He has spent most of his life trying to make other people laugh. But what — and who — makes Cedric the Entertainer chuckle?
There’s no quick answer for the former State Farm claims adjuster, who cites Eddie Murphy movies such as “Coming to America,” Jerry Seinfeld’s observational humor, “Key and Peele,” his fellow comedy tour pals and up-and-comers such as Lil Duval as people and performances that make him laugh. The star of the upcoming CBS show “The Neighborhood,” also a regular on TBS’ “The Last O.G.,” is a fan of sketch comedy and edgy risk-takers.
“I just like it when I see it,” he explains, going on to further name Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Bill Maher, Billy Crystal, and the late Robin Harris and Robin Williams as comedians who make him laugh.
Growing up in the Midwest, he learned the power of comedy while watching “The Carol Burnett Show.” Seeing his grandmother laugh, and the fun Burnett, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway had while performing on the CBS variety show, inspired Cedric to try and figure out how to make his grandmother chuckle at his own antics.
“It was iconic television,” says Cedric of “The Carol Burnett Show,” and he was so convinced he wanted to be an entertainer that he tried to get his mother to send him to a performing-arts school.
She refused, but he did not quit, singing, dancing and performing whenever he could through college and beyond.
“Whenever there was a mic and an opportunity, he was there,” says Eric Rhone, who met Cedric in college and became his manager and producing partner. “Wedding receptions, bars, birthday parties…”
During his 30 year showbiz career, Cedric has worked the comedy circuit and acted in shows and movies including “Barbershop,” “The Soul Man” and “The Comedy Get Down,” occasionally venturing into dramatic roles such as “American Buffalo” and “First Reformed.”
Still, he’s best known for his comedy, honed on stages for decades. “I was the director in 1991 when a young standup comedian from St. Louis took the Def Comedy Jam stage, performed a killer standup set, got a thunderous standing ovation, and became an instant comedy legend,” recalls Stan Lathan, who has directed Cedric many times since on pilots and TV shows including “The Soul Man.”
“People forget he was part of the original Kings of Comedy,” says Steve Smooke, his CAA agent since 1996, invoking the comedy tour with Bernie Mac, D.L. Hughley and Steve Harvey that Spike Lee turned into a hit documentary in 2000. “That comedy tour was selling out arenas. This was 18 years ago; back then, this was unheard of,” Smooke says. “He was ahead of the game.”
Longtime friends and colleagues say his comedy style, rooted in his observation of life, hasn’t really changed much over the years. “You laugh with him, not at people,” Rhone says. “It’s not derogatory — it’s more on the lighter side, but at the same time with truth.”
Regardless the project, Cedric tries to have as much fun performing as “The Carol Burnett Show” cast members did years ago.
“Everybody loves working with Ced,” Lathan says. “There’s always lots of laughter on his sets.”