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The Budding Career of Cedric the Entertainer

The success of a beer-ad campaign lauded in its Super Bowl debut is only the latest feather in the comic actor's cap.

February 06, 2001|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Think the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants had butterflies in their stomachs before the Super Bowl?

They had nothing on Cedric the Entertainer.

The actor-comedian, 36, who aggressively guards his legal last name and is billed exclusively with the three-word pronouncement, was at a Super Bowl party at the Tampa, Fla., home of Los Angeles Dodgers left-fielder Gary Sheffield with other friends and athletes. Everyone else was relaxed as they watched the opening minutes of the game, but Cedric was on pins and needles awaiting the first commercial break.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday February 10, 2001 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Film studio--Paramount is the studio partnered with Mandalay Pictures for the release of the film "Servicing Sara." Another studio was mistakenly named in story about Cedric the Entertainer in Tuesday's Calendar.

A timeout finally came, and the party-goers suddenly saw Cedric on the screen, romancing a beautiful woman and coolly going into the kitchen to get some beers. They saw him "getting jiggy" with the bottles in a victory dance before regaining his poise and returning to the couch. The gag: Cedric's date receives an unexpected beer shower when he gallantly opens the agitated bottles to serve her.

Cedric finally relaxed when he saw his pals laughing and high-fiving each other following the spot. "They all loved the energy of it," he recalled. "I was so nervous because I hadn't told anyone about it. But it turned out great."

The ad scored with more than just Cedric's friends. The commercial was rated by ad experts as one of the funniest and most effective Super Bowl ads.

And although Cedric already has a loyal fan base through his stand-up routines, his co-starring stint on the WB's "The Steve Harvey Show"' and his scene-stealing turns in last summer's "Big Momma's House" and Spike Lee's "The Original Kings of Comedy," the Bud Light campaign could well elevate Cedric into major league status.

The Super Bowl commercial was the first in a series of beer ads featuring Cedric. Another, which introduces him as a touchdown boogie coordinator, premiered over the weekend during the first game of the XFL. The remaining spots will roll out during the next several weeks of the fledgling football league.

The ideas for the commercials were ignited last year when Cedric approached Anheuser-Busch Cos., the makers of Bud Light, about sponsoring a comedy tour. He wanted to do commercials to promote the tour, but soon ideas began developing for ads featuring Cedric promoting beer.

"I definitely noticed a difference in how people respond to me after the Super Bowl when I was out and about," Cedric said last week over breakfast at a Universal City restaurant. "I mean, there were always people who knew how I was. But I'm sensing a little change now. A series is only on once a week, and you can't see a movie that much. But commercials are on all the time."

He added with a smile, "I'm not worrying yet. It hasn't reached the mayhem level."

But it soon could with Cedric's current avalanche of projects. In addition to his continuing role on "The Steve Harvey Show" as Coach Robinson, Cedric is:

* A co-star in the upcoming Fox Searchlight film "Kingdom Come" starring Whoopi Goldberg, opening around Easter.

* Just finishing filming a role for "Servicing Sara," a Columbia/Mandalay Pictures release starring Matthew Perry and Elizabeth Hurley.

* A featured performer on rapper Nelly's Grammy-nominated CD, "Country Grammar." He's also up for his own Grammy for the soundtrack of "The Original Kings of Comedy."

* Will be heard as the voice of a zoo bear in "Dr. Doolittle 2," coming this summer.

* Co-writing and starring in a film he sold to Universal Pictures, "Preaching Ain't Easy," which will also feature his "Original Kings of Comedy" co-headliners Harvey and Bernie Mac.

* Preparing to launch his own comedy revue that he would host and featuring young comedians.

* Has a pilot in development at the WB, where he would play the coach of "the losingest team in the NBA."

Longtime admirers of Cedric are not surprised at his blossoming popularity. Reginald Hudlin, director of "Servicing Sara," said he has long been a fan of Cedric's. "I've always said that Cedric should be in the Smithsonian," he said. "He is a perfect chronicler of the style and nuance of black people dating from 1970 to 2001. He has such a sublime talent that goes far beyond stand-up. He's culturally specific, but he has that universal flavor that everyone can relate to. Plus, he's incredibly nice. He doesn't have this dark, bitter side that most comics have."

Cedric maintains that he is just a regular guy with an ambitious work ethic. He describes his comedy as being "down home. I try to come off as somebody you know. I want people to see me and say, 'He's all right.' "

As Cedric spoke, an easy St. Louis drawl distinguished his remarks. He was a bit sleepy--his 4 1/2-month old son had awakened him extra early that morning. He wore baggy overall jeans and a heavy sweater, along with a fashionable hat.

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