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Harvey, Steve

Steve Harvey

1957(?)–

Comedian, actor

Stand-up comedians often use their profession as a springboard to the entertainment big time—work in television or in film—but not Steve Harvey. Harvey saw television and film as tools to make him a better stand-up. As he told the Chicago Tribune: "My goal has never been a sitcom. My goal has never been a movie. My goal was always to have been one of the top stand-ups in the nation." Despite starring in popular television programs, appearing in several feature films, and hosting a syndicated morning radio show, Harvey continued to define himself as a comedian. "A stand-up is what I am," Harvey told Jason Cohen of Texas Monthly. "It's the only form where you're out there and it's just you." Harvey's focus on being a stand-up made him stand out from his competition.

Late Start in Comedy

Harvey was born on January 17, 1956, in the small town of Welch, West Virginia. Before Harvey entered grade school, his parents moved their five children to inner-city Cleveland, Ohio. There Harvey nurtured a love of sports and learned how to navigate the tough street culture. He attended two years at Kent State University before leaving school to work. He worked several different factory jobs and sold life insurance before discovering his ambition to be a comedian.

A year after winning an amateur comedy contest in 1984, Harvey decided at the age of 28 to take his act on the road. Although most comics start their careers at an earlier age, Harvey told Tom Walter of the Commercial Appeal that his late start was beneficial: "It helped because it became the basis for my material; it's more mature than what the other guys talk about. I don't do heavy sex stuff, I don't do vulgarity. I talk about real life. I don't do blue comedy. A lot of the young guys break into the business and have nothing to talk about except the first time they (had sex), which was the week before last … I usually touch on what's bugging me. I've got a great run on relationships. I do about 25 minutes on what women wear to bed."

After putting over 120,000 miles on his Bonneville in one year, Harvey slowly began to build a name for himself. His incessant traveling and growing name recognition led him to several appearances on the syndicated television show It's Showtime at the Apollo. Harvey prospered despite some trying circumstances, such as performing before a bitter audience in place of Public Enemy who were forced to cancel a show with no notice. Harvey would go on to become the regular host of It's Showtime at the Apollo from 1994 to 2000.

Festival Brought Big Break

Harvey's big break came at the 1993 Montreal Just For Laughs International Comedy Festival. Among the audience were executives from all the major television networks. Harvey left Montreal with a developmental contract for what would become a short-lived, but important series called Me and the Boys. The year 1993 was also pivotal for Harvey as an entrepreneur. He opened his own comedy club in Dallas, Texas, called Steve Harvey's Comedy House. The club, created just for comedians, was only the fourth African-American owned comedy club in the country.

In 1994 Me and the Boys debuted on the ABC television network. Harvey starred as Steve Tower, a single male widow raising his three sons. A big component of the program was the love and respect shown between a black father and his sons. Harvey, a father of twin girls, told Clarence Waldron of Jet why this part of the show was so important: "I want America in general, all people to understand that this is a way that many of us live. We, as Black people, do first and foremost love our children. And we do make really great parents, whether we are single or married or whatever; we have a loving relationship with our children." Me and the Boys, which appeared on Tuesday nights before the ratings juggernaut Home Improvement, was the highest-rated show in its time slot and among the top 20 highest-rated shows on television. Harvey was nominated for the 1995 People's Choice Award for the favorite male in a new television series.

Despite its ratings success and the show's critical praise for its positive depiction of an African-American family in a sea of television drug dealers and hoodlums, ABC canceled the show. Harvey believed that although Me and the Boys was a "family hit," ABC saw rival network NBC earn higher ratings with more adult-oriented programming and decided to take his sitcom off the air. Harvey quickly moved on to his next project without bitterness. In addition to his stand-up act and his duties at It's Showtime at the Apollo, Harvey hosted an episode of Def Comedy Jam and Dick Clark's New Years Rockin' Eve.

If 1995 was a busy year for Harvey, 1996 was a year in which he barely had time to sleep. In February of 1996 Harvey began hosting a morning radio show on Chicago's top-rated WGCI-FM. Harvey got up at 3:30 A.M. every Monday through Friday to host the daily program from his apartment in Los Angeles. Harvey's national recognition surged, however, when he became a spokesman for Denny's restaurants and was tapped to create his own television series.

Created The Steve Harvey Show

Warner Brothers signed Harvey to create and star in a new television series in 1996. Producers and directors from sitcoms such as NewsRadio, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Moesha teamed with the comedian to create The Steve Harvey Show. Harvey played Steve Hightower, a former leader of an R&B group from the 1970s trying to teach music to students at an inner-city high school. Harvey set out to develop a show that was comical, but more thoughtful than most situational comedies. Evidence of this resolve was an episode of The Steve Harvey Show which united West Coast rapper Snoop Doggy Dog and East Coast producer, rapper, and C.E.O. of Bad Boy Entertainment, Sean "Puffy" Combs. The two entertainers pledged to end their rivalry in a news conference before making an appearance on The Steve Harvey Show.

At a Glance …

Born January 17, 1956, in Welch, WV; raised in Cleveland, OH; divorced twice; children: Brandi and Karli (first marriage), Wynton (second marriage). Education: Attended Kent State University, 1976–77(?).

Career : Stand-up comedian, 1980s–; Steve Harvey's Comedy House, Dallas, TX, 1993–199(?); television show host, 1994–2005; Radio One, morning radio host, 2000–2005; Premiere Radio Networks, morning radio host, 2005–; Steve and Mary L. Harvey Foundation, co-founder, 2001–.

Awards: NAACP Image Awards, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000.

Addresses: Web—www.steveharvey.com.

Harvey earned near unanimous praise for his role in the series. Ken Tucker, in an Entertainment Weekly article, offered his opinion of Me and the Boys and The Steve Harvey Show: "Two years ago, the enormously likable Harvey was wasted in the bland ABC sitcom Me and the Boys; this one—in which he plays a high school music teacher—is merely a tad better. But Harvey is terrific in conveying the life of a man raised on '60s soul who's trying to retain his dignity in the hip-hop '90s." The program eventually became one of the most watched television programs among African-American audiences.

Pursued Many Avenues for Success

As Harvey's fame grew on television, he continued to maintain his exposure in a variety of media outlets. Harvey found hosting a morning radio program thrilling. He explained his attachment to radio in a 1997 interview with Allan Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "To be funny on the radio is such a challenge, man. But you know why I enjoy radio? Not being funny, because I can be funny on stage, on TV, I've got a lot of avenues to do that … Radio allows me and affords me the opportunity to share with a large number of people my feelings and thought about real issues. I think it's my ability to be serious on radio that attracts me more than anything. Because I get to stand up and say stuff for black people, on behalf of black people, and about black people. And I love that spokesman role." Harvey stayed with WGCI-FM from 1996 to 1997, and then hosted another radio program aired in Los Angeles and Dallas from 2000 to 2005 before landing a nationally syndicated program, The Steve Harvey Morning Show, aired from New York City starting in 2005. His program appealed to a huge audience. A telling example of his appeal was noted in a radio ratings report in the Detroit Free Press in 2006. The report determined that "Harvey's radio ascendance is one of the quickest in Detroit radio history" and that his show was "the first syndicated show in the modern radio era to lead the morning race among all listeners" in Detroit.

While performing on television and radio, Harvey never stopped his stand-up performances. He toured regularly. The T-Neck/Island Black Music label released Harvey's comedy album entitled Steve Harvey Live … Down South Somewhere. The album highlighted Harvey's stories about the differences between the sexes and the races in Harvey's audacious yet "clean" style. Harvey's stand-up routine was also featured in his December 1997 HBO Comedy Special called Steve Harvey: One Man. Harvey also began touring with the "Kings of Comedy" in the summer of 1997. The tour was considered a turning point for African-American comedians because it proved to be so profitable. It was conceived by entrepreneur Walter Latham as a way to promote black comedians, and it met with such success—by selling out large venues throughout the country—that subsequent tours were arranged. "We put our talents and ticket-selling power together. It's a monster tour. That's a testament and a lesson to be learned for all Black people. It's amazing what you can do if you stick together," Harvey noted in Jet in 1999. Spike Lee filmed the documentary The Original Kings of Comedy in 2000, featuring Harvey and comedians Cedric "The Entertainer," D.L. Hughley, and Bernie Mac.

By the early 2000s, Harvey had become one of the most widely recognized African-American entertainers. The Steve Harvey Show and his morning radio show attracted huge audiences. During The Steve Harvey Show's six-year run, Harvey won four NAACP Image Awards for his part in it. While his television show remained popular, Harvey decided to end it in 2002 to concentrate on other projects. He took part in feature films, including The Fighting Temptation and Love Don't Cost a Thing in 2003 and Johnson Family Vacation in 2004. He also continued at the WB Network from 2003 to 2005 as host of Steve Harvey's Big Time, a talk-variety show featuring ordinary people displaying unusual talents. The films and variety show enjoyed some popularity, but it was Harvey's stand-up routine that attracted attention.

Time for a Change

Harvey had built a reputation as a family-friendly television persona, but his stand-up acts had been decidedly more mature in nature. Twenty years into his career, however, Harvey decided to change. He determined to make his stand-up work accessible to all audiences. He left out profanity and added in more references to his faith. His change was not subtle. He announced his decision, and produced and starred in Don't Trip … He Ain't Through With Me Yet, a stand-up comedy film featuring himself and friends performing for a crowd of churchgoers. The inspiration for the film came from Harvey's mother who, Harvey told the Michigan Chronicle, "passed away eight years ago and never saw me perform live because she didn't want to hear me cuss." Harvey dedicated the film to her and found such success with his new method that he decided to do more. "Now I'm in the process of changing, becoming more 'Cosbyish,' it's a funny trip turning my career around at this stage … I've got to figure out how to write the rest of my shows like this … [I'll] need a lot of people praying for me 'cause I'm not Bill Cosby—my thought process has an edge to it. It ain't all pudding to me," he told Scotty Ballard of Jet. Despite the difficulty Harvey found changing the presentation style of his comedy, he explained to National Public Radio interviewer Ed Gordon that he needed to do it because he considered himself a role model. "I have a responsibility to our community to try to be a better man, to be a more just brother…. You know, we oftentimes say-people want to say, we ain't role models. That's the parents' job. Well, I'm sorry, man. There are some kids that look up to us, admire us. There are some young people, young adults that look up to us and admire us. And we do, we have to be examples." And Harvey remained convinced that he could best serve his community through comedy. "I've got nothing else to do, I was born with this," Harvey told the Michigan Chronicle. "I can't anymore not do it than Michael Jordan could have not played basketball or anymore than Tiger Woods could not be a golfer. It was what I was born into and I enjoy making people laugh. Laughter is good medicine, it's healing."

Selected works

Albums

Steve Harvey Live … Down South Somewhere, T-Neck/Island Black Music, 1997.

Television

It's Showtime at the Apollo, 1994–2000.
Me and the Boys, 1994.
The Steve Harvey Show, 1996–2002.
Steve Harvey's Big Time, 2003–2005.

Films

The Original Kings of Comedy, 2000.
The Fighting Temptation, 2003.
Love Don't Cost a Thing, 2003.
Johnson Family Vacation, 2004.
You Got Served, 2004.
Don't Trip … He Ain't Through with Me Yet, 2006.

Sources

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, December 19, 1997, p. 26.

Commercial Appeal, March, 1997, p. E3.

Detroit Free Press, October 18, 2006.

Entertainment Weekly, September 13, 1996, p. 60.

Jet, November 28, 1994, p. 34; September 20, 1999, p. 58; March 18, 2002, p. 56; March 20, 2006, p. 54.

Michigan Chronicle, March 29-April 4, 2006, p. B1.

People, September 25, 2000, p. 81.

Texas Monthly, May 1998, p. C1.

On-line

"Comedian with a 'Tude," Cigar Aficionado, www.cigaraficionado.com/Cigar/CA_Profiles/People_Profile/0,2540,215,00.html (November 13, 2006).

Steve Harvey, www.steveharvey.com (November 13, 2006).

Other

"Steve Harvey Keeps the Comedy Coming," interview with Ed Gordon, National Public Radio, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5289459 (November 14, 2006).

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"Harvey, Steve." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Harvey, Steve." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/harvey-steve

Harvey, Steve 1957–

Steve Harvey 1957

Comedian, actor

The Rise and Fall of a TV Show

New Challenges

Sources

Though most stand-up comedians use their profession as a springboard to the entertainment big timework in television or the moviesSteve Harvey wants to use these mediums to make him a better stand-up. Like his career goal, his road to comedic success was different than most stand-ups. Harvey was born in West Virginia in 1957 and grew up in inner-city Cleveland. After spending two years at Kent State Harvey left college, working several different factory jobs and selling life insurance. In 1984 Harvey won an amateur comedy contest and decided one year later at the age of 28 to take his act on the road.

Although most comics start their careers at an earlier age, Harvey told Tom Walter of the Commercial Appeal that his late start was beneficial: It helped because it became the basis for my material; its more mature than what the other guys talk about. I dont do heavy sex stuff, I dont do vulgarity. I talk about real life. I dont do blue comedy. A lot of the young guys break into the business and have nothing to talk about except the first time they (had sex), which was the week before last I usually touch on whats bugging me. Ive got a great run on relationships. I do about 25 minutes on what women wear to bed.

After putting over 120,000 miles on his Bonneville in one year, Harvey slowly began to build a name for himself. His incessant traveling and growing name recognition led him to several appearances on the syndicated television show Its Showtime at the Apollo Harvey prospered despite some trying circumstances, such as performing before a bitter audience in place of Public Enemy who were forced to cancel a show with no notice. Harvey was soon hosting the program while continuing his stand-up career.

The Rise and Fall of a TV Show

In 1994 Harvey appeared in the ABC sitcom called Me and the Boys, starring as Steve Tower, a single male widow raising his three sons. A big component of the program was the love and respect shown between a black father and his sons. Harvey, a father of twin girls, told Clarence Waldron of Jet why this part of the show was so important: I want America in general, all people to understand that this is a way that many of us live. We, as Black people, do first and foremost love our children. And we do make really great parents, whether we are single or married or whatever; we have a loving relationship with our children. Me and the Boys, which appeared on Tuesday nights before the ratings juggernaut Home Improvement, was the highest-rated show in its time slot and among the top 20 highest-rated shows on television. Harvey won the 1995 Peoples Choice Award for the favorite male in a new television series.

Despite its ratings success and the shows critical praise for its positive depiction of an African American family

At a Glance

Born in West Virginia in 1957; divorced father of twin daughters. Education: Attended Kent State University for two years.

Career: Stand-up comedian; host of syndicated television program Its Showtime at the Apollo; former morning radio host for Chicagos WGCI-FM 1996-97; star of ABC Televisions Me and the Boys, 1994-95; star of Warner Brothers Television Networks The Steve Harvey Show, 1996-; released 1997 comedy album, Steve Harvey Live Somewhere Down South performed in his own 1997 HBO Comedy Special Called Steve J Harvey: Ohe Man

Addresses: HomeDallas, TX; OfficeThe Steve Harvey Show, 4000 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91522.

in a sea of television drug dealers and hoodlums, ABC canceled the show. Harvey believed that though Me and the Boys was a family hit, the network saw the success that NBC was having with more adult-oriented programming and decided to cancel the show. Harvey quickly moved on to his next project without bitterness. In addition to his stand-up act and his duties at Showtime at the Apollo, Harvey hosted an episode of Def Comedy Jam and Dick Clarks New Years Rockin Eve.

New Challenges

If 1995 was a busy year for Harvey, 1996 was a year in which he barely had time to sleep. In February of 1996 Harvey began hosting a morning radio show on Chicagos top-rated WGCI-FM. Harvey got up at 3:30 A.M. every Monday through Friday to host the daily program from his apartment in Los Angeles. Besides the radio program, his Apollo hosting duties, and a full slate of performances across the country, Harvey took on two new projects. He became a spokesperson for Dennys restaurants and was involved in all the companys media, including print, radio, and television advertising.

Harvey also was signed by Warner Brothers to create and star in a new television series. Producers and directors from sitcoms such as NewsRadio, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Moesha teamed with the comedian to create The Steve Harvey Show Harvey played Steve Hightower, a former leader of an R&B group from the 1970s trying to teach music to students at an inner-city high school. Harvey set out to develop a show that was comical, but more thoughtful than most sitcom comedies. Evidence of this resolve was an episode of The Steve Harvey Show which united West Coast rapper Snoop Doggy Dog and East Coast producer, rapper, and C.E.O. of Bad Boy Entertainment, Sean Puffy Combs. The two entertainers pledged to end their rivalry in a news-conference before making an appearance on The Steve Harvey Show

Though the show received mixed reviews in its first two seasons, Harvey again earned near unanimous praise for his role in the series. Ken Tucker, in an Entertainment Weekly article, offered his opinion of Me and the Boys and The Steve Harvey Show: Two years ago, the enormously likable Harvey was wasted in the bland ABC sitcom Me and the Boys; this onein which he plays a high school music teacheris merely a tad better. But Harvey is terrific in conveying the life of a man raised on 60s soul whos trying to retain his dignity in the hip-hop 90s.

Burning the candle at both ends took its toll on a part of Harveys career. In February of 1997 Harvey left his radio job because of differences with management and exhaustion. Despite his grueling schedule and mounting success, radio still remains an important medium for Harvey. He explained his attachment to radio in a 1997 interview with Allan Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: To be funny on the radio is such a challenge, man. But you know why I enjoy radio? Not being funny, because I can be funny on stage, on TV, Ive got a lot of avenues to do that Radio allows me and affords me the opportunity to share with a large number of people my feelings and thought about real issues. I think its my ability to be serious on radio that attracts me more than anything. Because I get to stand up and say stuff for black people, on behalf of black people, and about black people. And I love that spokesman role.

The stand-ups stand-up is more than a man relentlessly driven by his own career goals. Harvey talks to young people across the country in high schools and youth detention centers about setting goals and avoiding drugs. Harvey has started another project for young people which is more personal for him. He is creating a program called the King Love Center, named after his hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Center is being created for young people to learn about the subjects which Harvey is constantly stressinga positive attitude, following your dreams, and building character.

As Harveys radio career was temporarily interrupted, his stand-up performances continued to bring him more and more recognition. The T-Neck/Island Black Music label released Harveys comedy album entitled Steve Harvey Live Down South Somewhere. The album highlights Harveys stories about the differences between the sexes and the races in Harveys audacious yet clean style. Another major event for Harvey was his December 1997 HBO Comedy Special called Steve Harvey: One Man. Harvey hopes the special, which he believes is one of the top comedy specials of its kind, will bring him closer to his ultimate goal.

To Harvey, despite all of his others endeavors and the very real possibility of future work in films and other endorsements, he remains what he always has beena stand-up comedian. He told the Chicago Tribune: When they say the elite group of comedians today, I want them to have to say my name [I want to] go to any theater in any major city and sell it out and do my thing. And thats always been my goal. My goal has never been a sitcom. My goal has never been a movie. My goal was always to have been one of the top stand-ups in the nation.

Sources

Chicago Tribune, December 19, 1997, p. 26.

Commercial Appeal, March, 1997, p. E3.

Entertainment Weekly, September 13, 1996, p. 60.

Jet, November 28, 1994, p. 34.

Michael J. Watkins

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
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"Harvey, Steve 1957–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Harvey, Steve 1957–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/harvey-steve-1957

"Harvey, Steve 1957–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/harvey-steve-1957