On a recent broadcast of his weekday program on Los Angeles’ KKBT-FM, Steve Harvey made a passing remark about a regular guy getting an award, like the owner of a car repair shop. Then he started taking the idea seriously — and so did the public. The response was so great that Harvey decided to create an award for the common man and woman, calling it the Hoodie Awards.
“We were gonna rent a 500-seat theater and give awards for the best choir, the best donut shop, the best shoeshine shop, and it got so out of hand that the Aladdin Hotel in Vegas gave us 300 rooms,” recounts Harvey. “We practically sold out the whole hotel … 1,000 rooms. The awards ceremony will be at the hotel for a regular guy to walk down the red carpet, photographers going off. It’s a great idea that caught on.”
It’s for things like “The Steve Harvey Morning Show” and the Hoodie Awards that Harvey is being honored with the NAACP’S Image Award for Entertainer of the Year, which recognizes his “outstanding achievement and contribution to the industry and the community.”
This year, Harvey has been a triple threat, scoring successes in radio, TV and film. The radio show ranks third with morning audiences in Los Angeles; his eponymous sitcom, now in its sixth season, is the second-highest-rated comedy on the WB network; his film “The Original Kings of Comedy” (with comics D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac) pulled in solid B.O. returns of $38 million, and the tour on which the film was based grossed $37 million over two years.
Moreover, Harvey’s entertainer of the year kudo comes in addition to “The Steve Harvey Show’s” seven noms for in the TV category.
Despite his achievements, Harvey is taken aback by the entertainer of the year praise, and wouldn’t be surprised if others are, too.
“I’m pretty sure that with the news that I won this award there will be somebody who says I could’ve got that or how come he got it,” says Harvey. “I got news for you: As unbelievable as it is for them, it’s unbelievable for me.”
Past recipients of the honor include Stevie Wonder, Denzel Washington and Oprah Winfrey.
Harvey’s most crucial break came when he was chosen to host “It’s Showtime at the Apollo,” which he recently stopped doing after seven years because of a crowded schedule.
“Because of that they made me host of the urban comedy night at the Montreal Comedy Festival,” he says. “One night I walked in and did 15 minutes off the top of my head and ABC saw me.”
Those 15 minutes led to a deal and his first sitcom, 1994’s “Me and the Boys.”
As a comedian, Harvey’s aspiration is to fill what he believes is a void in the comedy scene: a movie duo for our time, like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
“Maybe me and Cedric the Entertainer or me and Martin Lawrence could fill that niche,” he says. “Nobody’s bought into an idea. We’re looking at scripts and talking.”
Meanwhile, Harvey’s success will continue to be inseparable from community work. Along with the Hoodie Awards, he gives talks at high schools and youth detention centers.
Through his radio show he has raised funds for housing for poor families and is in the midst of a campaign to provide books to children in Los Angeles and Compton school districts.
“If God lets me live,” says Harvey, “I’m planning on people saying his life was of value. That’ll be the greatest reward for me.”