TROUBLE CITY

INTERVIEW: STEVE HARVEY

EditorialDave DavisComment

.Voice movies can be great for interviewing really interesting people about things other than the movie they’re promoting. There’s really only a few questions you can ask somebody about voice acting. How long did it take and how many sessions? Did you record alone or with the other actors? When did you see the character and did it look like you expected? If you can think of any more, please let me know for the next time I have to interview people from a cartoon.

Racing Stripes is not an animated movie, but it has an A list cast voicing the live-action talking animals achieved through CGI. Steve Harvey plays one of two characters that are completely CGI. The horseflies played by Harvey and David Spade were not the result of carefully trained insects.

Harvey did his duty to promote the film and talk about being a fly’s voice, but spent just as much time plugging his line of men’s suits, which was really just as interesting as the technicalities of voice acting. One journalist even left the interview with the promise of free suits from Harvey’s line. Next time you see a well dressed journalist, it’s probably that guy.

Q: Was a lot of this ad libbed?

Steve: Probably 90%. We didn’t do well with the script. The writer, he’s a nice guy. These are jokes. You got two guys that are stand ups standing right there. You want to stick to this piece of paper or do you want us to really do something with it? And they were really smart. They let us do it. The first time we did it though, they didn’t- - you know, me and Dave, because we were on this break and we were talking, Dave said, “How are you liking this?” I said, “This is corny to me. This is not funny.” He says, “Yeah, it sucks, man. Okay, on the break, let’s do this scene. What would you do?” I said, “You do this, I do this.” He said, “No, I want to do this, you do that.” I said, “Okay, cool.” So when we went back, we didn’t tell them anything. They said, “And action.” And we just ripped the scene off. The director was standing there going- - you know, flipping through the pages, but the people behind the sound wall in the glass, they were crying. And then the director went, “Cut, cut. Guys, that was really funny but that’s not- - “ and then the movie people came out and said, “Yeah, that was funny. And we’re going to keep that.” And then we had to go back and redo two days of taping because they wanted to know what we thought about the rest of it. So what started out as a four session deal for us turned out to be like 15.

.Q: Did they have to animate new stuff to what you were doing?

Steve: Well, see, they kind of saved us for last because everybody else was a real animal that just had to move their mouth. Me and David were the only animated characters, so they kind of saved us for last, but they kept adding more to the movie for us to do because we weren’t that big in the movie in the beginning, I can tell you. We could have shot it in four days and that would’ve been it. They kept adding stuff. It works out because every time they bring you in, they pay you the exact same check so I was very comfortable with the 15 trips in.

Q: Had you ever worked with David before?

Steve: Just out on the road, we’d be in passing back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. We were both touring stand-ups, so he’d be leaving a city, I’d be coming in. We’d run up into each other at the condo. We stayed in condos back then. We weren’t in hotels. We weren’t that big. I’d go, “Hey, man, how’s the condo?” “Great. The crowd on Wednesday sucks. A cheap grocery store is right over there. Buy yourself some new linens. The guys who were here before you were pretty [dirty].” And you just do that. That was it. So I travel with linens in my car, all of that stuff. I have a set of bed linens and stuff.

Q: You’re dapper and your fly is the more dapper one.

Steve: Yeah, I’m trying to upgrade status of horseflies.

Q: And you have a clothing line?

Steve: Steve Harvey Collection. I design them, I pick the fabrics. We’re doing really well. This is only the second year and we’re already in the black. We just got into department stores four days ago. Rich’s department stores in the south which is a part of Macy’s, and they’re blowing out of there so the president of Macy’s, he just called me yesterday and now wants to put them in all the Macy’s so business is good.

Q: Are you wearing a sample?

Steve: I only wear my own clothes. This is a shirt that I made and a suit.

Q: What prompted you to get into fashion?

Steve: Well, all my shows I have a suit on. People always say, “Hey, that’s a nice suit, that’s a nice suit.” I’ve been dressing since I was a kid. My mother, she made us all go to church, so my mother used to always say if you don’t have a suit on and a tie, you’re not really dressed up. So it kind of stuck with me. I like dressing up though. I put a suit on every day. I don’t mind. People go, “Aren’t you uncomfortable?” No. I don’t have any j- - I got one pair of blue jeans. I put ‘em on, I couldn’t believe how I looked in them. I just took them off. It’s cool. I got a ranch and stuff. I ride horses. I got dirt bikes for my kids and all that. We go out and hang out.

Q: Do you wear a suit?

Steve: No. That was going to get printed, wasn’t it? Butt hole wears a suit on a horse. No, man.

Q: How hard is it to get a rhythm with a different comedian?

Steve: Well, see, when a guy’s a comedian though, if you get together with another comic, you have a problem. When you put two comedians in a room, you will find magic. See, comics are these guys that have these scripted shows and they do them just the same way. Every time you see their act, you know what joke is next, they’re closing. Comedians don’t work that way. Comedians walk out, get a feel for the crowd. If it’s not going good, we change directions. If we got to drag your momma into this thing, we will. Whatever we got to do. And David is a comedian. That means he can be funny about anything, and that’s what I am and so it’s easy when it’s another comedian. If you’re in a room with a comic, you got a problem because he’s very stoic and stiff and it’s his rhythm. And all I do is I wait on David to do it his way and I look, and I stare at it and when I see that beat, I know comedically what beats are. If you take too long of a breath, I know good and well you can’t possibly have a punch line following this, so he must be done. Then I jump right in and he follows my rhythm. And then sometimes we talked over top of each other because after a while, you know where a guy is going and you know what the characters are in the movie. I know he’s a disgusting horsefly. I’m trying to bring dignity to it. So once he’s done something that’s just really disgusting to me in real life, I know to shut David off because David’s crazy, man. We got some stuff that ain’t in the movie that’s the best stuff in the world. If they could do an HBO version of this movie, them two flies was crazy.

.Q: Will that be on the DVD?

Steve: Well, we got a lot of stuff that they told me they got like an extra 30 minutes of us going really crazy. We did some vile stuff too. Yeah, crazy. We really didn’t expect them to use it, but the Christmas reel ought to be pretty good.

Q: When do you plan on seeing the film?

Steve: At the premiere. I’ve done six movies and I’ve never seen any of them until the premiere, and there was two premieres I didn’t even go to. But I’m not a movie star. It’s not my thing. I’ve never read for a part. If you want me to be in a movie, call me and I’ll come down there. God didn’t bring me out here to be a movie star. I didn’t ever plan on it, so just a little extra money is great gravy, but I’m a TV guy, a radio guy, a stand-up, I’m changing my life a little bit. Motivational speaking and stuff like that. I’m getting older, you know. I don’t want to be 60 years old standing on stage telling some jokes. I want my life to mean something. I’m starting to look at my kids and what they need in terms of me being their dad. I’ve got to be around, give them more direction. I didn’t even see my daughters grow up. They’re in college. They’re going to graduate college in May. I got twin daughters.

Q: What values will Racing Stripes teach kids?

Steve: What’s funny is when I took the movie and I was going to shoot it one day, my little boy said, “Dad, can I go with you?” I said, “No, you gotta go do your extra study day so you can catch up.” You know, he’s not good in math. So he says, “What’s the movie about?” And I say, “Well, it’s ridiculous, man. It’s really kind of stupid. It’s about this zebra who wants to be a thoroughbred racehorse. That’s it.” He said, “Wow, he’s going to do it.” I said, “I don't know, I ain’t read it. It’d be kind of stupid though.” He said, “But dad, I thought you said that you could do anything, that you could be anything that you wanted to be.” And I went, “Well, okay. Well, you know, just because you want to be it, that doesn’t mean that he can do it. You can’t just be a zebra and just- -“ He said, “Dad, you told me I can’t use can’t.” Because you know I make my kids, they’re not allowed to say can’t and they can’t say quit. I raised my kids like that. And the number one thing that I teach them is I shall fear no man but God. You have to teach your kids to not fear people because other people hold you back with their insecurities, so I don’t let them be afraid of people because God gives us what we have, not people. So when he feeds back that type of philosophy to me, that’s what the movie is about. It’s about this dude that can be whatever he wants to be. And without caring what anybody else thinks and he beats against the odds. My son taught that to me about the movie. So that’s when I realized, okay, this movie might have some value to it by just explaining to him. I was just writing it off. I’m running out the door and I’m just blowing my little boy off. He’s pretty smart when I’m blowing him off. “No, no, no. I’m going to ask you a question.” I’m just getting dressed and leaving, so that’s the value of the movie and my son taught that to me, so that’s when I started thinking, “Okay, this movie might be…” because really, you go to the movie because of the money. All these people out here with these lies and stuff, “Yeah, it’s the redeeming value…” No, they gave you $10 million. That’s why you did the movie. You don’t do Shrek 2 because it’s the redeeming qualities, you do Shrek 2 because they give you $10 million. I’d do Planet of the Apes for $4 million and I would be offended if you said I look like a monkey. Crack on that monkey suit. And I’m the biggest monkey in the damn movie.

Q: Do you have anything coming up?

Steve: Nope, I’m trying to get, since Howard Stern has signed this deal with Sirius radio, I’m just going to meet with those people. And you don’t even have to give me $500 million. Trust me, you don’t. Just a little $15 million a year, I’m your man. I’ll sign three years for $45 million and I’ll just go to Texas and do my show from Texas. $15 million is good.

Q: Is satellite a good alternative to broadcast?

Steve: It has its pros and cons. Radio should be really local where people can learn about their community and what’s going on in their neighborhoods and where’s town hall meetings and stuff. That’s really what radio should be but it’ll never be that again because big business and mergers have killed that. So there ain’t no need to be sitting around, hanging around, trying to take it back to those days because big business ain’t gonna let that happen. So you get a big money deal, some of these people want you to just sit there and crank out jokes in the morning, they give you these lofty checks and then you take the money and you put it in your foundation with your wife and you buy over $2 million worth of schoolbooks for kids, you put air conditioners in the high schools out here like we do and you just keep making that money to give back to the unfortunate people. And the more money you make, the bigger the blessing you can become. And that’s really what God gives it to you for. God lets you be successful because he trusts you that you will do the right thing with it. Now, does he get disappointed often? All the time, because people get there and they forget how they got it. When you hear a guy on stage stand up at an awards show and say, “I want to thank my lucky stars,” you are listening to a fool talk because there is no such thing as a lucky star. But see, when he was praying for God for all these blessings, he wasn’t talking to the stars then. He was talking directly to God. Then when God gives him his stuff, they turn around and go, “I was just lucky,” and they pull this paper out and they’ve got their managers, their agency, their lawyers, without ever mentioning God, and that right there, when you hear that, you are listening to a fool who is convinced that he is the reason he’s standing up there and not because he is blessed and not because he owes God for that now because God gave it to him thinking that he might get up there and do the right thing and he’s not. So I just try not to be that person.

Q: Where can we buy the suits?

Steve: Rich’s. They’re in stores now, they’re in men’s boutiques out west. They haven’t entered department stores out here, because they roll them out slow. You know, Macy’s owns the federated chain. They’ll put them in Rich’s and Lazarus in the south and middle America first before they put them in Macy’s East and Macy’s West. Because middle America wears suits more than they do on the west coast. Oh, definitely. More people go to church dressed up in a suit. That’s a true statement. So after they see it sell big, they’ll put them out here.