The popular comedian and actor discusses his exec-producing and hosting gig on NBC’s new game show It’s Worth What? and his latest film Larry Crowne.
Comedian-actor Cedric the Entertainer
Tavis: Always pleased to welcome Cedric the Entertainer to this program. The popular comedian and actor is as busy as ever, including his role as host of a show I can’t wait to see.
It’s upcoming on NBC. It’s a game show called, “It’s Worth What?” You can also catch him now in the new film, “Larry Crowne.” Apparently the only folk they could find to star opposite him was some guy named Tom Hanks and some woman named Julia Roberts. Here now, a scene from “Larry Crowne.”
Tavis: (Laughter) As my grandmother, God rest her soul, Big Mama, would say, “Negro, that’s high cotton.”
“Cedric the Entertainer:” Yeah, that’s high –
Tavis: High cotton. You hanging out with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts?
Cedric: That was big time right there, man. (Laughter) All them got Academy (unintelligible). Everybody had Academy Award nominations, they was walking around with they certificates. (Laughter) I got two Image awards. Mine are heavier.
Tavis: All right, so tell me about this character “Lamar” that you play in “Larry Crowne.”
Cedric: Oh, man, Lamar is Larry’s neighbor and he’s the guy that’s the big-time dude in the neighborhood because he won the lottery, and they have a daily yard sale, so –
Tavis: Wait, wait, wait, a daily yard sale?
Cedric: Every day. Every day, I’m selling items out there.
Tavis: Wow, wow.
Cedric: So I’m haggling with people, and that’s my thing throughout the whole movie, and I’m always just trying to beat people up on prices. I don’t care what it is, you trying to buy me an old Speed Racer lunchbox; I’m trying to get $100 for it.
Tavis: When you were a kid growing up in St. Louis, did you ever do the yard sale thing?
Cedric: I didn’t, man. I would like to go by them sometimes, just to see what people have, but I’d never try to sell all my old stuff. Then once I got famous, all my cousins came and took it anyway. (Laughter) So I try to have a yard sale, here they come before I even get the good stuff out there. “I’ll take that couch.”
Tavis: And I was just about to – (laughter) I was just about to ask, if you had a yard sale, what you got to put on display? What would you put out there if you had a yard sale?
Cedric: It’s always a little recycling of clothes and suits and that kind of stuff, and some golf equipment. I got, like, a lot of golf clubs and stuff I would probably give away. Then you give away the kid stuff, they outgrow that. Stuff they got this Christmas. You know how kids are. “Oh, Dad, I got to have it,” and two days after Christmas it’s sitting in the corner. They might as well give that to somebody else.
But it’s all that kind of stuff right there. Nothing my wife owns, because she gets the expensive stuff.
Tavis: Oh, yeah. You can’t give none of that away.
Cedric: None of that away, no, no. (Laughter) You pass that here. I’m pawning most of that stuff. (Laughter) How much these Louis Vuitton shoes cost?
Tavis: I happen to know your wife, obviously, Lorna – how does Lorna take being – after all these years, is she used to being the brunt of your jokes from time to time?
Cedric: Actually, I’m going to have to admit it right here on TV, I steal most of my stuff from Lorna. Lorna is funny, man. My wife is hilarious, and she’s got an interesting sense of humor. So I get a lot of jokes from her that I’ll be, like, begging.
She’ll be like, “Don’t you do it.” I’m like, “Babe, I gotta use that.” She’ll be like, “Don’t.” I’ll be, “Mm, I’m going to use it.”
Tavis: So Paul Mooney’s writing for Richard Pryor and Lorna is writing for you.
Cedric: Yeah, right, that’s right.
Tavis: Who knew?
Cedric: Who knew? (Laughter) That’s my secret.
Tavis: Oh, man. How are you going these days about choosing your roles? One of the things I’ve loved about being your friend for all these years is celebrating your success, number one, but watching the journey that you’ve been on. I was teasing you earlier about hanging out with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. How are you making decisions now about what to do, TV-wise, movie-wise, when you’re going on the tour, on the stage? How are you factoring all this stuff?
Cedric: That’s what happens. I’ve been blessed to have a long career. You have those times where you shoot up and it gets really high and you got a lot of stuff going on, and so now it becomes about looking for things that I feel I can progress my career in the right way.
Of course, you get a call from Tom Hanks, he’s directing a movie, he wrote the movie, and he’s just a big-time dude, so it was great to be a part of that. I just look for those kind of things.
I want to be a little more dramatic nowadays. I definitely want something big and funny, but I look for things that can just have people see me in a different light and let me mature as both an entertainer and an actor and a comedian.
So there’s a little more maturity in the roles and looking for those things that give me that kind of opportunity.
Tavis: As funny as you are, I’ve said for a long time, particularly and especially after I saw you do “Talk to Me,” the drama thing, you could – I didn’t even know that you could do the drama thing, but you killed that thing in “Talk to Me.”
Cedric: Yeah, man, thank you.
Tavis: The movie was underrated, it didn’t get the kind of acclaim that it deserved, but anybody who saw that – and obviously, since it’s on cable a lot of other folk have seen it now – but you can do that drama thing.
Cedric: Yeah, it was something that when I see, like, great comedians, be it Robin Williams or even Tom Hanks, he did some comedy stuff starting off early, is to be in the transition –
Tavis: “Bosom Buddies.”
Cedric: “Bosom Buddies,” “Bosom Buddies,” dressed up like a girl.
Tavis: I remember that, yeah.
Cedric: Yeah, he’s like the white Tyler Perry. (Laughter) (Unintelligible) where’d Tom Hanks go? (Laughter) But it is one of those things where you look for that, and an opportunity like – my comedy, I did a lot of characters off the top.
When you think about even Eddie in “Barber Shop” was me kind of playing a character. It was a lot more comedy, but I had fun playing those real scenes, those real dramatic scenes, because you decide to make the characters real.
So that’s a great opportunity for me, and I’m just trying to continue to build on that and look for something that’s even more dynamic. One of my pet projects, I’d just love to try to get this Marcus Garvey thing going. I just think it’s a movie that hasn’t been seen and a story to be told, especially in the days of seeing Barack polarize and gather all these nations and have all these people follow him around the world.
To think that Garvey did that in the ’20s, 1920s, without Internet, without Twitter, how you have all these people following you, I just thought that’d be interesting, to see that film. That’s just something that’s in my head that I’m trying to develop, too.
Tavis: I guess part of the way to get – as I understand the game, at least from talking to actors like you – part of the way the game works is you have to do the big stuff, the blockbuster stuff, hanging out with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, you’ve got to do that kind of stuff to make the kind of money, to make the kind of connections to get yourself – how can I put this – the kind of freedom and independence that it takes to pull off a Marcus Garvey project, because this ain’t going to be done by a major studio, if it ever gets done.
Cedric: Exactly. It is one of those things. You end up finding – you look at all the pet projects, you even look at “Malcolm X,” where Spike had to pull in Oprah and Michael Jordan and get money from all these other people and the studios, they only have a limited view of what the story could be.
So you do understand that, and so you do these bigger movies to profile yourself, to have the right connections at the studios for distribution, for them to say, “All right, cool, we can market you in a certain way. Even if we don’t get the movie, we know we can market you.”
So those are the reasons why you kind of do bigger movies and movies with big stars in them.
Tavis: Tell me about this game show that you are – “It’s Worth What?”
Cedric: “It’s Worth What?” (Laughter) Yeah, man, so I’m executive producer and hosting this show, and it’s a real show, it’s created by Larry Spencer and Merv Griffin Television. It’s a show about people’s fascination with how much stuff costs.
Everybody walk down the street, “I’ll be you her purse costs this, and I bet – ooh, those earrings.” So we came up with this show where basically I’ll pull out a brand-new Bugatti. It’ll come out on stage and say, “What’s more expensive, this Bugatti or feeding this live elephant for a year?” And the elephant will come out on stage. (Laughter)
So we got that from Picasso paintings to really ancient artifacts from the early 1500s and B.C. and all kinds of real cool stuff on the show. So at any given time it’s $50 million worth of stuff on the show, and people are competing to win $1 million to see if they know what’s more expensive and why and why it costs this much. It’s fun.
Tavis: I’m just impressed that they let a Black man host the show when there’s $50 million worth of stuff on the stage.
Cedric: Well, I threatened them several times, and said, (laughter) “I got people that can come scoop some of this up.”
Tavis: There’s a rumor kind of floating around, and I figure you can set me straight on this. So I saw the walk-on – you’ve done a cameo on “Hot in Cleveland.”
Cedric: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tavis: Betty White was just here. I love Betty White.
Cedric: Oh, Betty White is amazing, man.
Tavis: Hilarious. She was just here not too long ago.
Cedric: She’s beautiful.
Tavis: So you’ve done some stuff on “Hot in Cleveland,” and the word is that there is a spinoff starring you as a result of your being on “Hot in Cleveland.”
Cedric: Yeah, yeah.
Tavis: Can you independently confirm that, Mr. Entertainer?
Cedric: I can say that we are in talks. (Laughter) No, no, no. Yes, we’re definitely developing this idea. It’s a real fun space and TVLand is doing great, and “Hot in Cleveland” was a great experience. So Suzanne Meyer, who create that show and also was a big writer on “Frasier,” we partnered up to develop an idea that we can spin off “Hot in Cleveland.”
So it’s going pretty good. I can’t talk about the details of it, but it’s going to be a good time. It’s definitely fun, and I like the world.
Tavis: See, when I just see you in a clergy collar, I just start laughing. You ain’t even said anything yet.
Cedric: Right. Right, right, yeah.
Tavis: Just seeing you – (laughs) just seeing you in a clergy collar just makes me laugh. (Laughter)
Cedric: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m sitting up there trying to – in this I’m trying to give her a little bit of advice, and I got a little shady background myself. I wasn’t always a preacher. (Laughter) I’m kind of checking on that Al Greene kind of thing.
Tavis: I see it, I see it. Since you are known for your hats and you got all kind of hats and all different styles and you’re cool in them all the time, does it ever feel weird for you, like that scene just now, when you’re acting and you don’t have a hat on your head? Do you feel naked when you’re out without a hat on?
Cedric: As me, as Ced the Entertainer. When I’m playing a character, I’m cool. I’m like, all right, cool, I don’t necessarily have to have a hat on. But if I’m kind of like out as me and I don’t have my hat on, it’s kind of – yeah. (Laughter) Like yo, man, it’s me. It’s me.
So I actually enjoy (unintelligible) so my wife and I started developing this hat line, and this is one of them. I got this cool, the driver’s-style caps, and I got the fedoras and all that.
So I made sure I brought you one, man. I don’t know if you (unintelligible) check it out.
Tavis: Is that what’s in that box?
Cedric: We get these; I do these special designer hat boxes for, for the people right there.
Tavis: I like the box. I’ll just take – I’m just happy with the box.
Cedric: There’s yours. It got your initials on there and everything, you know what I’m saying?
Tavis: What? Let me see this thing.
Cedric: It got the “T” over here.
Tavis: Oh, no it – oh, my –
Cedric: See, you go the “TS” over there.
Tavis: I see this. Wait, what – what, what is that, velvet?
Cedric: Whooo, that’s classy. (Laughter) Better not get that in the rain.
Tavis: I see the “T” on one side, I see the “S.” The box is cool.
Tavis: So should I put this thing on?
Cedric: Yeah, let’s see what it looks like, man.
Tavis: I’m going to let you put it on. I don’t know how to wear – how do you –
Cedric: See, you just (unintelligible).
Tavis: Set it right on my head. I want to make sure I got the right look.
Cedric: You just pop it right there.
Tavis: I want to rock the right – put it where you wanted it.
Cedric: You just pop that right there, pop that down, let’s see you. Let me check you out, Tavis.
Tavis: Is that it?
Cedric: You’re looking kind of smooth. Maybe just tilt it just a little bit right there. Get that little tilt in there.
Tavis: All right.
Cedric: Yeah, that’s Tavis Smiley all day, right there. (Laughter)
Cedric: Yeah, that’s kind of smooth. We can work with you.
Tavis: All right. I like this, I like this.
Cedric: Yeah, yeah.
Tavis: Give me my top, man.
Cedric: Yeah, yeah, you need your top right there. (Laughter) That’s the Who Ced Hats, man; people can check them out – WhoCed.com, man.
Tavis: Who Ced, W-H-O C-E-D.
Cedric: Yeah, C-E-D.
Tavis: I like that, who – that’s cool. Who Ced. Oh, it got a little handle with it, too.
Cedric: Yeah, man.
Tavis: Oh (unintelligible) I like this.
Cedric: You got a little strap, so if you want to travel with it you take this string from the bottom and you take it over the top.
Tavis: Oh, you’re just to cool, man.
Cedric: To seal it in, man. That’s how you do it.
Tavis: You’re too cool. All right, that’s it. Thank you.
Cedric: All right. (Laughter) You (unintelligible) it.
Tavis: Yeah, I’m good now. (Laughter) The movie’s called “Larry Crowne,” starring Cedric the Entertainer alongside Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, and “It’s Worth What?” starts when?
Cedric: July 19th.
Tavis: July 19th.
Cedric: July 19th, “It’s Worth What?,” NBC. People, go check it out, man. I’m a game show host now. Cedwink Martindale. (Laughter)
Tavis: And Marcus Garvey sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Cedric: Yeah, that’s right, man. I did direct my first movie, so “Dance Fool” is coming out, too. I’ve got into the directing game. That’s coming out this fall.
Tavis: You’re directing, too?
Cedric: Yeah, man. I got all the hats.
Tavis: And hats in between.
Cedric: And hats. Hats (unintelligible) and I got a carpet-cleaning service.
Tavis: You working like a Jamaican.
Cedric: Yeah, got to do it. (Laughter) (Unintelligible) (Laughter)
“Announcer:” Nationwide Insurance supports Tavis Smiley. With every question and every answer, Nationwide Insurance is proud to join Tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. Nationwide is on your side.
And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.