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Corrupt politicians… disgraced CEO's… defrocked priests… It seems it's getting harder and harder to find good role models. So who'd bother looking for them on morning radio?

STEVE HARVEY: Me doing what I do on the radio is in itself breaking the rules.

BRANCACCIO: It's a vision of morality from an unlikely source.

STEVE HARVEY: What people don't know in management and corporate America is regular people out there, they need some help along the way. They need some encouragement.

BRANCACCIO: Steve Harvey: A very funny man with a very serious message.

BRANCACCIO: I'm sorry you're not working, okay. I'm sorry you can't find a job. I'm sorry you-- she left you and took half and you still have to pay alimony and child-- I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all of that. You still a man. And this is your deal. And that's the rock that's on your shoulder.


Welcome To NOW.

The headlines are full of bad behavior, from sleazy politicians to crooked captains of industry to violence on our streets.

But what is good behavior? And who would have thought some answers to that vast and important question could be found in that cesspool known as morning radio?

Let take a moment now to sit down and talk to a very funny guy and a man who has thought a lot about values and our society. His name is Steve Harvey.

The son of a West Virginia coal miner, he can be quite an edgy standup comedian. If you saw him in the Spike Lee film THE ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY, you know there were a lot of laughs - and a lot of those four letter words that we don't use on PBS. Well, in his latest film, out March 17th in select cities, there are no swear words. And none on his daily syndicated radio show either.

BRANCACCIO: Mr. Harvey welcome to NOW. Mr. Harvey, thank you for doing this.

STEVE HARVEY: Absolutely.

BRANCACCIO: One of the things I love in your new film is that place where you're on stage talking about-- you know, everybody's got two eyes. But you, I guess metaphorically, you have a third eye. You're able to see something as a comedian that maybe the rest of us don't see. What do you see?

STEVE HARVEY: I mean, you know that's-- that's the gift. I talk about it with other comedians, you know. We all recognize that.

See, no matter what happens in this world, we see what you see. We see the tragedy. We see the pain. We saw the-- we saw the horrificiness of it all. But we have another eye sitting up here that almost immediately locates the humor in it.

You know, Vice-President Dick Cheney shoots his buddy in a hunting accident. Oh, we got it right away. This was like manna from heaven. He-- you giving this to us? See, for us, who write jokes for a living, it was like-- oh father-- it was like oh God.

I wrote some good ones too, some stuff. And-- when it got down to it, number one was, Dick Cheney's question was there a black guy on the ranch that we could blame this on which is pretty much my take from that whole administration. We done took all this heat from FEMA and Mike Brown with this Katrina situation. Can we blame this on any black person on the ranch? And just thank God there were no black people on the ranch.

The Vice-President shot somebody. That'd be my headlines right there and just let it walk. Man, do you know that reads on the head-- the Vice-President shot somebody. That's the headline. I'd run that on everybody paper across the country. See, that's just-- you can't laugh, David. Because you've got this show on PBS. But me.

BRANCACCIO: I know. We have to be very serious on PBS.

STEVE HARVEY: Yeah, you know me, I don't care.


BRANCACCIO: Now you have said, that if you weren't doing this-- if you weren't an entertainer, a comedian-- that you might be a coach.

STEVE HARVEY: I mean, you know, I had one experience one time with junior high basketball team in Cleveland, Ohio. I was I came in to help assist this guy. But my big thing was motivating the kids afterwards. You know, talking to them about life and stuff like that. That's why I got a kick out of that more than anything.

BRANCACCIO: Well, I hear you're still doing that with people.

STEVE HARVEY: I don't know. You know, it's funny thing, man. I guess it's a calling or something, ya know. It's a reason, a purpose. Ya know, you can't just be one-dimensional. I don't think that I'm just here to tell jokes, ya know? I like it, it affords me a great life style. I'm not gonna stop. But-- ya know, along the way-- I heard a guy say one time-- "If you can get people laughing then you can tell 'em anything." Cuz once they trust you that you're funny, you can slide information to them. Cuz they don't know when you're gonna crack 'em up again.

BRANCACCIO: What are you sliding people for information? I hear-- I hear stuff on your show about rules of life, about proper behavior.

STEVE HARVEY: I mean, ya know, I-- I tell 'em. Ya know, there are some things that we gotta remember as men. There are some things we gotta remember as fathers. As responsibilities that we have towards our children, you know.


BRANCACCIO: And you're out there. You're on stage, really on your television show when you were doing that, on your radio show, trying to nudge men in the right direction.

STEVE HARVEY: Hey man, we got to be men. The set of circumstances don't let you off the hook. I'm sorry you've got a police record. Oh-- okay, I'm sorry you're not working, okay. I'm sorry you can't find a job. I'm sorry you-- she left you and took half and you still have to pay alimony and child-- I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all of that.

You still a man. And this is your deal. And that's the rock that's on your shoulder. It's on my shoulder. It's on your shoulder. Whether you stay with this woman or not you are still a man. And that is the deal.

And hey man, I got it's hard out here. But it's hard out here for everybody. Now, you've done some things that make it harder for you. But that don't let you off the hook from your responsibility in nobody's eyes. That woman ain't having it. Society ain't having it. God ain't having it. So, man up, man. And do your end of the deal. If men stay men to children this whole thing would be better.

BRANCACCIO: Well, recently there's a big blizzard on the east coast. And I'm listening to your radio show and a member of your team, nephew Tommy, he didn't show up for work. So what'd you do? You called him up?

STEVE HARVEY: Called him up and told him he was gonna get fined and "You gotta come to work." It was snow. It was just some snow. The people went to school that day. And everybody was at work except him. That's crazy, come on, man.

BRANCACCIO: You had a real riff going about it-- "if you don't need your pay check."

STEVE HARVEY: Yeah, I tell you-- I mean, ya know if you can miss a day at work and you can come up with a short check and you happy with that and you don't mind being a little short on groceries this week and you don't mind not being able to get your car repaired. And you don't mind getting a red sticker on your door for late rent, then I'm cool with keeping your money. It's fine with me.

I don't have a problem, man. People who-- people who don't wanna act responsible, that's not my fault. That's what the message is on the radio station. You know, you gotta be responsible, man. You can't go through life and expect there not to be any repercussions. What's-- the matter with you? You know?

BRANCACCIO: It's interesting though that there's a need for people to hear some of these basic rules, to be reminded of these rules about showing up on time or acting in a fair way. Or just what the rules of life are.

STEVE HARVEY: I have enough life in me, ya know, to where my experiences are vast. You know I have had bad credit. I have been fired. I've auditioned. I've tried to get the job. I've lied on the applications. I've been turned down at the bank. I've felt like driving my car through the bank.

I've done it all. I've had money in the bank. I went to withdraw money-- I've written checks knowing good and well I had no money in the checking account. But I wrote it anyway, hoping that the hole in my deposit would beat the withdraw. I've done all of that.

BRANCACCIO: But think of-- Steve, this is an answer to people who say, "Look, it's all fine-- if you're well off, you got a good job-- to try to live a morally upstanding life. But, ya know, people are struggling just to be employed. People are struggling to make-- to get health insurance. Maybe someday they can worry about living an upstanding life." You're here to tell them, no. You've done it both ways and--

STEVE HARVEY: Well I'm telling you, it ain't a piece of cake trying to live an upstanding life-- either way you got.

I'm talking to the guy that's like me-- the borderline case that ain't a shoe-in to get to heaven. The cat that ain't really-- ya know, unless God start grading on a curve we probably won't get in. Which is probably the system he'll be on. That's what I'm banking on.

And plus, man, the-- preacher guy has a congregation. And sometimes you own people say, "You preach-- you're preaching to the choir." They're there already. They're in the building. They got the robe on, the hymn book. They singing. They're paying their offering. They're standing there. They having a great...

Okay, there's another group of people out there who might learn something if you just toss them something every now and then. That's all I'm doing, man.

That's all, nothing heavy. I ain't your pastor. I am no Bishop Jakes. I'm no-- none of these big guys. I'm not Falwell, I ain't Pat Robertson, I ain't got no congregation.

BRANCACCIO: Just as well, by the way.

STEVE HARVEY: Yeah, and that dude right there is recommending-- assassination attempts on human beings. That's--

BRANCACCIO: Yeah, I believe it was-- Venezuela, the leader of Venezuela that was recommended there.

STEVE HARVEY: That's a tough Christian call right there. "Let's go kill somebody." That's not-- that's a tough one for a Christian.

BRANCACCIO: Ya know, like that famous line from the Bible, "Thou Shalt Not Kill?" What part of that don't you understand?

STEVE HARVEY: Just today though he was gonna work out assassination attempt. "Cuz the Lord told me." I'm pretty sure God didn't tell you that, but-- I think-- that does-- a lot of people hearing some voices that ain't got nothing to do with God. I just got enough sense to know that. You know something, if it don't sound like God, we'll say that that's probably cuz he didn't. That's usually how I played the judgment call right there.

BRANCACCIO: Do you feel it's an uphill struggle? I mean, what the culture says is not do the right thing. The culture says, "Be cool. You know following the rules is sort of dorky in some ways."

STEVE HARVEY: Well, you know, me doing what I do on the radio is in itself breaking the rules.

I think people want to be positive in the morning. I think they want to laugh. I don't think that they want to hear about the misfortunes of others all day long. I think they want to pit two rap artists against each other in a beef and have them call in. "I'm going to shoot you. I'm going to do this." What is that? What is that? That is not how we really are anyway.

But they accentuate that in the media. And we become that to the general public. That's out of line, man. That's wrong. And I'm not going to be a part of that. So, me doing it this way is in itself breaking the rules.

BRANCACCIO: Well, I mean, there's all sorts of contradictions. I mean, you're not playing hip hop on your show right now. But you haven't washed your hands of hip hop completely. You're still what, concerned with the direction of that art form.

STEVE HARVEY: Because man, hip hop is great music when it's done properly. When it's got hot tracks, it's the number one music genre in the country today. It's swept the world.

It's in China. It's in Japan. It's in black houses. It's in white houses. It's in Jewish houses. It's in the Catholic house, the Baptist house. It's in the house, man.

All I say to the cats that perform it is this right here. Do not degrade our women in your music. Women are having a tough enough time. They don't need to be bitches and ho's. I'm sorry.

See, when you say that what are you saying, man, to my daughters? What are you saying to this woman who birthed you? What are you saying to your grandmother who is the seed of all y'all? What are you saying to the mother of your children? What are you saying to the potential girl that you meet that's going to be your wife? That's what-- that's what we're calling them now? Hold up, man. That's foul. You outta line. That is not what real men do. Real men don't do that.

BRANCACCIO: You're doing something about it, right? I mean, you've got a magazine about hip hop?

STEVE HARVEY: It's called HIP HOP TIMES. It's on my Web site. It's an online magazine that features the politics, the business and the entertainment of hip hop. Because hip hop is a huge business. Hip hop has made more millionaires than any music genre for African-American people ever in the history of music.

They got money, man. So, you have a responsibility with the money now. So, you just going to ride on the backs of the people who ain't got your money, call them all out their name when you know good and well when you want an endorsement, you ain't at Pepsi calling nobody bitches and ho's in that meeting.

When you trying to get your shoe contract, ain't nobody them names at the meeting. When you sitting up here trying to sign your big deal with Sony or Virgin Records, that don't come out your mouth when you're talking to the execs whether they men or women.

The N word don't come out your mouth when you talking in these meetings to these people who have the power to make you money. You don't use none of them words, none of them. But then as soon as you get your little deal in your money, now here we go now.

Now, you spitting back down on the people that buy your CD's. And you make 'em think it's cool when it's not cool at all. Because the civil rights movement existed so they could stop being called the N word.

I love a lot of these cats that do hip hop. When you talk to these cats, the giants of it, the Ludicrous' (PH), the Puffy's, the JayZ's, the LL Cool Js, the giants of this man, Dr. Dre, the giants, Snoop, these are some of the coolest people you will ever meet, man. And they're businessmen. They are brilliant businessmen. These cats own basketball teams now. These cats got shoe contracts making millions of dollars. They're very, very smart.

And then some of them, you cut the music on and you go, "What happened to this brilliant dude? Well, where did he go? Wait, I was just interviewing you last week. You were amazing, man, the love you had for your wife, for your girl, for your kids. Where is that on this track that we've created now?"

BRANCACCIO: You bring it up with them?

STEVE HARVEY: All-- the we-- we talk about it all the time. I done been to rap summits, peace rap summit conventions-- West and East Coast.

BRANCACCIO: You're seeing progress in this area?

STEVE HARVEY: Oh absolutely, gangsta rap ain't what it used to be. Because, see hip hop has grown up too. See, these cats now, they're thinking about their longevity and their terms of-- of living.

And so now, the older cats is cleaning it up. And it's making the example when you got a young cat like a Ludicrous who comes out and just makes good hits. He just makes good hits that's solid, fun, stand up, all these jams. And he's selling millions of records, man.

BRANCACCIO: You got this new film coming out. It's called DON'T TRIP, HE AIN'T THROUGH WITH ME YET. And it's filmed at Mega Fest, this huge Christian gathering. And one of the themes in this thing, and the film's a riot, but one of thing's that's so intense, is you struggling with-- ya know, you got these-- all these religious people in this giant audience and you better not swear.

STEVE HARVEY: Yeah, man. That's-- that was a bit of pressure, ya know. I've been cussing out here for 20 years. I've been a stand-up for over 20 years. I have not missed cussing a beat. I could rip 'em off for you right quick. I was pretty good, I'm pretty fluent, too. I was one of the best. I was actually voted one of the top three cussers in the country, right behind Bernie Mac. They have a--

BRANCACCIO: That's saying something right there.

STEVE HARVEY: Yeah, man. So we get close to the date and I'm getting nervous about it cuz I have no practice at this.

BRANCACCIO: Well let's take a look at Steve Harvey trying to struggle to keep it clean. And you are a brave soul talking about Michael Jackson in front of that crowd.


STEVE HARVEY: I was sitting talking with some friends and ya know-- I just started thinking about my age, man, and my children, my mother who had passed away and who was a Born Again Christian all her life. I've never known my mom to be any other way.

And she raised me in a church. And so I wanted to do something, cuz my mother never saw me live when she was living. My mom died when I was 40. And so she never saw me live. And she would never come to see me cuz she didn't wanna see her son cuss. And I didn't wanna invite her because then I wouldn't be able to do my show. Cuz I've never cussed in front of my mother in my life. That's not what we do at our house.

And so I wanted to do something to honor her. And so, when it got to that night, man, I was about as nervous of I-- as I've ever been. I'm nervous every night before I go on. But this was special, that 16,000 people would pay specifically to see me. But the ovation I got when I came out on stage-- it made me feel a lot better.

BRANCACCIO: It's funny. Sometimes when people talk about morals, and ethics and values, and it touches on religion, there's a danger that it can be, that it can divide people. Cause then they divide up into Baptists, or Jew, or Muslim. Do you think there's a way to talk about the way you should behave, that brings people together?

STEVE HARVEY: All I'm talking about on my show is I'll remind you of the All-mighty God. I don't put a label or a name on Him. He God. You wanna call him Allah? That's fine with me.

You wanna call him Jehovah? That's your business. You wanna pray to Mother Mary? I got no problem with that. You wanna say Jesus Christ? Cool. You wanna call him Yahweh. You wanna call him Buddha. You can call ev-- that's not mine. Who am I to decide what is right for another man? It's not my call.

If that faith is working for you, and it provides you with a level of peace in your life, it gives you resolution, it gives you answers to your problems, it gives you joy and it mends your family, I'm cool with it.

Now if you wanna get divided, then you probably should go your separate way and tune into something else.

BRANCACCIO: And that people probably shouldn't shy away from talking about right and wrong, for fear of offending someone who's in one religion or another?

STEVE HARVEY: It ain't really that people are afraid. It's just people won't be liked by everybody, man. People wanna just wake up in the morning. I'm not gonna be oatmeal man. I come with flavor already.

One morning, I'm apple raisin. The next morning, I'm cinnamon. Sometimes you have brown sugar. Sometimes I ain't got nothing on me. Here it is. Sometimes I give you a little peppermint with it. Sometimes I'm just castor oil. But I ain't oatmeal, man. I ain't waking up, and just be whatever you need me to be. I'm not here for you to like me all the time.

BRANCACCIO: Well, Steve Harvey, thank you very much.

STEVE HARVEY: Absolutely. Had a blast, man. Your show was kinda funny today.

BRANCACCIO: Yeah. It's about time, don't you think?


BRANCACCIO: You can learn more about what Steve Harvey's up to on our Web site:

And next week, we'll be back here with a special one-hour edition of NOW. The topic: the blanket of secrecy that has descended on our government. How does democracy function in the dark? A special one hour edition of NOW, please check your local listings.

And that's it for NOW. From New York, I'm David Brancaccio. We'll see you again next week.

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