Comedian and actor who became known for his role in The Original Kings of Comedy in 2001. He also hosted Who Wants to be a Millionaire and starred on The Soul Man. He voiced characters in the 2002 film Ice Age and the 2005 film Madagascar. In 2018, he began starring on the CBS comedy The Neighborhood.
A major television star of the late 1990s and a member of the phenomenally successful Original Kings of Comedy tour, the man known as Cedric the Entertainer was already a familiar figure to African-American audiences at the turn of the century. Early in 2001, with a commercial aired during the Super Bowl and a host of new projects in the works, he suddenly seemed poised on the edge of superstardom. The key to his success was that he combined the cultural strengths of the 1990s black renaissance in comedy with an Everyman quality, shared by only a few comedians, that induced audiences of all kinds to identify with him.
Cedric the Entertainer has often refused to divulge his last name, but he was born Cedric Kyles in St. Louis, Missouri, around 1964. His mother, a school reading specialist, encouraged his talents as a performer ‐ but not, at first, as a comedian.
“He was very bent on entertaining with singing and dancing,” she told Jet. “He was always singing and dancing in plays. I couldn’t nail down the comedie part because that didn’t come until later.” Despite his large, somewhat rotund physique, Cedric remained a talented dancer with an unexpected gracefulness that some have compared to that of the classic film comedian Jackie Gleason.
Attending Southeast Missouri State University, Cedric pursued his interest in performing with a television major and a theater minor. After graduating, however, he took a job as an insurance claims representative with a State Farm agency in Normal, Illinois. Still a performer at heart, Cedric entered a stand-up comedy competition in Chicago and walked away with a $500 prize.
After that, most weekends saw him making the two-hour drive back to his home town for appearances in comedy clubs. At some time during this period, he took the name “Cedric the Entertainer;” he intended it as a reference to his all-around abilities as a performer.
Another first prize, this one in the Miller Genuine Draft Comedy Search, led to wider tours and a realization that life as a comedian was within his reach. Cedric’s breakthrough came in Dallas in 1989, when he was in the audience at a Dallas comedy club in which fellow African-American comedian Steve Harvey was a principal player. As the mirthless audience endured an unsuccessful act from a visiting headliner, Cedric decided to ask the house management if he could perform a five-minute set at no charge. His miniature set brought the house down, and Harvey, impressed, brought Cedric back to Dallas to headline his own show.
As a comedian, Cedric was notable for his almost total avoidance of profanity‐in stark contrast to the vast majority of other touring comedians, black and white. “If I use a curse word it’s because of the character I’m portraying,” he explained to Jet. “I use curse words like a Lawry’s seasoning salt. It’s hidden somewhere inside the joke. I use it as a tenderizer.”
His humor was in the observational vein popular among other comedians, but his act was distinctive in its use of dance and physical motion and in its gentle spirit, usually devoid of the anger that so often seems to seethe behind the comedian’s smile. “I’m a little bit cuddly,” he told USA Today. “I’m a Cedi-bear.”
That’s not to say that Cedric was incapable of comedy with an edge. Perhaps one of his funniest sequences, captured on film in the Original Kings of Comedy concert tour documentary directed by filmmaker Spike Lee, originated while then-President Bill Clinton was beleaguered by questions about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Cedric’s routine depicted how a black president might respond to similar questioning. “You gonna ask me about that in front of my wife?” he asks, according to the New York Times, and lunges toward an imaginary reporter.
Cedric first appeared on television in 1992 in a stand-up segment on the It’s Showtime at the Apollo program, and later performed on the Def Comedy Jam on cable TV’s HBO network. 1994 brought his first ongoing gig when he became the host of Black Entertainment Television’s ComicView, succeeding his future Original Kings of Comedy tour-mate, D. L. Hughley. Comic View featured a segment of his own, entitled “Ced’s Comedy Crockpot.” Harvey emerged as something of a mentor to Cedric, which led to Cedric’s receiving a continuing role on the hit situation comedy the Steve Harvey Show. Cedric played a high school coach named Cedric Jackie Robinson.
It was the Original Kings of Comedy tour itself that really cemented Cedric’s status as a star in urban America. That tour, which became the top-grossing comedy program of all time and pointed to a pent-up demand for high-quality entertainment among black audiences, featured Hughley, Harvey, and Bernie Mac along with Cedric. Running from 1998 into 1999, the program spawned first a recording, which won a 1999 Grammy nomination for Best Spoken Comedy Album, and then Lee’s acclaimed film.
The tour and film also put Cedric on the radar screens of Hollywood talent spotters in a big way. He landed parts in a string of films released in 2001, including Kingdom Come, Serving Sara, directed by Reginald Hudlin, and Dr. Doolittle 2, in which he was heard as the voice of a bear in a zoo.
Cedric also wrote and developed the film Preaching Ain’t Easy, which also featured Harvey and Bernie Mac. In 2001 Cedric developed a pilot episode for a series of his own on the WB Network in which he would star, as he told the Los Angeles Times, as the coach of “the losingest team in the NBA.” He also planned a stage revue that would nurture the careers of young comedians.
Celebrity came to Cedric, not as a result of any of these endeavors, however, but rather from a television commercial broadcast during the Super Bowl in January of 2001. Superbly tailored to Cedric’s talents as a physical comedian and to his likeable Everyman persona, the commercial featured Cedric bringing an attractive date home to his apartment.
Offering her something to drink, he goes to the kitchen for two bottles of Bud Light beer. Once he is safely out of her sight, he erupts into an enthusiastic dance‐but forgets that by so doing he is shaking the still-closed beer bottles. Thus his date is drenched when her bottle is opened.
The commercial was ranked Number One out of 57 ads broadcast during the Super Bowl according to viewer polls. “I definitely noticed a difference in how people respond to me after the Super Bowl when I was out and about,” Cedric told the Los Angeles Times. The exposure boded well indeed for Cedric’s growing film career‐which might, he told the Times, include dramatic roles. “I’d like to try my hand at it, sure,” he said. “Just when I start getting to the point of people thinking they know what I do, I wanna flip it on them.”
June 8, 1958
- Is one of the Original Kings of Comedy.
- Worked at State Farm Insurance before becoming successful in comedy. Majored in mass communication at Southeast Missouri State University.
- Appeared as the lead comedian at the White House Correspondence Dinner but jokingly remarked that he was unprepared because he thought that he would follow a humorous speech by President George W. Bush, but instead followed First Lady Laura Bush, who he commented was very funny.
- Cedric was the subject of controversy when his opinionated character in the film Barbershop (2002) made unsavory remarks regarding Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. These comments were spoken in character, were part of the screenplay, and he has never apologized for them.
- He was awarded a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame at 6166 Delmar Boulevard in St. Louis, Missouri on June 7, 2008.
- He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Live Theatre at 6212 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on July 19, 2018.
BIO: Encyclopedia.com + Wikipedia.com
PHOTO: TheCreatorsOfColor + Zimbio + PluggedIn + Cinemacked + DogoMovies
Original Published Date