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Armed with a wicked grin and a sense of humor that could pinball from folksy to salty within the same breath, Steve Harvey was among the most popular stand-up comics of the late 1990s and new millennium, and as such, parlayed his success into a variety of entertainment venues - from film and television to host of his own syndicated radio program. Like Bill Cosby and Robin Harris before him, Harvey was a keen observer of small-scale dramas within the African-American community - clashes of style and intent between churchg rs, neighbors and family members - and his material was honed through years of club dates before receiving its biggest showcase in Spike Lee's feature "The Original Kings of Comedy" (2000). A major hit, it paved the way for Harvey to become a TV star with "The Steve Harvey Show" (The WB, 1996-2002) and enjoy a modest career in features like "Johnson Family Vacation" and "You Got Served." But rather than pursue either medium, Harvey turned to radio, where his comedy - and considerable philanthropic pursuits - could receive a broad and largely unfiltered canvas. As both a performer and agent for positive change within his community, Harvey was among the most powerful and influential in...
Armed with a wicked grin and a sense of humor that could pinball from folksy to salty within the same breath, Steve Harvey was among the most popular stand-up comics of the late 1990s and new millennium, and as such, parlayed his success into a variety of entertainment venues - from film and television to host of his own syndicated radio program. Like Bill Cosby and Robin Harris before him, Harvey was a keen observer of small-scale dramas within the African-American community - clashes of style and intent between churchg rs, neighbors and family members - and his material was honed through years of club dates before receiving its biggest showcase in Spike Lee's feature "The Original Kings of Comedy" (2000). A major hit, it paved the way for Harvey to become a TV star with "The Steve Harvey Show" (The WB, 1996-2002) and enjoy a modest career in features like "Johnson Family Vacation" and "You Got Served." But rather than pursue either medium, Harvey turned to radio, where his comedy - and considerable philanthropic pursuits - could receive a broad and largely unfiltered canvas. As both a performer and agent for positive change within his community, Harvey was among the most powerful and influential in the entertainment industry.
Born Broderick Steven Harvey in Welch, WV on Jan. 17, 1957, he was the youngest of five children born to coal miner Jesse Harvey and his wife, Eloise. The family relocated to Cleveland, OH, where he graduated from Glenville High School on the city's east side. From there, it was back to the South to study at the University of West Virginia, where he was a member of the renowned Omega Psi Phi fraternity. After college, Harvey worked in a variety of jobs, including insurance salesman, before launching his career as a stand-up comic in the late 1980s. His occasionally earthy material, built around his observations on African-American family life and religious views, won him a devoted audience on the club circuit. His profile received a considerable boost when he was named a finalist in the Second Annual Johnnie Walker National Comedy Search in 1989, which in part led to his replacing fellow comic Sinbad as the host of the long-running "Showtime at the Apollo" (syndicated, 1987- ) variety series. He remained with the series until 2000, after which he was replaced by comedian Rudy Rush.
Harvey soon doubled up his small-screen time by starring in "The Steve Harvey Show," an agreeable and popular sitcom that cast him as a former R&B singer-turned-vice principal at a Chicago-area high school. The comedy was massively popular among African-American audiences, who helped earn the show numerous NAACP Awards, including three for Harvey as Best Actor. But the program was virtually unknown among white viewers, and Harvey was frequently outspoken in his criticism of The WB's inability to reach that demographic.
One year after the launch of "The Steve Harvey Show," he and co-star Cedric the Entertainer joined D.L. Hughley and Bernie Mac as one of the "The Kings of Comedy," a massively popular stand-up tour that played to arenas around the country. Two performances in Charlotte, NC were later filmed by acclaimed director Spike Lee for "The Original Kings of Comedy," a concert film that proved equally successful at the box office and especially on DVD. Harvey, who served as emcee for the performances, surprised many theaterg rs with the level of profanity in his set, but preserved the core of his appeal in routines about his church upbringing and an improvised bit during which he appropriated a jacket from an audience member after leaving his seat.
Motion pictures were clearly the next step in Harvey's career, and he made his acting debut in a minor role as a hapless DJ in the comedy, "The Fighting Temptations" (2003). A modest success, it paved the way for other supporting turns, including Nick Cannon's hard-working father in the teen comedy "Love Don't Cost a Thing" (2003), and the wealthy and obnoxious brother of put-upon suburbanite Cedric the Entertainer in "Johnson Family Vacation." More benevolent was his Mr. Rad, the owner of a nightclub that hosts athletic dance crew battles in the hit, "You Got Served."
Harvey ended his tenure with The WB sitcom in 2002, citing an interest in exploring other venues, but returned a year later to the network for "Steve Harvey's Big Time Challenge" (2003-05), a one-hour comedy/variety series in which contestants displayed their talents - or lack thereof - in pursuit of a $10,000 prize. Despite a wealth of celebrity judges and Harvey's own appeal, the show failed to find a significant audience during its Sunday night slot. Its failure did not seem to affect Harvey in the least; by that point, he had already moved on to his next project - radio.
Harvey began hosting "The Steve Harvey Morning Show" in 2000; the program was a lively mix of Harvey's humor with advice on the benefits of good behavior, avoiding the temptations of drugs and crime, and even suggestions on maintaining a happy love life. Harvey's intention was to syndicate the program to national audiences, but it was only heard on two stations in Los Angeles and Dallas, TX. Harvey was required to divide his time between the two locations until 2005, when he parted ways with the syndication company, Radio One, and signed a joint deal with Premiere Radio Networks and Inner City Broadcasting Company to carry a new version of the show to the airwaves via his home base at WBLS in New York City. The change proved to be a popular one, and Harvey was soon using the radio as a forum for a variety of philanthropic programs, including The Steve Harvey Foundation, which benefited public schools, to "The Hoodie Awards," which celebrated local businesses and religious organizations for their efforts to improve their communities. Harvey also launched his own clothing line, which emulated his own dapper signature style. His success was celebrated by the Syndicated Personality/Show of the Year award from Radio & Records magazine in 2007.
Though radio was clearly Harvey's main focus, he continued to maintain his stand-up career, as well as the occasional appearance in films and on television. His comedy DVD "Don't Trip He Ain't Through With Me Yet" (2006) showcased a less profane side to his on-stage material, while his vocal cameo - as a chatty fly - in the comedy "Racing Stripes" and brief appearance in Tyler Perry's "Madea G s to Jail" (2009) placed him firmly on the side of family entertainment. That sentiment was ech d by his duties as host of the Disney Dreamers Academy, a 2008 event that brought 100 high school students to Walt Disney World Resort for a "personal and professional enrichment event" that took place over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend.
But kids were not the only ones to receive Harvey's particular brand of sponsorship. In 2009, he released Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment, which purported to explain men's behavior when faced with the possibility of relationships. Harvey's blunt advice found an equal number of supporters and detractors, and the book became a sizable hit. Its popularity did much to dispel the smudge on his otherwise spotless public persona left by a 2007 lawsuit courtesy of his second wife, who accused him of, among other things, adultery and physical and mental abuse. The case was settled with a payment of $10 million - approximately half of Harvey's sizable fortune.
Harvey also made headlines in 2009 due to derogatory comments made to him by fellow stand-up Katt Williams. The feud, which had been made public by Williams in years prior, came to a head during a joint performance on New Year's Eve in Detroit, during which Williams used his stage time to launch into a tirade about Harvey, as well as other comics like Jamie Foxx. Harvey issued several bewildered statements to the press in which he confessed to have no understanding as to why he was being attacked by Williams.
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Harvey on why he does sitcoms: "It's flat-out cold cash. I don't know of anything else I could do legally that could make as much money as this and still let me go to bed at peace with myself." --quoted in Entertainment Weekly, December 16, 1994.
"I have a tendency to agree with what Bill Cosby said one time: If we are going to give America a drive-by view of us [African Americans], then it should always be a positive view, because the only way to help this whole situation is to show the other side. The news will show the negative because they sensationalize everything."--Steve Harvey in Los Angeles Times, October 18, 1994.
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