Cedric the Entertainer

Cedric the Entertainer

Born Cedric Antonio Kyles in Jefferson City, MO to parents Rosetta and Kitrell Kyles, he grew up in the nearby towns of Caruthersville and, later, St. Louis. After graduating from Berkeley High School, he earned a BA in communications from Southeast Missouri State University and later began working for State Farm Insurance. Even before the insurance job, Cedric had begun frequenting area comedy clubs, winning competitions and eventually sharing the stage with the established comedian Steve Harvey. Making his television debut in 1992 in an episode of "It's Showtime at the Apollo" (syndicated, 1987-2002), Cedric's profile was steadily increasing, and a yearlong stint as host of the comedian showcase series "Comic View" (BET, 1992-2005) would offer him further exposure. The network also honored the fledgling stand-up with the Richard Pryor Comedian of the Year Award in 1994. When "The Steve Harvey Show" (1996-2002) began its six-year run, Cedric was right by Harvey's side, with a regular role as Cedric the gym coach, the best friend and roommate of Harvey's Steve Hightower, a jazz musician-turned-high school teacher. During his tenure on Harvey's show, the ambitious Cedric branched out with a debut film role in the little seen comedy "Ride" (1998), followed by the more widely released "Big Momma's House" (2000), starring fellow funnyman, Martin Lawrence.His star rapidly on the rise, Cedric enjoyed phenomenal exposure as part of the hit concert film "The Original Kings of Comedy" (2000), alongside Harvey, Bernie Mac and D.L. Hughley. Next, he was featured as the preacher presiding over the funeral chronicled in the comedy "Kingdom Come" (2001), in addition to lending his voice to the Eddie Murphy sequel "Dr. Dolittle 2" (2001). More voice work came his way with the animated feature "Ice Age" (2002), while the man himself could be seen in the urban comedy "Barbershop" (2002). Both the film and the actor stirred up controversy, due to comments made by Cedric's character regarding civil rights icons Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. For his part, Cedric merely stated that these were the views of a fictional character, not his, refusing to issue the apology some community leaders were demanding. Whether because of the minor uproar, or in spite of it, the film went on to become a box office hit, spawning a sequel and a spin-off. In the meantime, Cedric's popularity continued to broaden, and his sketch comedy series "Cedric The Entertainer Presents. ." was moderately well-received during its run, although it did perform strong enough in the ratings to keep it on the air for more than two seasons.Cedric returned to the big screen as a private detective in the Coen Brothers' disappointing screwball comedy "Intolerable Cruelty" (2003), as well as the sequel "Barbershop 2: Back in Business" (2004). The comedic actor next took a page from Chevy Chase when he played a bumbling dad dragging his dysfunctional clan out on the road in "Johnson Family Vacation" (2004). He also had a brief cameo in the Jim Carrey family fantasy "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" (2004), prior to crossing swords with John Travolta's shylock-turned-music producer Chili Palmer in "Be Cool" (2005), the lukewarm sequel to 1995's "Get Shorty." Less successful was the neutered comedy "Man of the House" (2005), although Cedric provided the few laughs there were to be had in this Tommy Lee Jones vehicle. Next, he lent his jovial voice to "Madagascar" (2005), DreamWorks' animated adventure about four zoo animals who escape the confines of their Manhattan cages only to find themselves in the jungles of the island continent. In "The Honeymooners" (2005), an update of the classic TV sitcom, Cedric took on the role of Ralph Kramden, while Mike Epps played his bumbling best friend, Norton. Unfortunately, Cedric and his co-star lacked the comedic chemistry of originators Jackie Gleason and Art Carney, dooming the misguided modernization to instantaneous obscurity.Cedric picked up more voice work as Golly the Goose in the feature film adaptation of E.B. White's enduring children's story "Charlotte's Web" (2006), starring Julia Roberts as the voice of the eponymous spider. He followed with a turn as an average Joe caught up in a dangerous case of mistaken identity in the comedy "Code Name: The Cleaner" (2007), in addition to playing a disc jockey in the biopic "Talk to Me" (2007), starring Don Cheadle as 1960s radio personality Ralph "Petey" Greene. Cedric reteamed with Martin Lawrence for "Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins" (2008) as competitive cousin Clyde, and once again provided the voice of Maurice in the animated sequel "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (2008). He portrayed legendary Chicago bluesman Willie Dixon in the musical biopic "Cadillac Records" (2008), co-starring Adrian Brody as Leonard Chess, founder of the influential recording label Chess Records. Back on television, he hosted the cable special "Cedric The Entertainer's Urban Circus" (TBS, 2010), an attempt at reinvigorating the variety show format.Following a supporting role as Tom Hanks' helpful neighbor in "Larry Crowne" (2011), Cedric The Entertainer made his directing debut with the martial arts comedy "Dance Fu" (2011) and had a guest role as a superstar-turned-preacher on the cable sitcom "Hot in Cleveland" (TV Land, 2010-15). That role was spun off into its own sitcom, "The Soul Man" (TV Land, 2012-16), which featured Cedric The Entertainer as a former R&B singer who leaves superstardom behind in Las Vegas to become a preacher at his father's church in the Midwest. As he continued to star on his new show, Cedric The Entertainer again voiced Maurice in "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" (2012) and later joined Marlon Wayans for the critically lambasted horror spoof "A Haunted House" (2013), which was a box office success despite scathing reviews. From there, he took a bit of a surprising turn when it was announced in March 2013 that he would assume hosting duties of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (1999-) for the syndicated show's 12th season, taking over for outgoing host Meredith Vieira. He was set to assume the mantle in September 2013.