Steve Harvey Keeps the Comedy Coming

Ed Gordon talks with veteran comedian and entertainer Steve Harvey about his illustrious career in stand-up comedy, radio and film. He has a new movie out, Don't Trip, He Ain't Through With Me Yet!

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

And another entertainer with a lot to say is comedian Steve Harvey.

Mr. STEVE HARVEY (Comedian): Boy, I'm on what I call the Kenyan pace. I'm out front like the Kenyans.

CHIDEYA: For more than 15 years, Steve Harvey has been making people laugh. This original king of comedy hosted its Showtime at the Apollo, starred in his own TV show, and wrote a book. Harvey just returned to the concert stage with a new movie called ‘Don't Trip, He Ain't Through with Me Yet.' It was filmed at the Christian event MegaFest. And Harvey uses absolutely no profanity in this act, but still manages to poke fun at everything from the church to Michael Jackson.

Mr. HARVEY: Mike got that money too where Mike dress different. Mike come out there, I'm ready. Mike come out the room just like Cap'n Crunch. He got all them badges on and them bands on his arm, got them little stripes going down his pants: the boy look like a nutcracker.

CHIDEYA: Harvey also hosts the syndicated radio show, the Steve Harvey Morning Show. Earlier he told NPR's Ed Gordon what makes his show different from the competition.

Mr. HARVEY: I'm the only morning drive guy in secular radio, you know, that plays Hip Hop or R&B or a combination of the two. I'm the only morning drive guy that dedicates the first 12 minutes of the show purely from the inspirational standpoint of talking about God and talking about prayer, and reminding people where all their blessings come from, and allowing people to walk up in a really, really positive.

I always have made a commitment that if God let me get to where I wanted to be, that I would tell everybody how I got there. See, people got to stop thinking that it's about them. People got to quit thinking that they've come up with this great solution for success. Really, man, we are a series of blessings, and oftentimes we're blessed whether we acknowledge it or not.

ED GORDON, host:

Let me ask you this, what is it about Steve Harvey that has allowed you to cross all the genres of entertainment? We don't often see that, Steve?

Mr. HARVEY: You know, Ed, for me, I've earned my living, sent my kids to college with a microphone. And the core of my microphone work is comedy. It starts as a standup with the microphone on a stage. Then it evolved to a TV show, Showtime at the Apollo, and then me and the boys in the Steve Harvey Show, and they hung the mike on a boom and called it a TV show. But me and Ced the Entertainer was still standing up there basically telling jokes, because we can't act. So we was basically standing there telling jokes on a microphone. They just had it hanging in the air.

And the movie is the same thing. And now with the radio world, they just put the microphone on the countertop. And it's all the microphone. And as long as I stay focused with my true gift from God, which is the ability to share information and exchange it in a humorous fashion, and at times with in-depth meaning, as long as I stay in that genre right there, it don't make me no difference. We can do it on the movie screen. We can do it on the TV screen. We can do it on the stage, or we can do it on the radio.

GORDON: Let's get to the new project, that's the film, He Ain't Through With Me Yet. It is a standup that you did at TD Jakes MegaFest. And for you it was new because you had decided that you were going to take profanity out of this.

Mr. HARVEY: Really it started out as just a testament to my mother, who passed away. She was a born again Christian and she never saw me live on stage, because she didn't want to see her son using profanity, cursing. So she never came to see me. And that was good, because if I looked out there and my mama was in the audience, that would have shut me down completely. And so I wanted to do something to honor her memory. And then you start getting older, you look at your place in history and what you're going to be thought of when it's a wrap for you, and I just decided, man, I need to do something clean and maybe expose myself to a whole other audience; which is scary though, Ed, because when you been rolling like this for over 20 years, saying what you want to say, cussing or whatever, and it served you well economic wise, you know what I mean--

I mean, I done sent my kids to school; my family has a secure base because of this; my kids have something; I can leave them something because of this. And to switch off of that, man, is a little scary because I don't really know if the new audience is going to really pay to see that. I didn't know if I could be that funny.

(Soundbite from movie ‘He Ain't Through With Me Yet.')

Mr. HARVEY: For those of you that's got them bad kids, I'm talking about the ones that you can't do nothing with at your house, stop bringing them kids to church, dropping them off at the baby Bible school, and then turn around walk out like you don't know what's fixin' to happen. You know good and well then little rowdy, evil little hell-bound kids is fixin' to tear that Bible school up. As soon as you walk out, it ain't even a Bible school no more, it's a juvenile detention center.

GORDON: You and I have known each other for a long time and shared some private conversations and the like. And I know you see the entertainment side of Steve Harvey as just the ability to make change, particularly in our community. Talk to me about how you see that.

Mr. HARVEY: Well, you know, man--I'm a responsible person, and as an African American male, I take full responsibility for that. When I see us on TV, I literally see us on TV. When I see the bad news stories, I see a piece of me there, because that could be me had I not understood some things earlier. So I have a responsibility to our community to try to be a better man, to be a more just brother. I have a responsibility to that. 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.

Our community can ill afford to act like we are not role models, because we need it. There's such a lack of positive male role models in our community, man, that those of us who have a shot at becoming one, we got to take it, man. In our community, we can't afford to make it and don't reach back. We just can't, man. We just can't, Ed.

GORDON: Steve Harvey, always good to talk to you.

Mr. HARVEY: I love you, brother. Appreciate you always, Ed.

CHIDEYA: Steve Harvey's live concert film, Don't Trip, He Ain't Through With Me Yet is currently in theatres.

(Soundbite of music)

That's our program for today. To listen to the show, visit NPR.org.

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