Cedric the Entertainer Interviewed by Kam Williams
Cedric Kyles was born in Jefferson City, Missouri on April 24, 1964 (the same day and year of actor Djimon Hounsou's birth). Before he found his true calling, he majored in communications at S.E. Missouri State and whiled away his days gainfully employed by State Farm Insurance. But after several years trying his hand on the stand-up circuit, he finally quit his day job in 1992, after landing a job hosting BET's Comicview as Cedric the Entertainer.
The rest, as they say, is show-biz history, as the ubiquitous funnyman has since been found all over television, from sitcoms to cartoons to Lite Beer commercials to his very own variety show. And he's proven to be just as prodigious a talent in feature films, starring in everything from Big Momma's to The Original Kings of Comedy to Ice age to Intolerable Cruelty to Barbershop.
Directed by John Schultz
Pictures, MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some innuendo and rude humor.
With his services increasingly in demand around Hollywood, Cedric has appeared in seven movies in the past year alone: Johnson Family Vacation, Barbershop 2, Lemony Snicket's, Man of the House, Be Cool, Madagascar, and now, The Honeymooners, a screen adaptation of the classic, 1950s TV series.
When not busy with his hectic schedule, Cedric unwinds at home in L.A. his wife, Lorna, their son, Croix, their daughter, Lucky Rose, and with Tiara, his daughter from a previous relationship.
Here's he speaks about taking on the challenge of reviving the role of the irascible, but lovable Ralph Kramden.
Kam Williams: Hey, Cedric, thanks for the interview.
Cedric the Eentertainer: "Not a problem, man. How you doin' this morning?"
KW: I brought my son and his friend to the Ice Age premiere a while back and I meant to thank you for taking the time to stop and talk to them and to sign autographs for them.
CE: "Oh, thank you, man."
KW: Why did you decide to play Ralph Kramden?
CE: "I thought it was a great TV show when it was on, and I just felt that trying to step into the footsteps of Jackie Gleason was choice that made this a smart movie for me to do for the new millennium."
KW: How big a fan of The Honeymooners were you as a child?
CE: "It was a little bit before my time, so I really didn't know much about the TV show. But I was a big fan of Jackie Gleason from his variety show.
Once I got this role, however, I got the box set and started watching the episodes and then became a fan of it. The Honeymooners was a very funny show with some great comedians."
KW: Did you find the idea of playing this role at all intimidating?
CE: ’Of course you do, when you're taking on such an iconic American character in Ralph Kramden, as well as in the guy who played him, But to have the executives at a major studio like Paramount say, ’you're the only guy that we want,’ made it a wonderful challenge to take on this role and do something with it.’
KW: I see some career path parallels between you and Gleason, both of you being a multi-talented comic with a variety show.
CE: ’Yeah, my grandmother was a big fan of his, so I remember watching his variety show with her as a young kid. He used to have the nice suits and come out with the June Taylor Dancers... He’d do the sketches... I kinda did the same thing with mine. He was one of those cats who really appeared to live life on a grand scale, even for that period. Gleason would always have the cigar, and the girls and a lot of big celebrity friends around him all the time. He’d throw the big parties on a train. I really liked the idea of all that. Plus, he was just a funny guy. He had different kinds of funny.
He’d do physical stuff, where he’d dance and do his little moves, since he was light on his feet. Then he could also hold a look for 30 seconds. He’d just look at you till you laughed. I thought that was a kind of genius. And those were the aspects that I wanted to try to bring to this character in tying the old TV show Ralph to the new movie version.’
KW: This film pairs you with Mike Epps. Had the two of you worked together before?
CE: "No, that was actually our first time working together, but early on, when they told me that Mike Epps was who they had in mind for Ed Norton, that was also one of the reasons why I wanted to step into it. I thought he was going to be a perfect cast for that wiry, crazy energy and all those idiosyncrasies. Plus, he's a hot, young comedian, so I knew it would be a good time to work with him."
KW: And how about the female co-stars playing your wives, Gabrielle [Union] and Regina [Hall]?
CE: "I hadn't done anything with Gabrielle before, though we were already friends. This was a perfect opportunity, because I just knew she was going to be the greatest Alice. So, I wanted her from the very beginning. That's what you get to do when you're the executive producer, to put people in the movie."
KW: What type of audience do you think this movie will find?
CE: "You know, this movie's for everybody across the board. What's cool about is that the relationship between Ralph and Ed makes for a great buddy movie, and then the relationship that my character has with Gabrielle's makes for a great romantic comedy. I think this is a good, fun movie. It's PG-13, everybody can be involved, so bring the whole family to come check it out."
KW: How do you feel about going up against Madagascar, another one of your own films?
CE: "Well, this is a couple of weeks later, though. Dreamworks always puts out a big, animated picture around this time of year. It was just fun to be a part of a project like that for the kids, that they can go and check out.
So, I'm just excited about that."
KW: Any more Lite Beer commercials on the horizon?
CE: "Yeah, I got a couple more I have to do with them. I have a contract to do six, and I've done four already. We have a great time making those. It's a great relationship, me and Anheuser-Busch, one of St. Louis' biggest and greatest companies. I'm a homeboy and..."
KW: That's right you're from St. Louis. How did you get from there to Hollywood?
CE: "It was one of those things where I'd always been the funny guy for my friends and crew. The encouraged e to go onstage one night at a comedy competition. And that first time I ever tried stand-up I won $500, and that was it, I was hooked after that."
KW: You're so good with voices. Did you do more impersonations at the start of your career?
CE: "Not necessarily famous impersonations, but I always did voices of characters I picked, whether it be the grandmother, an old man or a news anchor. I did do some singers like Luther Vandross, but I never did Bill Cosby or Jack Nicholson, that kind of thing."
KW: What about the hats, when did you start always wearin a hat?
CE: "I started wearing the hats probably after I got my career going, and I started traveling around a little bit doing the comedy clubs. I just wanted to kinda change my look and represent St. Louis. And that was a very common thing when I was growing up. We had a couple of great hat shops there, so I decided to make that my little trade."
KW: You're so busy. What movie are you working on now?
CE: "Charlotte's Web. That's fun as well. I'm playing Oprah's husband. She's a goose and I'm her gander."
KW: Do you have any sequels in the works?
CE: "Only Johnson Family 2. We're definitely developing that. We had a really great time doing Johnson Family Vacation. But the Barbershop series is probably done."
KW: How about another Big Momma's House?
CE: "You know, they're doing Big Momma 2, but I'm not actually in it."
KW: How dare they bring it back without the Rev? That's not fair!
CE: "Right. They didn't bring the Reverend back."
KW: How about another Kings of Comedy tour and concert film?
CE: "There's been some talk about it. But, as you know, Bernie's [co-star Bernie Mac] recuperating right now from his ailment. And we certainly didn't want to do it without him. He's one of the main acts we do this with. Steve [Harvey], D.L. [Hughley] and I, we've all been talking about it, trying to decide if there's some way we can all get together and start going out and doing some tour dates. And then we'd shoot a movie."
KW: You're such a versatile performer, doing TV, movies, comedy, drama, stand-up, animation voicework, singing, impersonations, hosting, etcetera.
Which do you enjoy the most?
CE: "I enjoy it all, but you get that instant gratification from stand-up because it's your own commentary and you get to see the reaction from the audience that's right there in front of you. I also love coming up with characters and watching people embrace them and enjoy them."
KW: Have you considered writing and directing?
CE: "Definitely. I have a couple of TV show ideas that I'm co-writing and developing, as well as some movie ideas."
KW: What advice do you have for anybody who wants to follow in your footsteps?
CE: "Hey, there's deep mud out there! [laughs] No, I encourage people, provide they understand that it takes a strong work ethic, a lot of tenacity, a lot of faith, and having God on your side. But definitely do the work. Don't expect to blow up overnight. Go out, do the work, and enjoy the ride. That's really my mantra. I'm not in a hurry to be anywhere fast. I'm just enjoying the ride."
KW: So, have you settled down in California?
CE: "Yeah, I'm based in L.A., now, because it's where all the business goes down."
KW: Where in Los Angeles do you live?
CE: "Studio City. So, I'm, like, near Universal studios."
KW: Well, thanks again for another chance to chat.
CE: "I sure appreciate it, man."