Cedric the Entertainer appeared on It's Showtime at the Apollo in 1992 and shortly after on Def Comedy Jam. In 1994, he won BET's Richard Pryor Comic of the Year Award. He landed his first acting role on The Steve Harvey Show in 1996 and was featured in Spike Lee's The Original Kings of Comedy. He has also appeared in the children’s movies Ice Age and Madagascar and in the Barbershop films.
Comedian, actor. Cedric Antonio Kyles was born April 24, 1964, in Jefferson City, Missouri. He grew up with his father, Kitrell, his mother, Rosetta, and his sister, Sharita. Although Kyles was voted "most humorous" and "most popular" in high school, he wasn't focused on comedy when he was a student. He once told Reel Images Magazine, "I wasn't the class clown. My mom taught at the school district where I was being educated, so they weren't going to allow for no class clown! She would have clowned me!"
In 1987, Kyles earned a bachelor's degree in mass communication from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. He took a job at State Farm working on insurance claims; almost immediately after, he let a friend convince him to participate in a comedy competition in St. Louis. Kyles didn't just do well—he won the whole thing. He held onto his job at State Farm for three years, all the while making comedy a bigger part of his life.
Kyles' famous moniker, Cedric the Entertainer, was developed by chance. (A previous contender for that role had been "Cheerio.") In order to fill up the time slots he was hired for, Kyles would sing songs, recite poetry and do anything else he could think of to supplement his lean but highly popular comedy material. After telling the host at one venue to introduce him as an entertainer, not a comedian, he was introduced as "Cedric the Entertainer"—and he thought, "There it is, right there. I'll take that one."
Success in TV and Film
Working his way up from local comedy clubs to national television, Cedric appeared on It's Showtime at the Apollo in 1992, and shortly after on Def Comedy Jam as well. He was soon hosting Comicview, a popular series on the BET network. In 1994, Kyles won BET's Richard Pryor Comic of the Year Award. He landed his first acting role on The Steve Harvey Show in 1996. He played the part of a physical education instructor named Cedric, the best friend of Steve Harvey's character. Cedric's work on the show earned him four NAACP Image Awards, but the accolades didn't stop there. He won another for his voice-acting on The Proud Family and was nominated for the films Barbershop (2002) and Cadillac Records (2008). His five wins in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series category remain an Image Awards record.
Cedric's comedy style is often described as clean, or inclusive, but he maintains that he doesn't shy away from swearing or being abrasive on principle—it's just not his personal style. Along with Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Bernie Mac, Cedric the Entertainer was featured in Spike Lee's 2000 documentary The Original Kings of Comedy. The film's positive response meant a huge step forward for all four comics. When Bernie Mac passed away in 2008, Cedric the Entertainer spoke at his funeral.
Cedric the Entertainer has found a place on the silver screen, as well. In 2000, he appeared with Martin Lawrence in the movie Big Momma's House. Over the following decade, Cedric appeared in a long list of movies, including Barbershop (2002), Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004), Johnson Family Vacation (2004) and The Honeymooners (2005). He also piled on the voice acting roles in animated films such as Ice Age (2002), Madagascar (2005) and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008), as well as in the combination live-action and computer-generated Charlotte's Web (2006).
Cedric married Lorna Wells in 1999. They had a son, Croix, and a daughter, Lucky Rose. Cedric also has a daughter, Tiara, from a previous relationship. Cedric founded the Cedric the Entertainer Charitable Foundation Inc., in his hometown community of St. Louis. Its goal is to enrich the lives and opportunities of inner city youth.
Although Cedric the Entertainer has devoted much of his energy in recent years to his TV and film roles, he insists that stand-up will always be an important part of his career. "You are the conductor and [the audience is] the symphony," he explains. "It's a symphony of laughter, if you will, and you're trying to make sure everybody is hitting some good notes and you're making this whole, full orchestrated sound of laughter."
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