First making cinematic waves as one-fourth of 2000's Original Kings of Comedy, Berkeley High School alum Cedric the Entertainer has since graduated to roles in Big Momma's House, a pair of Barbershop flicks, Johnson Family Vacation and the big-screen version of The Honeymooners. At 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 10, Cinema St. Louis will kick off the fourteenth annual St. Louis International Film Festival by honoring Mr. The Entertainer with a reception and tribute to his motion-picture prowess at the Jewel Box in Forest Park.
Julie Seabaugh: What was your reaction upon hearing that you were receiving the 2005 Cinema St. Louis Cinema Award?
Cedric the Entertainer: That I should get my act together, don't you think, if I'm a dignitary. If I'm going to receive such a prestigious award, I must be able to say words like "prestigious award."
Looking back on your stand-up roots, what do you remember about the first time you performed?
My first time was at the Westport Funny Bone, and I was competing in the Johnny Walker Comedy Competition. I did a little two-minute routine, it got picked for the night, and I went and performed on one of the other nights as one of the quarter-finalists. So that was my introduction to comedy. Once I did well for that crowd, I never stopped doing it.
What was your big break out of the clubs and onto TV?
I think the big break came when I had an opportunity to host ComicView on BET. I had worked in St. Louis and developed some great new material working in the clubs, and I went to just do a TV performance to get a little more notoriety on BET's ComicView. And it was just such the right timing that I became the new host, and that put me in people's homes every night, which made me a household name as far as African-American communities. It gave me a lot of celebrity status, and I was able to make a whole lot of money doing shows, and it became one of my first claims to fame.
You still maintain connections in St. Louis, most notably with your CTE Foundation, which grants scholarships and other education benefits. What's the latest on the Foundation front?
We did, of course, some Katrina contributions there, and we've been in talks for developing a hygiene and etiquette program that we'll do with a couple of spas and a few consultants around the country, mainly in Texas and Illinois. It's to get kids to identify with taking care of themselves, [to take] pride in cleaning their fingernails and washing their hair and things we think a lot of the youth is really getting away from. It's not the typical subject matter, but these things, we think, will bring pride in oneself, and maybe this will encourage them to be the best person they can be.
Taking into account all the stand-up and the TV and the movies and even your book [2002's Grown-A$$ Man], how do you want to be remembered as a performer?
I try to bring the kind of humor that is one of those unique blends that you can enjoy in a fully adult context, and then I have material that is very family-oriented. Just really trying to entertain the masses is one of the things that I want people to try to remember about me. I came with a good spirit and a good nature and tried to do it with some positivity, but it was definitely purely for fun.