Cedric's Still Up To Funny Business `The Entertainer' Moves Easily From Standup To Sitcom To Films

Posted: December 13, 1997

CEDRIC ``THE ENTERTAINER'' with THE SUGARHILL GANG. Blockbuster-Sony E-Center, Camden, 8 tonight. Tickets: $20-$35. Info: 215-336-2000, 609-338-9000.

It's all good for Cedric ``The Entertainer.''

The former host of BET's ``Comicview'' co-stars as rotund gym coach Cedric Robinson on ``The Steve Harvey Show'' Wednesday nights on the WB network. He's got a movie titled ``Ride'' scheduled for release in February, co-starring fellow comedian John Witherspoon (``The Wayans Bros.'') and Malik Yoba (``New York Undercover''). And he's still doing standup.

So what's it going to be, Cedric, acting or comedy?

``I love doing comedic acting,'' said Cedric, ``but I always want to have the ability and opportunity to do standup and speak what's on my mind and what's in my head.''

When Cedric does speak, it's usually without the inordinate profanity that fills the routines of other comics. His routines, which often touch on life in the black community, have a down-home appeal.

``It's not as though I don't use curse words in my act,'' said this son of a teacher. ``It's just that it's not done with malicious intent. My comedy comes from an observational point of life. I may put in a word or two, but I'm not profane.'' Audiences hear the curse words ``as flavor or seasoning, not the brunt of the joke.''

The difference between doing standup and acting in a situation comedy is one of control, Cedric said. ``You don't have as much freedom of your own, on your comedy style. You have to perform using what the writers write. But because Steve and I are standup comics, they give some leeway.''

And there's another, more immediate difference, Cedric said. ``You don't get the instant gratification,'' he said. The humor meter is no longer an audience, but the people on the set. ``If we can make the camera crew laugh, then usually you've got a good laugh,'' Cedric said. ``That's the kind of punches you go for.''

``The Steve Harvey Show,'' stars Harvey as Steve Hightower, a '70s R&B star turned high school music teacher, whose best friend is Cedric's character. The show is into its second season and Cedric said it'll be brought back for a third.

``The show is doing good for the network,'' Cedric said. ``They can't complain, therefore we can't complain.''

Meanwhile, Cedric is excited about the Miramax movie, ``Ride,'' his first starring movie role. In the film, produced by the Hudlin Brothers, he and Witherspoon are bus drivers charged with transporting kids from Harlem to Miami. ``I learned a lot from him [Witherspoon],'' Cedric said. ``I played the second man as far as the jokes go. He's a very funny guy.''

Cedric, who doesn't use his last name professionally, was born in Caruthersville, Mo., and grew up in St. Louis, home to a number of comedians, including the late Redd Foxx and Joe Torre. A local comedian, Beverly ``B-Phlat'' Nelson also was raised there.

``He's one of my idols,'' Nelson said. ``He's extremely funny and doesn't curse much.'' And his humor is based on life issues, like growing up in St. Louis,'' Nelson said. ``Even though he's young, he has an old mindset,'' which makes his comedy more universal, Nelson said.

``We all knew of Redd Foxx when we were growing up,'' said Cedric, who only gives his age as 30ish. ``There were others, too, like Zack and Mack, as well as Rodney Wynnefield. It's one of those towns where comedy is king and nobody can explain why.''

In school, ``I wasn't the class clown, but I was always very humorous,'' Cedric said. ``I couldn't be a class clown because my mother was a schoolteacher in the same school district.''

And Cedric's interest wasn't in comedy. ``I loved performing, but never thought I would be a comedian,'' he said. ``I acted and sang in groups in school. That's were the name `Entertainer' came from.''

He worked in clubs and colleges in Missouri, then traveled the country. A comedy competition in Chicago got him started in clubs in Missouri. He's appeared on such shows as ``Showtime at the Apollo,'' HBO's ``Def Comedy Jam,'' and BET's ``Comicview,'' which he hosted after winning the 1994 Richard Pryor Comic of the Year award from BET.

On the road, Harvey and Torre were mentors to Cedric. The story goes that around eight years ago, Cedric drove to Dallas to perform at a comedy club, but discovered his show was canceled. So Cedric went to Harvey's comedy club, watched the headliner bomb, then asked Harvey for a shot. His five-minute routine earned him a standing ovation and Harvey's lasting friendship.

And though you still may see Cedric on BET's ``Comicview,'' those are very old tapes. ``I haven't done that show since 1994,'' Cedric said. ``They show repeats. I don't get any money for it, but it keeps my face and name out there.''

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