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The Still Trippiní Interview with Kam Williams
Headline: Steve Reflects on His Career and on the Passing of His Pal Bernie Mac
Broderick Steven Harvey was born in Welch, West Virginia on January 17, 1956, although he grew up in Cleveland where he graduated from Glenville High School in 1974. After brief stints as a boxer and an insurance salesman, he paid his dues for several years on the Chitliní Circuit honing his craft as a stand-up comedian.
Steve found national fame in 1994, when he was picked to emcee ďItís Showtime at the Apollo.Ē Soon thereafter, the versatile funnyman landed his own sitcom, ďThe Steve Harvey ShowĒ and went on to enjoy an enduring career in show business.
In 2000, he crisscrossed the country with Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley and the late Bernie Mac as one of The Original Kings of Comedy, a sold out tour filmed and turned into a phenomenally-popular concert flick by Spike Lee. A six-time NAACP Image Award-winner, Steve currently hosts a nationally-syndicated radio show broadcast from New York City.
Here, he talks about his career, the passing of fellow King of Comedy Bernie Mac, and about Still Trippiní, a DVD of his latest stand-up act which was recently filmed in front of a live audience in Newark, New Jersey.
KW: Hi Steve, thanks again for the time.
SH: Hey man, whatís happening? How you doing?
KW: Iím fine, thanks. I loved this new concert film, Still Trippiní and I gave it four stars, but I felt that you were just as funny on your previous DVD, Donít Trip, which was clean. Why did you add the curse words back into your act?
SH: Well, you know itís really not that I added them back in. When I did Donít Trip with Bishop T.D. Jakes, it was really to take me to a place where Iíd never gone in my stand-up before, working spotlessly clean before a religious organization. I had to write a lot of material just for that show, and I was very proud of it. It was really a tribute to my mom because she had passed. Since my mother was saved, she never saw me perform because of the profanity. So, I wanted to do something to honor her. That was the one time I worked totally clean, other than on TV and sitcoms and stuff like that. So, I donít really know that I added it back in, but I dug your review though and I appreciate what you said.
KW: But didnít you become a Born Again Christian after your association with Bishop Jakes?
SH: The truth is Iíve always been a Christian. Whatís amazing, man, is that the flaws that come with Christianity are really weird, because mine have a microphone and a camera attached to them. Most people donít have to live under that microscope. Iím still very much a Christian and have a great relationship with God. I love Him, but one of my flaws is that I cuss. Iím just being honest with you, man. But Iíll tell you this, the thing I did with Bishop Jakes, Donít Trip, is to date my absolute greatest piece of work. Even as crazy as I am, I have enough sense to know that.
KW: Yeah, that performance wasnít just funny, but that finale was very powerful, spiritually.
SH: Iím even thinking of doing another concert like that as my farewell DVD, because I donít know how much longer Iíve got at this in terms of touring. Iím think 2009 and 2010 could be the farewell tour, because I kinda want to walk out of the business leaving a legacy behind that I was clean but a really, really funny guy, before people stop paying to see me.
KW: Youíve enjoyed so much success in terms of TV, radio, movies and stand-up, that I donít think you have to worry about your legacy. I think itís already established as first rate.
SH: I appreciate that. A lot of that is going to be up to you guys in the press and how you write about it.
KW: Speaking of leaving a legacy, you worked with Bernie Mac on The Kings of Comedy tour and on television. How did you feel when you learned about his passing?
SH: Man, that was tough, because I never knew exactly how old Bernie was. On the Kings tour, we played golf, we swapped cigars, and we told the funniest stories in the dressing rooms, stuff that you couldnít say on stage. But we must have never mentioned our ages. So, it hit me really hard while I was watching a tribute to him by Larry King, which we all were a part of, when I saw 1957-2008 on the screen under Bernieís picture. It hit home, because I was born in 1957, too, and except for the grace of God, that could easily have been me. Itís too young to pass, I think, but Bernieís time was up. It struck me very deeply when I saw the dates on the monitor. Thatís what hit me the hardest, to realize how fortunate I am to still be here.
KW: And then, the day after Bernie died, Isaac Hayes passed away. And both of you were radio show hosts in New York.
SH: Right. And I saw Sam [Samuel L. Jackson] at Bernieís funeral. And all three of them were in this movie together.
KW: Soul Men, which opened a couple of months later.
SH: It was kinda weird that Bernie and Isaac Hayes had passed, and Sam was living. It must have been pretty tough for him and it probably had him thinking about a lot of things. Iím pretty sure he didnít feel like promoting the movie. It was tough, that whole run right there. í08 was a stressful year, man.
KW: I want to talk a little about your new DVD. I thought that bit you did about the homely women in that polygamous cult in Texas, comparing them to Aunt Bee from Andy of Mayberry and Jane Hathaway of The Beverly Hillbillies was hilarious. How do you come up with your material?
SH: When you do radio, youíre kept abreast of all these news stories. On the air you have the FCC restrictions, but when you get to the concert stage itís weird, because I have the same subjects, but Iím just free to adjust my timing, and to add facial expressions which reflect my thought processes. In actuality, when you hear these news stories as a stand-up comedian, you see them totally differently. For instance, I see these women, and Iím asking, ďWow! Why would anybody want eight of these as a wife?Ē Iím looking at their outfits, and Iím going, ďMan, these ainít the most appealing-looking outfits.Ē Nobody says, man, these chicks are hot. If I had four of themÖĒ Instead, everybodyís looking at them and asking, ďWho the hell does their hair like that?Ē And then, how do you get away with just loading these womenís kids on a bus? Ainít nobody trying to turn the bus over?
SH: Come on, man! See, my gift is in pulling out the absurdity of a news event.
KW: And how about the riff you did about the female astronaut arrested in adult diapers?
SH: Nobody can actually plan on driving and just urinating. That cannot be your plan. How pissed off are you? When you stop for gas, that might be a good time to unload yourself. Why would you sit there, when youíve wet your pants? Now we have some other problems because your urine at this age is very different.
SH: See, what I do is take a situation and extract all the absurdity out of it. Thatís what makes the bits great, man
KW: How do you feel about Obamaís victory?
SH: I think itís the greatest thing ever for this country. Even deeper than that, I think itís big for the world. When I was overseas in France this summer, everybody who came up to me said, ďObama! Obama! Obama! Please!Ē So, I think his winning has done a lot for the reputation of America. Iím also happy for African-Americans that they get to feel a sense of belonging, finally, and that their vote does count, and just being able to point to our children and say, ďOkay, hereís the deal, everything is possible now, for real.Ē Itís all possible now. This kills the excuses for everybody, and it helps those of us who are parents to be able to say, ďHey, this can happen for you. You can become the President of the United States. Letís not use our color as a crutch anymore, but rather as a pole vault stick to get over all these barriers.Ē Thatís what I think is great about Obamaís election.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
SH: Am I happy? Yes I am.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
SH: UhhÖ no.
KW: Is there a question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
SH: [Chuckles] No, theyíve asked me everything, man.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
SH: Ex-Free: 9 Keys to Freedom after Heartbreak by Troy Byer.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: Whatís music are you listening to right now?
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