On this day in comedy on April 24, 1964, Comedian, Actor, Game Show Host, Cedric Anderson Kyles (Cedric the Entertainer) was born in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Cedric walked through the comedy door with a solid work ethic. He’d been a claims adjustor for State farm and a substitute teacher. How hard could standup comedy be? Beginning right before the Black Comedy Boom in the early 1990s, he’d already grasped his persona and how to ‘entertain’ an audience by working on the chitlin circuit throughout the Mid-West and Down South on runs like Creative Entertainment one-niters, Comedy Zones, Punchlines and other assorted repeated named clubs.
In 1993 he got a major break. After foregoing the advice to concentrate on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, Cedric put all his efforts (and at the time the bulk of his new hot and tested material) into a BET Comic View appearance where the bigger payoff was hosting that show for a season. All he had to do was beat out over 50 other comics in a city not his own. In 1994 he succeeded first host, D. L. Hughley and the ratings were great. Cedric’s price went up and his notoriety skyrocketed.
Next break came from Steve Harvey. In 1996 Cedric was tapped to play Steve’s buddy on The Steve Harvey Show on the WB. The role of Cedric Robinson gained Cedric numerous Image Awards. Then it was off to the movies. Cedric got a deal and got busy. In rapid succession he appeared in Ride, Big Momma’s House, Kingdom Come, Serving Sara, Barbershop, Ice Age, Intolerable Cruelty, Barbershop 2: Back in Business, Johnson Family Vacation, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Be Cool, Man of the House and The Honeymooners.
During this busy period Cedric took time out to go on tour. The Original Kings of Comedy consisted of Bernie Mac, Steve Harvey, Cedric and Guy Torry (as show host). On the second leg of this ground-breaking black comedy tour playing to packed arenas, D. L. Hughley was added (Guy Torry had left to do a TV series) and Steve Harvey took over the hosting duties. Director, Spike Lee filmed it and the tour set the new template of what the public expected for their hard earned dollars: familiar faces with proven track records individually; now combined to equal an entertainment bargain. Every sub-group and gender and race picked up on it and everybody was some type of royalty before they set foot on a stage.
Cedric made more movies (Code Name: The Cleaner, Talk to Me, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Street Kings, Cadillac Records, Larry Crowe, A Haunted House, Top Five) and went back into television, guest starring and more. He had the short-lived variety show, Cedric the Entertainer Presents. He hosted Who Wants to be a Millionaire and starred in his TV-Land hit, The Soul Man (co-starring Niecy Nash) simultaneously. He’s had HBO Comedy Specials, voiced animated films (Madagascar, Planes and TV’s The Proud Family and The Boondocks), did the Broadway revival of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” and continued to be a patron of standup comedy by fronting comedy tours introducing newer or unsung acts.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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