Cedric's ready to have a good time

September 18, 2002|By Mike Duffy | Mike Duffy,KNIGHT RIDDER / TRIBUNE

Old school, new cool.

That's what Cedric the Entertainer hopes to bring to Cedric the Entertainer Presents, his new comedy-variety half-hour series premiering tonight at 8:30 on Fox. A little song, a little dance and lots of laughs.

"We're mixing in that throwback energy, that Carol Burnett, Jackie Gleason and Flip Wilson kind of thing," says the genial, deep-voiced comic who has spent the past six years as a sitcom supporting player on WB's The Steve Harvey Show.

Cedric, a St. Louis-born funnyman whose given surname is Kyles, has also carved a higher profile over the past few years with The Original Kings of Comedy concert tour and follow-up Spike Lee film that also featured Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Bernie Mac. He's also co-starring in the film Barbershop, last weekend's box-office champ.

But many more people discovered Cedric the Entertainer during his hilarious breakthrough moment in a Bud Light beer commercial during the 2001 Super Bowl. The one where he sashayed across a room and accidentally sprayed a bottle of the beer all over his gorgeous date.

"You can build your career off many things. You can be in stand-up and then go to television and maybe do some film work," recalls Cedric. "But for a 30-second beer commercial to be the thing that pops, that's why you look at all opportunities as opportunities to help people recognize you."

Wayne Brady, who has just launched an entertainment-focused syndicated daytime show, had his own brief, unsuccessful prime-time fling with a half-hour comedy-variety show on ABC last season.

The failure of Brady's show doesn't concern Cedric. With his series situated after The Bernie Mac Show in Fox's Wednesday night lineup, he believes his series has a better shot at finding an audience and sticking around.

"I thought Wayne took a good stab at it and brought the awareness of comedy-variety back up," says Cedric. "But I'm not sure the improv format of that show was one that really drew the audience in."

In Cedric the Entertainer Presents, the star will appear in scripted sketches, playing a variety of characters he says are "a slice of life and who viewers can instantly identify with."

And, yes, when he slides nimbly across the floor with the show's dancing ladies during brief musical interludes, Cedric the Entertainer may be channeling the spirit of Jackie Gleason, one of his show-business heroes.

"He being a man of girth but always light on his feet and smooth, I guess I identified with him," says Cedric of Gleason. "I just liked this guy. He had style and wore the [elegant] suits.

"And I've always been a fan of that ... energy, the smoothness and the attitude that life is a party. I want my show to really carry that kind of energy: `I'm having a good time, you should, too.' "

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