LOS ANGELES (AP) – As busy as Cedric the Entertainer is with his sitcom “The Neighborhood” and other projects, he quickly said yes when asked to host his first major awards show.
Then he asked for advice on how to handle Sunday’s Emmy, which aired on CBS (8 p.m. EDT).
“Steve Harvey, my good friend who hosted a lot of these ‘big parties’, he had some good things for me,” said the actor-comedian. Others on his trade secret call list: Billy Crystal, Anthony Anderson and Chris Rock, all veterans of Hollywood nightlife entertainment.
“And if you have a line on Tina Fey, I don’t have her number, but I would like to talk to her,” Cedric said.
He was already aware of a modern accommodation trap: offensive old jokes, like the ones on Twitter that cost Kevin Hart the master of ceremonies concert at the Oscars in 2018.
“Just try not to get canceled ahead of time, that’s the most important thing,” Cedric said, tongue firmly in his cheek. It’s the kind of modest observation that a man with a career spanning more than three decades and at the top of his game is comfortable making.
He plays and produces “The Neighborhood,” the CBS sitcom that returns Monday for its fourth season. He is a producer for the television drama “Johnson” and has performed roles for animation projects including the films “Madagascar” and “Ice Age” and the series “The Proud Family”.
His on-screen film credits range from the “Barbershop” franchise to dramas such as “Cadillac Records” and “Son of the South” and Spike Lee’s documentary “The Original Kings of Comedy”. Cedric appeared on Broadway in a 2008 revival of “American Buffalo” by David Mamet.
He has a production company that develops comedies, dramas, and a superhero story, with a long-standing project tucked away in his back pocket: a biopic about early 20th-century black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. Cedric intends to play it.
Cedric is also a beloved grandfather of a brand new kindergarten which he nicknamed #GrandCookie.
“The neighborhood” is his immediate career goal. He plays a father in a predominantly black neighborhood near Los Angeles who struggles to adjust to the heartbreaking white Midwesterner who has moved next door.
The intention of the show is to address “the fusion of cultures … and what happens when people discover how to live together, how to be in harmony, without necessarily changing the identity of the other”, did -he declares. “That’s what we’re trying to do with the show, and have a good time. Not to preach, but to teach.
Born Cedric Antonio Kyles, the native of Jefferson City, Missouri, has an ingrained vision for his success. Or as he put it, “I’m very blue collar about this.”
He was a claims adjuster for State Farm Insurance in St. Louis and performed in comedy clubs at night when he realized he could win over audiences. It was then that he decided to “go for it” as a performer.
“I feel really lucky to have such a long career and a career that has been mostly progressive and steady,” said Cédric. “I laugh a lot in my job. I make people laugh. It’s a good time.
As expert as they are, the award audience can be difficult. Those waiting to see if they win or lose are tense, and viewers at home can shrug their shoulders at unknown nominees chosen from an ever-expanding world of streaming and cable shows.
Sunday’s ceremony also faces the challenge of ongoing COVID-19 precautions, which forced it from a theater to a glamorous tent and limited the number of stars in attendance. This is a step up from last year’s event, which was almost entirely virtual and without an audience.
Cedric said his goal was a show that avoids suffocation and brings television audiences “behind the cord.”
The executive producers of the ceremony, writer-director Reginald Hudlin and Ian Stewart, said they were confident the event was in good hands. Hudlin and Cedric are friends, and Stewart was convinced during their first Zoom reunion.
His smiling face “beamed and he said, ‘Let’s party. Let’s celebrate it, ”Stewart recalled. “And it was just that breath of fresh air through the catastrophic times we all went through.”
Cedric’s versatility will be on display, Hudlin said, adding, “He’s literally a king of comedy, and you’ll see why he wears the crown.”
Something beyond Cedric’s control concerns his friend Anderson, the “blackness” star who has already had six offers for best comedy actor without a win and is in competition again.
“Now that you’re the host, take care of it for me,” Anderson told him, jokingly refusing to accept the rejection.
“So he’s going to win something,” Cedric said with a smile. “I don’t know what it’s going to be, but something.”
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