When the world shut down in spring 2020, production ground to a halt and comedy clubs closed their doors, Cedric the Entertainer was still working. CBS needed programming to fill its schedule and turned to the comedian to host “The Greatest #AtHome Videos,” a series of specials spotlighting social media videos of people amusing themselves in lockdown.
The “#AtHome Videos” specials later turned into a regular series, giving Cedric, who also stars on CBS’ sitcom “The Neighborhood,” double duty at the Eye. That’s not all: Cedric had hosted CBS’ 2019 special “Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration,” and was busy pitching the network on other music-themed shows. With Cedric already popping up all over the CBS lineup, tapping him to host this year’s Emmys wound up being an easy choice.
It all culminates Emmy weekend with a Cedric the Entertainer triple play on CBS: “#AtHome Videos” airs on Fridays, followed by the Emmys on Sept. 19, and then “The Neighborhood” Season 4 kicking off the new TV season the next night. “It’s ‘All-Ced TV,’” he jokes.
I met up with Cedric recently in Westlake Village, Calif., where he was holding his eighth annual celebrity golf tournament to benefit the Boys & Girls Club, among other charities. That event took place after a year off, but the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant is once again forcing everyone to prepare for contingency plans — such as the decision to move the Emmys outdoors in an air conditioned tent on the L.A. Live event deck.
“Luckily for us, we’ve been through these kinds of changes in this past year,” Cedric says. “It’s always this kind of moving meter of what’s going to happen. I’m very excited that there will be some degree of an audience there, still be some celebs in the room. The virtual aspect of last year, even though I thought they did a great job, that probably wouldn’t have been as appealing to me. I’m excited with having some people there. And hopefully, that remains to be true all the way through, until the day.”
Cedric says he’s working with his Emmy writers and producers Reggie Hudlin and Done+Dusted about pretaped pieces, including a big open. He’s also eager to be a part of as much of the show as possible, and not be one of those awards hosts who disappears for long periods of time. “I don’t want to be the maître d’ walking you in and sitting you, just being a traffic cop,” he says.
The comedian knows hosting the Emmys is a bit of a thankless job, and that the online critiques “start as soon as they announce it. Everybody’s got an opinion.” His pal Steve Harvey did offer some advice, like, “Look for moments to spread the joy.”
Cedric the Entertainer’s other hosting credits include the syndicated version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” “Cedric’s Barber Battle,” “ComicView,” the game show “It’s Worth What?” and an episode of “WWE Raw.” His previous awards show hosting gigs include the Soul Train Awards.
“I hosted the American Music Awards before, the Billboard awards, so I’ve been in this seat a little bit,” he says. “Of course, Emmys, Oscars, Golden Globes, they have a lot more kind of cache to them. So I still plan on having a few conversations just to make sure. Tina Fey would be the best one, if you can get hold ahold of Tina!”
Cedric finally returned to the standup stage earlier this year, and says it took time to readjust.
“Man, it was so crazy,” he says. “Throughout my career I’ve taken some small breaks, either health or some reason where you take a long break, kids being born or something. But not that long, and definitely not intentional. So to be off stage for like 18 months, 19 months, it was crazy, and stand up is not something you can just turn back on. People think it’s just a little faucet, like you can just hit it. But to go up there and perform for 30, 40 minutes to an hour, trying to remember your routine and your flow… It was a little scary. It took a while. For a reason I went and did a comedy club in Arizona. And I did multiple shows because I knew I was going to need an opportunity to get that rhythm back up, like going to the gym.”
The COVID pandemic has made its way into his routine, but he doesn’t want to lean to heavily into the subject: “I mean, you’ve got to discuss it, it definitely is something that affected all of us,” he says. “It’s not that I labor on it, but because it was something that truly everybody was affected by one way or the other, it ends up leaning toward great material of course. I tried not to lay heavy on it, but it’s on there.”
Back to helm the Emmys together for a second conesecutive year are Hudlin Entertainment and Done+Dusted (which marks the fourth year in a row for that production company). Reginald Hudlin and Ian Stewart are executive producers and Hamish Hamilton will serve as director of the telecast. “They care, they’re really involved and we’ve been having a good time on our weekly meetings gassing it up talking about it, so yeah, it’s gonna be good,” he says.
Now that he’s back in form, Cedric says at the Emmys he’s also eager to highlight what TV has meant to audiences during the pandemic, especially when everyone was stuck at home. “Television definitely was a thing that got us through a lot of it,” he says. “So I want to celebrate these stars. I want people to have their moment, to have a good time. So that’s what we’re going to really do.”
Variety also has the first look of Cedric the Entertainer looking smooth in his Emmy publicity photos. A few more shots: