- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2001

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. —Steve Harvey changes his clothes as he talks. The demands on his time are such that he has to keep moving. Its well into the afternoon, and he has been talking since dawn.
Mr. Harvey started his day at his job as host of a morning drive-time radio show on Los Angeles hot KKBT-FM.
Now hes turning his attention to his role as Steve Hightower, the school vice principal and music teacher on "The Steve Harvey Show," which airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on the WB network.
"I have a wonderful life. Its very crowded, its very busy, but at the same time, Im extremely thankful for it because I could be nothing. I easily could have been an inmate. Easily," he says.
Mr. Harvey has put on makeup, groomed his mustache, cast aside his casual sweats and is putting on sleeker slacks and a shirt. Hes growing less serious and is heading for the straightforward laughs as the glossy entertainer takes over and the issues-oriented activist recedes into the background.
Hes the first to admit that his sitcom doesnt have much to do with the serious concerns that often are the topics on his radio show.
"The primary reason I took the show was to try to change the way radio is normally done, to be not so shocking, to be more motivational and uplifting in the mornings," he says.
Earlier on this mornings show, between the jokes and the sounds of hip-hop and rhythm and blues, he discussed the lack of books in inner-city schools.
Now, across town at Universal Studios on his sitcom set, hell be joking with faculty and students of the fictional Chicago inner-city high school of "The Steve Harvey Show."
"We dont really cover many issues. We dont do teen pregnancy, we dont do drugs, we dont do race. All those things are very much in the public schools, whether its poor schools, rich schools, middle-class schools. We just dont have that on the show, so this show is very much unlike reality," Mr. Harvey says.
He would have liked it to be "a little more socially significant," but he has come to accept that on television, "the God is the laughter they are all beholden to." At least, he assesses, "its been a funny show."
Mr. Harvey uses the past tense because hes wrapping up the show for this season, with 13 new episodes airing in the fall on the shows sixth season. Meanwhile, reruns will be shown during the summer.
"I just want to stop while Im ahead," he says. "I wanted to walk away now on my own accord. I dont want to be canceled or asked to step aside. I wanted to be in a position to call my own shots, to leave at the time I wanted to leave."
He says that in the total scheme of things, having "The Steve Harvey Show" leave the air is insignificant, "but a child without a book is a major catastrophe."
The 44-year-old comedians all-around success suggests his horizons are unlimited.
"The Original Kings of Comedy," Spike Lees documentary of the live comedy tour starring Mr. Harvey, Cedric "the Entertainer," D.L. Hughley and Bernie Mack was a smash hit last summer. At the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples Image Awards in March, Mr. Harvey was honored as Entertainer of the Year.
He knows that hes not the biggest movie, TV or radio star, but "I happen to be able to do all those things. I cram a lot of stuff into 365 days."
His father taught him to believe that you can be whatever you want to be, so every day he wakes up with a goal in mind.
"Hes very motivated, very shrewd, a very smart guy," says Nancy Leichter, vice president and general manager of KKBT-FM.
Yet Mr. Harvey says he was shy and reserved while growing up in Cleveland.
"I still am very much so in real life. Im a different person when Im not on the mike, when Im not telling jokes. I speak a lot softer. Im a much calmer spirit in real life," he says.
That seems true. On the set, he immediately is noisier. Popular expletives pepper his language, and he cannot help being the focal point for laughter.
At school, he was "never a follower" and was voted "most difficult," Mr. Harvey says. In college, he was dubbed "Ralph Abernathy" because "I used to fight for the rights of other people so hard."
He was aware that he was "very, very funny."
Mr. Harvey and his wife, Mary, have created the King Love Center Foundation, named in honor of Martin Luther King, to help children build character and fulfill their dreams.
Miss Leichter says Mr. Harvey is "a very, very funny man, but very real. Hes part preacher, part comedian and part social activist, and people really love him."
Mr. Harvey admits that fans can be a bit much.
"Fame was kind of a shocking experience to me," he says, expressing annoyance at rude fans who intrude on time spent with his family, demanding autographs during meals or pulling at his clothes.
"I hate pulling," he says.
Moments later comes the knock at the door, which pulls him away, onto the set of "The Steve Harvey Show."
He expects to be there until around 9 p.m., but that wont keep him from being back at his radio show by 6 a.m.


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