show heard on 100.3 FM's The Beat in Los Angeles and syndicated in Dallas, Texas.
Mr. Harvey has also recently tackled the feature film world. He co-starred alongside Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles in The Fighting Temptations, as well as the Warner Bros. release Love Don't Cost a Thing and appeared in the Johnson Family Vacation, with Cedric "The Entertainer," and You Got Served, with B2K. He also lent his voice to the animated live-action family film, Racing Stripes, which also featured the voices of Dustin Hoffman, Whoopi Goldberg, David Spade and a host of others.
Always known for his impeccable style, designers have joined forces with Mr. Harvey in the creation of "The Steve Harvey Collection" clothing line featuring suits, shirts, ties, hats and shoes. The new line will be in stores around the country this fall.
The Steve Harvey Show
Mixing it up with laugh-out-loud comedy, youthful appeal and a likable namesake lead, The Steve Harvey Show crackles with high school hijinks and teacher entanglements in a hip urban setting. The series' successes as a multiple NAACP Image Award winner and as one of The WB's hit flagship series underscore its enduring longevity, immense popularity and far-reaching influence.
In the series, former R&B star Steve Hightower (Harvey) gives up his wild times for school ties, becoming an inner-city Chicago music teacher – and eventually a vice principal – with a ragtag bunch of classroom charges. Headlining the Hi-Tops soul group – who opened for the likes of Gladys Knight and the Pips – Hightower's touring career never quite hit the high note he expected. Down on his luck, and totally out of money, he decides to let go of his carefree lifestyle and pin down a "real" job. With an assist from his longtime friend and eventual roommate, the gym coach with the insatiable appetite Cedric Robinson (Cedric the Entertainer), Steve enrolls in a new type of performing and makes a classroom at Washington High School his stage. Initially grappling with the students' penchant for baggy clothes, bad attitudes and baffling slang, Steve soon realizes that a compassionate spin will help him tone down his shock and contend with the kids' problems… be they hard knocks or humorous woes.
An intimate interview with Steve Harvey, Marques Houston, and Omari Grandberry
The drama surrounding teen sensation B2K and their sudden break-up eerily mirrors the events of their first feature film together, You Got Served, which also sees a set of best friends disbanding due to very childlike circumstances. Can Steve Harvey channel his latest screen persona in Mr. Rad and bring this squabble to a close? The great Harvey, a stand-up legend and morning radio show luminary, may just be that one unlikely candidate to restore the faith in every teenage girl's heart. Can Steve bring back the thunderous admiration of a thousand screaming school children? Sho?nuff?
O: What drove you into the arms of Mr. Rad?
Steve Harvey: Well, I said, if this isn't a comedic character, then he has to have some sort of redeeming quality about him. Originally, when the kids got into trouble at the end, He didn't do anything to facilitate that situation. I wanted to make sure he helped these boys out. That he was known as a guy that kept these guys off the streets. Other than that, I wouldn't have done it. If they had of left it like it was, I wouldn't have signed on.
O: Were you at all hesitant about the script, especially with the demographic it was targeting?
Harvey: Not really. I'm on the radio in the morning, and I've been doing stand-up for 18 years. I understand that times change, and that you have to move with them a little bit. I don't care that much for Hip-Hop. But I play it in the morning because they pay me a lot of money. I ain't stupid. You just go with the flow of things. As I get older, physically older?I mean, they don't make movies out here for forty-seven year old black men. They don't expose our lives, the way it is. Hip-Hop is the biggest thing there is right now. It's crossing over all the boundaries. If you can find a place in there, then you should take it. And it's always good if you can have an influence on young people in a positive direction. Young kids are in a world of trouble right now. They are going to get killed, they way they?re going. This is not a good time right now.
O: Do you prefer doing this type of work as opposed to stand-up?
Harvey: I love stand-up. That's about the only thing I love. The rest of this stuff as been an offshoot. This other stuff I do, I tolerate it. I don't love television, but I'm a TV star. I'm not a movie star. I never came out here to be a movie star. I've never read for a movie, I've never gone out and inquired about a part. These five movies I got this year? They all called me up and said, 'steve, will you do this role?? I'm 47. I'm not about to spend the rest of my life going and sitting in a room, waiting, and they tell me, ?No!? That they don't except me. That they want Will Smith. Well, what the Hell did I come down here for? So, I'm not in the business like that. I don't have to be. God has blessed me like that. I have some options. I've got nice things that I do. That are about me. The Steve Harvey Morning Show. The Steve Harvey BigTime. The Steve Harvey Show that's in syndication. Steve Harvey Live on HBO. This is all bonus stuff. If something big pops up, then I?ll take it. But I'm not really aiming to be a movie star. People are talking to me about additional roles. They like what I did this year in film. You know, if it's a big enough check, I?ll squeeze it in.
O: Cedric is downstairs. You guys have such great chemistry together?
Harvey: I love Cedric. He is like my brother. We did a TV show together for six years. We knew each other before that. I met Cedric in ?91 when he walked into my comedy club in Dallas. And we've never had an argument. We've never had one ill word. We've never had an, ?I wish he'd be that? moment. We've never had any of that. We've always had the utmost respect for each other. The reason I haven't done another sitcom is that I couldn't go to work and have as much fun as I had with this dude. We went to work to laugh. We just went in there and laughed. We didn't care about the director. All those technical guys hated us. These two stand-ups, man? We don't get serious until its tape day. We don't want torehearse. I don't like telling jokes over and over again. It gets redundant. And after a while, I don't think it's funny. Me and Ced were coming to work on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and we'd just be in there. And they hated us for that. The other actors, they were more serious, you know? ?Guys, we've got to practice so we get our lines down!? No way, these are jokes. We got ?em. We?re going to wait until the crowd gets here, and then we?re going to let our natural timing take over. Then we?re going to tell these jokes. These words leading up to the jokes? That's y?all. That's all that we were in there for. The jokes. They didn't like that. But we had a good time. We've done a lot of stuff together. And he's true. That's probably one of the greatest friendships. It is 'the? greatest friendship I've built in this business.
O: Did you ever have a Mr. Rad in your own life? Someone who gave you guidance?
Harvey: I lived with my Mr. Rad. My father was my inspiration, my check-point, all of that. I didn't have a broken home. I'm not the ghetto story. I was fortunate. My father was around me all the time. My old man was wicked, though. Ooh. He was my Mr. Rad. I didn't really have to go too far outside
O: When you were much younger, and you got into a bit of trouble, how long did you have to stay in jail?
Harvey: Too long. I straightened that up right-quick. You go to jail one time, I think that fixes you. It fixed me. I didn't have to stay long. I don't like to talk about it. You see, Tim Allan can go to prison, and say he was a heroin addict, and have a television career. I say it? They?re going to pull my ass off TV the next morning. Let's just say that I was there for a 'stint.? (note: I guess Steve forgot about Charles Dutton, a black man whose been very candid about his prison time and sustained an accomplished tv and movie career.)
O: And it had the acquired and necessary effect on you?
Harvey: Yes it did. Those weekends in there were enough for me. It came out to a lot of things, but it was enough for me. I said, 'that is it.? But that straighten me out. I haven't seen a day of trouble since. Not any real illegal trouble. Though, I do have an ex-wife. That's a world of trouble right there.
O: Can you discuss the break-up of B2K?
Harvey: Well, right now, we think B2K is going to get back together. That's going to happen. I had them at the Celebration of Gospel last night. I had them in my trailer the day before that. Sometimes, you just have to pull young people to the side and say, ?Look, here's the business mistake y?all are making. Let's take the personal out of it. You don't split up 20 days before your only movie comes out. Whoever told you to do that was an idiot. Now, let's sit down and go back over this. We are out here to do what? Make money. What money are you making right now? This movie. If we don't promote this movie and present a unified front, guess who ain't going to make no money? I'm too old for this shit here. This aint no kiddy-ass moment you all are having?I don't like him, I don't like him?? I said, 'man, if you don't all pull together and promote this movie so I can get this backend check that I got coming, Then I got to lay into y?all.?
O: This all sounds exactly like what happens in the movie. Didn't they read the script?
Harvey: This movie has to get to twenty million. If it gets to twenty million, I?ll have a very nice check coming my way. I think we need to let this movie get to twenty million. If it don't, I will hurt somebody. I will take out a million dollar ass-whuppin?. That's all I got to say.
O: What do the kids say about it?
Harvey: They've thought about all the points, and they?re talking now. And they?re talking to Chris Stokes, their manager. Today, there's a scheduled basketball game between all the boys just to get them talking to each other again. They need to find themselves as friends again. So, I'm Mr. Rad a little bit. But, you know, you've got to take cats under your wing and educate them a little bit. This is not their personal thing. I've got to try and be helpful when I can. If I just sit up and say, 'those stupid little kids broke up.? Without showing them the ramifications of their decision, then God looks at me and goes, ?You know you could have said something. Because you know better.? And I do. I have their ear. I know how to talk to these kids now. I have a 19 year old in my house. You aint fooling me. Don't throw that little slang shit at me. We?re going to stop using slang. We?re going to cuss. Cussing is universal. We?re going to stop slanging, and we?re going to start using profanity. Then those kids understand what I have to say. This is not gender, not culture. This has nothing to do with it. ?Kiss my ass!? pretty much goes with anything. You can say it in China, and they will understand. You don't even have to change it. ?Kiss my ass!? They will work it out. They will now that they have something to work out.
At home with Steve Harvey
Though he makes his living in Hollywood, New York and on the road with his stand-up comedy routine, Steve Harvey is happiest at home in Dallas.
From his two-story mansion in a gated community, a short drive from the famed Galleria shopping mall, he can look out upon his vanishing-edge swimming pool that appears to drop off into the adjacent lake. A well-manicured golf course completes the view.
"Being at home, I'm at my absolute happiest," says the comedian and actor as he relaxes on his expansive patio sipping fruit juice. His wife, Mary, is at his side. His 8-month-old son, Wynton, plays nearby. "Coming home and being with Mary and my kid -- that's when I'm at my absolute happiest."
On this lovely day, Harvey is content. He is cooled-out and cordial, easy-flowing and earthy -- a far cry from the tart, wisecracking stand-up) comic who sends howls of laughter through audiences that pack in to see his "Kings of Comedy" tour. Steve Harvey, the husband and father who loves "quiet solitude," also is quite a contrast to bachelor music teacher Steve Hightower of The Steve Harvey Show, the top-rated show on the WB Network.
For one thing, at-home Steve is not wearing one of his trademark tailored suits, but slacks, silk shirt and sandals. "I don't own one pair of jeans," he says. But he owns at least 250 suits, down from a recent high of 500 to 600.
"I don't smoke, don't drink, don't do dope, don't do cocaine. I do suits... My mother made me a dresser," he explains without apology. "Suits and ties. Go to church. That's what my mother instilled in me ... So when you pay money to see me in the theater or turn on your television, I've got on a suit and tie."
From conservative cuts to brilliant hues, the styles vary, but loose-fitting trousers are a must. And he goes out of his way to find Black tailors and designers. "I don't wear Versace, Armani, Hugo Boss. None of that. I like my pants to hang a certain way. Now you think I'm going to put on some of those tight-ass pants just because Versace or Armani made them? My pants look better under a jacket than a Hugo Boss suit."
During the four years he has hosted Showtime at the Apollo (he tapes up to six shows at a time), Harvey says, "I've never repeated a suit." Consequently, each year he gives away dozens -- to charity, to homeless men, to relatives, friends, ministers. "Yeah, I've laid out some ministers," he says.
Harvey is a great believer in giving Black professionals an opportunity. Consequently, he also employs a Black manager, several Black attorneys, a Black accountant, and he personally selected a Black executive producer, Winifred Hervey, to oversee his television show.
Whether he's on the set in LA, in New York at the Apollo or traveling, Steve takes his barber. "When I don't have my barber around, I wear hats. [As he does on this day.] You won't see me when my hair ain't just right. Plus I'm not the kind of n ---- r that makes women go, `He's so fine; he's so cute.' But I have my act together. Suit, shirt and ties, and my hair freshly cut."
Mary Harvey chuckles softly as her husband talks. Steve says when he met Mary years ago, she sensed he was more comfortable in suits and suggested that he wear them during performances. From that point his career escalated, but so did his personal life. The love and compatibility, are evident with this couple, and their individual interests and talents complement each other. "I have no organizational skills, I'm no decorator and I can't save no money. But Mary can do all of that," Steve says. "Mary kept me from putting gold tips on the gate... She's sensible. She keeps me on track. Mary doesn't like traveling and living out of a suitcase, so I go out and make the money, and bring it home. I don't know how much money we've got; Mary takes care of it. The only check I write is to the barber."
While the couple can't imagine being without each other now, Mary is quick to explain it was not love at first sight when they met in January 1989. Steve was smitten immediately. While in Arlington, Texas, for a comedy show, he wandered into a department store where Mary worked for Fashion Fair Cosmetics. When she and a co-worker went to lunch in the mall, Steve followed. After the ladies spotted him checking them, he introduced himself "I played him like an old mackerel," recalls Mary, an attractive, unpretentious Louisiana native. "I didn't want to be bothered. I was cold. Not ugly, but cold."
And Steve was persistent. Three days later, she finally agreed to go out with him. It was his birthday, January 17. "He had on a satin HBO jacket, a Casio watch and acid-washed jeans with frayed hems," says Mary. Adds Steve: "And I had $58 to my name. No checkbook. No bank account." On the third date, he declared his love and proposed marriage. "I know You don't believe me, but I'll show, you," he said.
When he left town at the end of the week, he called every day from the road. He wrote love notes and poetry. Sent her flowers. He invited her to visit him, but she refused. Two months later, he sent the well-worn pair of shoes he was wearing when they met, with a note that read, "Even though there are trains, planes and buses, I'd still walk a thousand miles for one of your kisses."
Mary wasn't convinced until Steve showed up at the mall and announced, "I've got us somewhere to live," and handed her the key. Finally three years after first laying eyes on her, Steve convinced Mary to go on the road with him. They traveled to his comedy gigs by car, which doubled as sleeping quarters. He tried out his jokes on her, and she convinced him to shave off his beard and "stop looking militant." For his razor bumps, she suggested he use Fashion Fair skin-care products. "I use the Fashion Fair facial polisher, which is a scrub, and I use the oil-free moisturizer," says Steve. "Sometimes I use an astringent. Haven't had a razor bump since."
Mary and Steve both emphasize they endured some very lean years, but Steve was determined to fulfill his dream of being a successful comedian. That is what he had always wanted to do, even as a kid growing up in West Virginia and then in the projects of Cleveland. As a kid, Harvey was fascinated by Red Skelton, Red Buttons, Jonathan Winters, George Carlin and Jackie Gleason. And that dream persisted despite a teacher admonishing him to aspire to something "more realistic." Steve spent three years at Kent State University. "But they asked me to leave," he confesses. "They said, `You ain't really here for an education.' But I was. I learned the system; I learned the White man's rules. I learned order and proper channels. I developed great social skills. That's what Kent State did for me."
Then he tried various entrepreneurial jobs, such as selling insurance, and then Amway ("Amway taught me to dream") and Shaklee products. He also owned a carpet-cleaning business and had interest in a rib joint. When Allstate Insurance Co. rejected him for a sales position, he was devastated ("I drove off from there and I cried...") and even considered joining the Army. Knowing well that he could not take orders, he started writing jokes for friends. On a dare, he participated in an amateur comedy contest and won. He signed with an agent in the audience, after fibbing that he'd been on the comedy circuit for three years rather than three hours. "I went to work and was making $25 a night," he recalls. "I couldn't believe it. That was all I ever wanted to be, and I got into it just like that." It was 1985 and he was 28 years old.
That's, why Harvey has no problem thanking the Man upstairs for his good fortune. "Oftentimes when I walk through this house, I say, `Thank you, Jesus!' From where I came from to this, I can't believe it."
What Harvey came from is a loving but large low-income family -- his parents, two brothers, two sisters and his sisters' seven offspring all lived in a two-bedroom-plus-attic apartment over a liquor store, and later in a house of similar size. His father provided the only income. "I've never lived in a house with more than one bathroom. Can you imagine all of us and one bathroom?" he asks. "That's why I have five bathrooms now. I ain't waiting on nobody else."
Today, Harvey never has to wait. His marbled bathroom has sunken Jacuzzi, water closet, shower stall, and his and her- sinks and closets. And he can go any of the other 20 rooms to find the quiet solitude he could not as a youngster. There is an abundance of beauty and elegance. "We've had professional decorators ask which decorator did the interior," he says while hugging his wife. "Their mouths drop when I say that Mary did it. She has an eye."
The white marbled entrance hall of the Harvey home features a black baby grand piano where Steve occasionally entertains. To the left is the living room, with its 10-foot, curved, upholstered white sofa that faces the fireplace, over which hangs a splendid framed mirror. Just off the living room is a wet bar math a door that leads to the kitchen.
In the foyer and living room are floor-to-ceiling columns, Italian sconces and several paintings by Paul Goodnight and William Tolliver. Throughout these rooms and the adjacent dining room are huge decorative urns. All the rooms are finished math elegant drapes that Mary designed.
The kitchen, breakfast area and family room have wooden floors math green slate inlays. The caramel leather sofa is accented with red leather pillows. A huge wooden bowl on the table holds red apples. A bowl on the breakfast table offers green apples. On the wall facing the sofa is a large television screen.
Upstairs are little Wynton's room, a suite for Steve's 16-year-old twin daughters (who live in Cleveland with their mother), and a custom-designed attic room for Mary's 13-year-old son. At the end of the hallway is Steve's office, which features handsome leather furnishings, treasured photographs and an intriguing woven-leather rug. Down the hall is a billiard room.
Harvey is renowned for vivid, comical anecdotes based on experiences. He entertains audiences with tales of differences between the sexes and gives advice to men and women both about how to get along. He also addresses racism, church and the contrasts between Black and White culture. "My gift is stand-up," he says. "That's what God gave me. The gift to make people laugh at any given moment. As long as I have this gift, I can support my family"
The real man behind the successful comedian also demonstrates quick wit, charm and verve. Even when he starts out dead serious, he may end up making you laugh. At other times, he brings tears to your eves. Here are comments from Harvey on various subjects:
What makes you angry? "Racism. That makes me mad real quick. What pisses me off? If you try to hurt my wife or my children, any of my kids, I will hurt you immediately. And believe me, I can hurt a man if I got to... If you call me a n----r, it's on. It's Showtime at the Apollo right there. Mary has stopped me a few times. She has saved some people from some major hurt."
Giving back: "Black people expect more from their celebrities. Black people feel you owe them something when you make it. White people don't feel that way. We need better role models for our kids... I can't honor every request, but I do my share because it is more important for Black celebrities to become visible and be role models ... because so few of us make it through the cracks."
Movie roles: "I have a pretty good life. If I don't get in the movies, it's all right. It ain't like I'm hurting ... I was offered the role of a gay guy in a prison flick. That's the lowest form. That's way away from what I am, and I'm not that good of an actor."
Success: "I am a blessed man, far beyond anything I really deserve... God has got to smile on you a whole lot of times for you to get where you're going... That's why I never start a show without saying how good God is to me."
Money: "I ain't going to tell you how much money I make, but if you ask me if I am a millionaire, I'll say, yes, I'm a good, solid millionaire. Could I lose a million dollars and survive? Yes. I'm blessed. Believe me, I owe that to Mary."
Martin Luther King Jr.: "Martin Luther King was probably the greatest influence on me growing up. That was the most tragic thing that happened to me as a kid, in 1968 when they killed Martin Luther King. I didn't understand that at all. I was real bitter. It made me dislike White people at first, but I had to come out of that because that is not what Dr. King stood for."
His mother. "Other than Dr. King dying, the heaviest thing that ever happened to me was my mother dying [last October]... That is some hellified pain right there ... I'd trade in all my career, everything I've got, if I could have my mama back. This house. Fame. Cars. Everything. She always said, `You look sharp for those people.' Mama didn't go to no clubs. She never saw me perform live. `Give those people something for their money,' she'd always say. `That's why they came to see you.'"
Mother Harvey can rest in peace. Her baby boy definitely is giving his audiences something for their money. They just can't seem to get enough.