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Cedric "The Entertainer," (the St. Louis native donned the moniker about 10 years ago when he added singing and dancing to his stand up routine), discovered his uncanny ability to make people laugh while cutting up in junior high school.
"I was one of the guys sitting in the cafeteria who made everybody laugh," he says. "But I never attempted to step on stage as a comedian until long after college."
Cedric, now 30-something, says he was about 26 years old when he won $500 doing his shtick in the national Johnny Walker Comedy Contest in Chicago after some friends challenged him to try out. Cedric took their challenge, competing first in a regional contest and then winning at the quarterfinals.
The Chicago contest gave Cedric just enough notoriety to land some local gigs in St. Louis. He soon returned to Chicago, though, to compete in the Miller Genuine Draft Comedy Search. He won first place.
"That was way before I met Steve Harvey," says Cedric whose humor hinges on observations of everyday life.
Two years later, after more St. Louis gigs, Cedric met Harvey in a Dallas nightclub on a night when Harvey was having a tough time connecting with the audience. Cedric was asked to come up and perform for five minutes. He was a hit and the two men became fast friends. After their chance meeting, Harvey helped Cedric polish his act and gave him a better understanding of the business. It wasn't long before Cedric landed the role of a chubby high school gym teacher on WB's Steve Harvey Show.
In Spike Lees new movie "The Original Kings of Comedy," Cedrics fans will get to see how well this fedora wearing teddy-bear comic buffers the torrid comedy attacks of Bernie Mac and D.L. Hughley. Cedric's humor stands out with routines like the ups and downs of smoking, electing the first black president and his impressions of singer Luther Vandross.
"Spike was very voyeuristic in the way he set up the cameras," Cedric says. "He did have a goal he wanted to accomplish. He wanted to capture the event and show it like that. I think he captured it very well."
Cedric says Lee allowed the quartet to perform their regular stand up routine during the two days of shooting. However, Lee did leave a few of the bookend scenes of Harvey, Mac, Hughley and Cedric playing poker on the cutting room floor.
"I thought there was a lot of good stuff in there," Cedric says about the edited parts of the show. "We had some other scenes that I thought were fun, too. But at the same time, I thought what they did show was pretty good."
Cedric says the "Kings of Comedy" tour started with three dates in 1997, and the bulk of the tour running in 1998 and 1999.
"So it had been about 2 1/2 years," Cedric says. "We hadnt seen each other in awhile and we were all anticipating getting together again."
When the movie finally opened, Cedric says he watched the concert film at a premiere in his home town of St. Louis.
"It was with regular folks," Cedric says. "I just wanted to be able to give back to the community. Being a mainstay in the community and coming back here to do a premiere, well, celebrities dont really do things like that. So that made it exciting and we got some good reaction and people really appreciated it."
In St. Louis, Cedric started the "Cedric the Entertainer Charity Foundation" four years ago.
"The Foundation offers scholarships and out-reach programs for under-privileged kids," says Cedric. "It gets them out of their environment and gives them a chance to visit different cities such as Atlanta, Chicago and New York. It's a chance for them to get out and experience different things."
"Hopefully that opens up their world," Cedric explains. "We want them to see that they don't have to be confined to the elements they have been in."
Cedric says stand up comedy is the pillar of his career and life. He says it helps him stay on a solid foundation.
"I do enjoy film and television, though" Cedric says. "But Im not really a sitcom kind of guy. Im enjoying the Steve Harvey Show but Im not into doing a spin off or doing my own show in that manner. I would probably like to do television but in the style of the Flip Wilson Show, with a Carol Burnett format."
Cedric says "The Original Kings of Comedy" is diverse and funny, and he enjoys the fact that his unique style of humor appeals to a wide variety of audiences.
"I dont want people to see the images on the posters and see the trailers and think its just a black film for black people," Cedric says. "I think that this film is a funny movie and people should just go out and laugh."