The “Think Like a Man” Interview
with Kam Williams
Steve at Ease
Born in Welch, West Virginia on January 17, 1956, Steve Harvey is a media conglomerate personified whose career began doing stand-up in the mid-1980s. His success as a comedian eventually led to a long stint as host of It’s Showtime at the Apollo, multiple TV shows and movies, assorted acting roles, and to hosting, writing and producing.
Steve starred on the big screen in such movies as Love Don’t Cost a Thing, You Got Served, Johnson Family Vacation and Madea Goes to Jail. This year, he’s celebrating his 12th year as longtime host of BET’s Celebration of Gospel.
In 1997, he toured as one of the Kings of Comedy alongside Cedric The Entertainer, the late Bernie Mac and D.L. Hughley. That led to the taping of one of the most successful comedy concert films in history – The Original Kings of Comedy – directed by Spike Lee.
Currently, Steve serves as the host of the long-running syndicated game show Family Feud. His presence since his debut in September 2010 has rejuvenated the series and increased the Feud’s TV ratings by more than 40 percent. This fall, he will debut a new syndicated daytime show, a one-hour daily program covering relationships, parenting, the workplace and a range of other topics.
September 2000 marked the premiere of the Steve Harvey Morning Show, a nationally-syndicated radio program which airs Monday – Friday, from 6 to 10 a.m. in over 60 markets with a total of approximately 7 million listeners. The show enabled him to share love advice with his listeners through the “Strawberry Letter” segment, where he responds to relationship questions.
That segment’s popularity led to the publication of Steve’s first book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man in January of 2009. Love guru Harvey’s must-have guide to unlocking the male mind, understanding his game, anticipating his moves and countering with unstoppable offense and defense, the widely-acclaimed book was on the New York Times Best Sellers List for 64 weeks, selling over 2 million copies worldwide.
Here, Steve talks about the opus’ screen adaptation titled, Think Like a Man, starring Taraji P. Henson, Michael Ealy, Gabrielle Union and Kevin Hart.
Kam Williams: Hi Steve, thanks for another interview.
Steve Harvey: Hey, no problem, Kam, How you been doing?
KW: Great, thanks. When did it occur to you that Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man could be turned into a movie?
SH: It actually never occurred to me. [Chuckles] In fact, as a first time author, I didn’t expect the book to be a #1 best-seller. So, I had no idea that the book was going to be that much of a success. And when they came to me about adapting it into a movie, my foremost concern was that they not make a mockery of my book. So, they promised to keep me involved every step of the way, including the script and the casting. I think everybody they put in the film was a great pick.
KW: Your schedule must be dizzying. Where do you find the time? You already have Family Feud and the radio show, and now you’re about to add a TV talk show to the mix?
SH: Yes, sir. It’ll work out. [Chuckles]
KW: I know you play yourself in the film. But which of the characters in Think Like a Man would you say you’re most similar to?
SH: Michael Ealy’s character, Dominic. I was definitely more of a dreamer. That was me. Of course, I never met the chick who was making six-figures. I was always a dreamer with high aspirations, but I kept coming up short my whole life. I couldn’t quite nail it down. So, I thought Michael’s character was closest to me, other than that fool, Kevin Hart’s.
KW: A fellow comedian.
SH: Yeah. I had pieces of all these guys, except I was never a momma’s boy or afraid to commit, although I might have committed to the wrong people.
KW: What message do you want people to take away from the film?
SH: That men and women really do want the same things. We just need each other to bring it out. That’s really the truth of the matter.
KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: From whom have you learned your greatest lessons about love?
SH: From my father. My father was married to mother ‘til the day he died, for over 64 years. He’s why I kept trying to get the marriage thing right. All I knew growing up was that my father was married to and loved my momma, period. He worked hard, made some money, and put it on the dresser. She spent it on the family, and he went out and earned some more. He taught me the most about love.
KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: How comfortable were you about appearing in the screen adaptation of your own book?
SH: I’m not a movie star and I know that. So, I made it perfectly clear that I didn’t have to appear in the film just because it was my book. I didn’t want to hurt the project. I wanted to make a hit movie.
KW: That sounds awfully modest. After all, you’ve been a TV star for years.
SH: TV is a different animal. I belong on that little screen. The big silver screen, not so much, ‘cause I’ve seen my face up close when it’s 25-feet tall. I’m okay as long as you keep me in that little box. [LOL]
KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: Of which of your many achievements are you most proud?
SH: Wow! I’d have to say I’m most proud of my mentoring camp that I do in Dallas every year for one hundred boys from single-parent homes. I was raised by a mother who was a Sunday school teacher and a father who worked hard. Together they taught me to give back. Other than that, I’m also very proud of my stand-up career. I’m sure it’ll be a pretty emotional night on August 2nd when I hang it up for good at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Those two things have set the benchmark of who I am.
KW: I think of stand-up as one of the toughest things to do in the world. It’s just you and a microphone.
SH: Let me explain to you just how difficult it is. You can take lessons to become almost anything: flying lessons, piano lessons, skydiving lessons, acting lessons, race car driving lessons, singing lessons. But there’s no class for comedy. You have to be born with it. God has to give you this gift. And there are only a few who can earn a living at it. It’s been an honor and a blessing.
KW: Editor/legist Patricia Turnier asks: What message do you have for someone who believes that a woman should not think like a man?
SH: Don’t think like a man, and let’s see where that gets you. Thinking like a man doesn’t mean you have to stop acting like a lady. “Think like a man” is just a catchphrase. What I really want is for women to know how a man thinks. Patricia, you don’t have to think like a man at all if you don’t want to. But, good luck, call me, and let me know how it works out for you.
KW: She’d also like to know whether you have another book in the works.
SH: Yeah, I have another one, but it won’t be about relationships. It’ll probably be more about family.
KW: Yale grad Tommy Russell asks: What do you think of the Trayvon Martin case?
SH: It’s very simple for me. Let’s remove the race issue for a second, because as long as we make it a racial issue, it forces people to take sides, and that’s the part I don’t like. So, let’s forget all the 911 calls and the fact that the police said “Don’t follow him.” And let’s ignore all the speculation about who was hollering for help. Just imagine that your child goes to the store to buy an iced tea and a bag of Skittles. And on his way home, he’s shot dead by an adult male with a gun who admits shooting him. What should we do about that? Let’s go from there.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
SH: I see a man who finally found some joy in his life, and I’m overjoyed about that. It has a lot to do with my wife and my faith. I finally figured out the difference between fun and joy. Joy resides on the inside. You don’t have to go anywhere to get it. It’s all really cool.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
SH: I don’t eat it much any more, but I love making spaghetti with meat sauce.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
SH: To win a mega-Lotto for over $60 million. I could fix everything up right there. Bam!
KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
SH: Probably a bald eagle, since I’m already bald and I love to fish. But I’d probably be a shaky-ass eagle because I’m afraid of flying.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
SH: I remember my father taking me to a carnival when I was 3. I remember falling down a hill and splitting my hand open when I was 4. I still have the scar on my hand. And I remember crashing when I tried to ride a bike for the first time.
KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
SH: It taught me how powerful women really were. And it made me respect them all the more. I said, “Wow! I’ve just discovered something. I have to have one of those to feel good about myself. And when they don’t want me anymore, it hurts.”
KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
SH: A very, very good work ethic.
KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets,” asks: What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?
SH: [Chuckles] The worst was asking my parents to borrow $5,000 so I could buy a carpet cleaning machine. I couldn’t pay the loan back and they lost the entire $5,000. That was heartbreaking, man, because that was a lot of money for them. I resolved right then that I would never disappoint them again. And I paid them back a million times over before they passed. I tell you, Kam, the smartest business move I ever made was writing this book. It really turned my career around by making Hollywood see me as general market as opposed to multi-cultural. After the book’s success came Family Feud and invites to appear on shows like Oprah, Ellen and The View. And now here comes my own talk show. All that flowed from the book.
KW: I thought you were going to say the best business decision was when you were transformed spiritually when you did that “He Ain’t through with Me Yet” concert. I got goosebumps watching the end of that show.
SH: Wow! You’re absolutely correct. There has been nothing more impactful on my life and meaningful to me than the introduction of Christ. That, hands down, blows away every joke I’ve ever written. When I did it that night, it was the first time I’d ever done it on stage. And the whole room exploded. That was the most powerful performance of my entire career. But that wasn’t a business decision.
KW: Bernadette also asks: What is your favorite charity?
SH: The Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation.
KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
SH: As a guy who made it and then helped as many other people to make it as he could.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Steve, and best of luck with the film and your many other endeavors.
SH: Thank you, Kam. Let’s talk again, my man, when the talk show debuts in the fall.
Monday, April 16, 2012