August 2002
Serving Sara : An Interview with Cedric “The Entertainer”

Serving Sara : An Interview with Cedric “The Entertainer”

He is no stranger to the big screen, but intends to make his mark in the world of stage, film, and television. Moving straight ahead in his career, Cedric “The Entertainer” sat with to discuss his comedic role in the upcoming movie “Serving Sara” and provide us a sneak preview into his new fall season network variety show on Fox.

AAH: In making the transition from television to film, what is the most difficult part of your job today?

CTE: Well, I just started production on a TV show and I would have to put that out in front right now. I am doing a variety show that has sketches and dance. It’s kind of a throwback to The Carol Burnett Show and Jackie Gleason. It’s a lot of work. I am Executive producer so there is a lot of approving for the writing. But it’s a lot of fun! Its network, for Fox at 8:30pm after Bernie Mac.

AAH: It sounds like a great opportunity. What are some of your reservations given the fact that variety shows have not had much popularity recently?

CTE: We figured that when we first decided to pitch the show. I think that from looking at the past, most variety shows are star driven; from Jackie Gleason, Flip Wilson, to Sunny and Cher. Hopefully, that’s what we will go in with by having some television experience and working on the Steve Harvey Show, doing film, and standup. I want to bring it all together into this show and hopefully be able to draw people into it. I grew up on those kinds of shows and it’s strange that that type of format does not seem to work with this generation. There are people who have never even seen a show like this and because now they’re growing up on strictly sitcoms and American Idol! God Bless ‘em. Most times in television people take formulas and they are hot and go away and people try to bring it back in with a new spin on it. That’s the idea, take an old formula and put something new on it and hopefully a combination of modern television can work with this format.

AAH: What makes you feel that the time is right for something like this?

CTE: It was a feeling and it was my idea as I was approaching doing television. I did not really want to d another family guy with a wife and kids and [provide audiences with] this is my take on what life is today. I think there is enough of that on television already. So I was trying to find another way to be on TV and I thought that the variety format was missing. Plus with the success of Carol Burnett’s reunion show made me think that people were ready for it.

AAH: How do you think that the African-American community will receive this new show?

CTE: I have a strong African-American fan base. I built my career starting on BET hosting Comic View and I was able to go into many homes. That’s where I was able to really establish myself on the national scene. Then, performing around the country with the Kings of Comedy, before it even became this national [film]. The tour was very successful. On a broader sense, I think my comedy has a natural ability to crossover without me intentionally trying to crossover. I think that I will have expectations from the African-American community and I am sure they will get what they want out of the show. At the same time, I am growing and my ideas are broader so I think that everyone will end up enjoying the show. I try to perform like that anyway. Even when I go on stage to perform my standup, I never go up there saying, “oh, this is only for black people.” If you get it, you get it. This is for people that want to laugh and hopefully have some sense of my sense of humor and it helps for me to stay true to that. Even for this movie, I never thought of myself as “the b lack guy in the film.” Sure, Liz and Matthew are on the poster, but hey, I know people like me!

AAH: When you were a little boy, were you funny?

CTE: Yeah, I was a puppet as a little boy. I was born a puppet. No, really, my mother said I was pretty funny and I can remember starting around junior high school I was known for being funny. My friends would wait for me to come into the cafeteria and sit around so that I could talk about people.

AAH: Did it get you in trouble ever?

CTE: Sure, but why you gotta bring that up? I wasn’t really a bad kid, because my mother was a teacher in the district where I went to school. So I was not the class clown. I would clown around, but I was not the official class clown. Everybody had access to my mother so I did not get into too much trouble. There were one or two occasions.

AAH: Have you ever been served in real life?

CTE: I have always avoided it. People are looking for me I know.

AAH: What kind of preparation did you do for your role?

CTE: I thought of a guy, who owns a pawnshop, slash bail bonds shop back in St. Louis where I am from. I figured he [and my character] would be the same kind of guy. Self-made, so he has this kind of smug “I made it” look and he wears these gaudy suits to prove that he is wealthy. We call that “Hood rich.” He’s not really rich – he is a “thousandaire!”

AAH: Reginald said he encouraged people to adlib. Can you tell us more about that?

CTE: That was really great for me because I had a lot of scenes by myself. I was just in the room with no actors to play off of or anything. After you do the scripted version a couple of times, the camera may catch you [yawning]. Reggie is a director who understands comedy. He definitely encouraged takes where you get to run wild and a lot of that stuff made it on the film, which was fun to see.

AAH: What made you want to become a professional comic?

CTE: I was always considered funny. I went to college and studied, sang. I really thought I was going to be a singer. That’s where the “Entertainer” comes from. I was funny to my friends. I used to write jokes that had singers in them. Luther [Vandross] was singing the alphabet. My friends told me to do it on stage. So I finally got on stage one night at a comedy competition. The first time I did comedy, I won $500. I won that competition and I was hooked. I never made $500 at singing. I became really popular in St. Louis really fast. People started to hear about me. I had friends at the radio station and I would call in and do quick little antidotes. So people would hire me to do comedy and I did not have a lot of material at the time. I would sing, do whatever, to fulfill the contract. You’d better call me an entertainer! I’d sing, do poetry, dance, whatever I could do to fill up the time so that I could get my $300.

AAH: What advise would you give other young black comedians coming up now?

CTE: The idea is really just to perform. I try to tell all young comedians that. Continue to perform, to get on the mic and to build a fan base. Nowadays many of the youngsters just want to blow-up. They want to get a deal and want it to happen overnight. I tell them the process of climbing a ladder is so that you know each step. So that if you ever have to go back down, you don’t necessarily have to go to the bottom. You can go back 4 steps and start over again. If you just jump from the bottom to the top, then you’ll get up there and run into a situation that you are not prepared for and get knocked off your pedestal and you won’t know how to get back up. The idea behind that it to perform. Be on stage and on the mic, and building a fan base. Then your fame and notoriety and wealth will come out of that. That’s my attitude and “get out of my way!”

AAH: Thank you very much.

CTE: Thank you.