Steve Harvey marked his 58th birthday on his talk show with Martha Stewart joining in the festivities. It took many years -- and a lot of hard work -- for Harvey to get where he is. And he's not about to take any of it for granted. Special Correspondent James Brown has our Sunday Profile:
Steve Harvey arguably is one of the hottest daytime stars in show business right now. Last year, he won not one, but two Daytime Emmys as host of "Family Feud" and "The Steve Harvey Show."
"I tape 180 shows in 34 weeks," Harvey said. "And then as soon as I'm done, I go home to Atlanta to tape 'Family Feud.' And in eight weeks I tape 185 shows. And then every morning on the radio I do 240 live shows a year, every morning!
"The checks help get you there," he laughed. "The moment they quit paying me -- I'm exhausted!"
We caught up with him in Chicago, where he puts in long days recording his radio show and talk show under the same roof.
Brown asked Harvey about his appeal across the racial spectrum.
"It is that I'm transparent," Harvey replied. "My color's not a crutch. See, funny crosses a lot of color barriers. I'm going to take this God-given gift of being funny and I'm going to spread it out like peanut butter on everything I do."
Harvey says he has always had the gift to make people laugh. He grew up poor in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Jesse Harvey, a manual laborer, and Eloise, a homemaker.
He credits his parents for much of his success.
"My father's one single role was to talk to me about manhood," Harvey said. "You work hard. You don't be lazy. My mother was a Sunday School teacher for 40 years. She taught me about God and faith and prayer. That combination has gotten me to where I am today, and I don't doubt that for one minute."
God and manhood are two constant themes in Harvey's life -- a life that has had a lot of ups and an equal amount of downs. He dropped out of college, and worked in a series of menial jobs, from assembly line worker to carpet cleaner, before he found his calling.
Brown asked, "What in the world pushed you into standup comedy?"
"I had, like, 11 jobs. I've been fired 11 times!" he laughed. "'Cause I'm not cut for that. You know, I was a great employee, man. Everybody loved me comingt o work -- I'm singing, tellin' jokes on the assembly line. I was miserable, man. I was dying. I was dying."
Because? "Because I always knew, man, that this was not my life. That there had to be more to this than that."
So Harvey took a leap of faith -- and trusted his gift.
"I won an amateur night, October 8th, 1985. I went to work the next day and quit my job."
"You jumped, big time!"
"Oh, I jumped completely! Because of all the things I had done up to that point, nothing I had ever done did the light bulb go off."
But success didn't come right away. He struggled to make it on the comedy circuit. He ended up homeless and living out of his car for three years.
"When I look back on it, I couldn't believe it was three years. 'Cause I was so intent on getting out. I was working so hard to move forward."
He was at his lowest point when one day, while washing up in a hotel public bathroom, Harvey says he had an epiphany.
"It's a promise I made, to God," he told Brown. "I told God if he let me make it, when I got there I'd tell everybody how I did it. I just told Him, 'If you let me make it, when I get there I'm gonna tell everybody it was you.'"
On the verge of packing it in, Harvey picked himself up. That day he got a call for a standup job, the job led to others, and soon Harvey landed a gig hosting "Showtime at the Apollo" in New York.
He had minor success with shows on ABC and the WB Network., traveled the country on the Kings of Comedy Tour, and he started a radio show.
But by the year 2000, his career had stalled. "I plateaued a few times," he said. "After Kings of Comedy I thought, 'What am I going to do now?'"
Again, divine inspiration seemed to come into play. on Harvey nationally-syndicated radio show, he found that he had another gift, for dispensing no-nonsense, blunt relationship advice to women.
"How is it that you got to be known as the relationship expert?" asked Brown.
"From failure," Harvey replied. "See, God allows your greatest and most valuable lessons to be learned in failure. And I failed at relationships enough times to where -- as a man -- I know how we function and operate. So all I had to do was turn around and tell women that part."
In 2009, that led him to write a book called, "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man." The book sold more than 3 million copies. In 2012, it was made into a movie that grossed just under $100 million ... not bad for a guy who is on his third marriage.
"Now I do not know how women think. Now if I knew that, I'd be a billionaire!"
Now at 58, Harvey's career has skyrocketed to the next level. He is reportedly worth more than $40 million. He credits this latest success to meeting his current wife, Marjorie.
"You look at my life and career after 2005. I mean, gee whiz, man! My career went crazy after 2005. That woman showed up!"
They were married in 2007, and have a large blended family of seven children.
Harvey says he never forgets the promise he made in that bathroom over 25 years ago. But he's taken some heat for not being Christian enough.
He told Brown he gets slammed for his language, or for enjoying a cigar or a little drink: "'You supposed to be a Christian, I heard you cussing.' Look at me. Look at my life, look where I come from. Look where I am. Now, I don't know what scriptures you use to get where you at, but the one I use is working."
And at the end of the day, it's his ability to laugh in the face of adversity that Steve Harvey wants to share: "Two divorces, flunked out of college, lost everything I owned twice, lived in a car for three years," he said.
"More chapters to be written in your life?" asked Brown.
"Oh, yeah, man. I expect big things," said Harvey. "I'm looking for more things. I look for extravagant stuff to happen in my life."
For more info:
- Steve Harvey (Official web site)
- "Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success: Discovering Your Gift and the Way to Life's Riches" by Steve Harvey (Amistad); Also available in eBook, Downloadable Audio and Audio CD formats
- Read a sample
- Follow Steve Harvey on Twitter (@IAmSteveHarvey), Facebook and Instagram
- "The Steve Harvey Morning Show"
- "Family Feud"
- Stardome Comedy Club
- Hilarities Comedy Club, Cleveland, Ohio
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