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Five questions with . . . Cedric the Entertainer

Posted 12:00am on Saturday, Sep. 28, 2013

Cedric the Entertainer

Cedric the Entertainer, the new host of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, admits he doesn’t have what it takes to be a contestant. “I would like to think I can get through the first three or four questions,” the comedian says. But that’s about it, unless the subsequent questions played to a narrow specialty area: pop culture, music, TV and movies. “If it’s Shakespeare or 18th-century emperors, it’s going to be all guessing,” he says. “If it’s not on a Jay-Z album, I have no idea what it’s about!”

But that doesn’t mean Cedric can’t ace being a host. Following Regis Philbin and Meredith Viera, he’s the third host of Millionaire (airing at 1 and 1:30 p.m. weekdays on KXAS/Channel 5) since its U.S. debut in 1999. As he sees it, if his brand of humor can lighten some pressure-cooker situations for the contestants, he’ll be doing a good job.

1 What was the biggest surprise for you when you started filming Millionaire?

It’s the seriousness of what happens when people realize they have the opportunity to win life-changing money. Usually people are playing the game really loose, having a good time. But you do see and feel that moment — both the anxiety of the crowd watching, how they want to jump in and yell out answers, as well as the contestant’s personality turning really serious. That kind of surprised me: how ‘real’ it gets.

2 Did your buddy Steve Harvey, who knows a thing or two about daytime TV, offer you any advice?

Steve’s advice mainly was just to relax and be yourself. I was thinking of using a big game-show voice. Steve was like, ‘No, don’t do that.’

3 How do you have time to fit this into a schedule that already includes starring in a sitcom (TV Land’s The Soul Man), appearing in the occasional movie and doing stand-up gigs across the country?

We’re able to shoot a lot of Millionaire episodes in a small period of time, back to back to back. It opens me up to be able to still put a movie in my schedule for the winter months. And we schedule The Soul Man around when I’m available and we start knocking them down. So this has been great for me.

4 Was there a pivotal moment in life when you discovered you could be funny for a living?

I grew up in a house where my mother was educated. I was expected to go to college, get my degree, work in corporate America. But I just never felt like that was my destiny. I remember trying comedy one night at a club and I did it really well. When I came home and tried a couple of jokes on my mother, she laughed so hard she went down to the ground. I thought, ‘OK, she understands that I can be this.’ That’s when I knew.

5 And you’ve done well enough for yourself over the years that, in theory, you could be the answers to some pop culture-themed Millionaire questions, couldn’t you?

Exactly. If they ever threw me in there as a possible answer, that would be interesting.

— David Martindale, Special to the Star-Telegram

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