Steve Harvey knows the power of entertainment value. The self-made comedian, actor, author, and TV personality was once homeless, as his modern media legend has it. Now? He’s worth a reported $100 million.
His book on dating advice was adapted into Screen Gems’ hit comedy Think Like A Man. Harvey, 59, even has his own line of Steve Harvey suits designed to reflect his own outré sense of style, in case you’d like to dress the part.
In the past month he even managed to squeeze broadcast lemonade out of one of the biggest gaffes in live television history by hosting Miss Universe winner Pia Wurtzbach and Colombia’s Ariadne Gutierrez, the runner-up he legendarily crowned by mistake—then uncrowned, as the world watched—on his Steve Harvey talk show.
The mustachioed showman scored record ratings from the stunt, of course, while his other TV gig on a little game show called Family Feud, whose stages he’s energized since 2010, also enjoyed a historic ratings bump—no doubt thanks, in part, to Harvey’s spike in notoriety.
Ringing The Daily Beast from Miami to chat up his endorsement of Green Dot, Harvey weighed in on a host of current events beyond December’s Miss Universe controversy—like, for example, the beauty pageant’s former head honcho-turned-presidential hopeful.
“Donald Trump—we’ve seen nothing like him in politics before,” said Harvey, who previously supported Obama’s run for the White House. “He’s very entertaining to me. I’ve got to tell you, I can’t take my eyes off of the man when he’s talking—mostly because I can’t believe he’s saying what he’s saying out loud.”
He continued, a mischievous laugh on the tip of his tongue. “But I like him, personally. I do! I think he’s exciting for politics. Politics haven’t been this exciting in a long time—or as confusing, ever, in the history of it. I think Donald Trump not being a politician is making a lot of people nervous who are politicians.”
Trump acts more like an envelope-pushing stand-up than a proper public servant, observed the onetime King of Comedy.
“He uses words that politicians aren’t supposed to use,” said Harvey. “He called everybody up there stupid the other day. ‘You’re stupid.’ I didn’t know you could say ‘stupid’ as a politician! As a comedian, it works just fine. I’m endorsing him for making this fun to watch, but I’m not endorsing Donald Trump.”
Harvey did volunteer last fall to run on the Kanye 2020 ticket—although of course, that was before ‘Ye name-checked Harvey’s Miss Universe flub in the same breath as Bill Cosby’s rape allegations in his new track “Facts.” As we chat, Harvey forgoes a running mate and declares his casual interest in the presidency.
“If Donald Trump becomes president, then I’m running,” said Harvey. “Because then obviously background checks have gone out the window. How do you let a dude who was on the cover of Playboy magazine and has been married 18 times be your president? Now come on. Hell, then I qualify.”
He considered the potential. “Donald Trump gets in, I’m next.”
Decades of pounding the pavement as a stand-up helped lay the foundation for the media empire Harvey’s since amassed. The three-time Emmy winner considered Hollywood’s current debate over diversity in entertainment, voicing his bigger picture concerns over the roots of racial bias.
“This conversation about race and bias in Hollywood just ties into race and bias with gun violence, with the gun laws, with the police shootings,” he said. “There are a lot of great police officers out there, so I don’t want anyone to take it the wrong way. It’s a thing that we have to deal with. We’re in the greatest country in the world. But we’ve got to live up to it. Everybody should have the unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. I know I was afforded that opportunity because of this country.”
“I’ve always been black the entire time I’ve been here,” he joked, “but I’ve also taken advantage of some of the opportunities—everybody’s not as fortunate. You can’t say, ‘Pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ if you don’t even have the boots.”
The 11-time NAACP Image Award honoree threw his support behind Oscars host and fellow comedian Chris Rock, whose hosting duties at this month’s Academy Awards come auspiciously timed to the #OscarsSoWhite furor burning up Hollywood’s cultural conversation.
“I’ve been following it,” he said of the proposed Oscars boycott by prominent African-American celebrities like Spike Lee and Jada and Will Smith. “I understand Jada [Pinkett-Smith], Will [Smith], and all the actors, and I don’t blame them.”
“I do disagree with asking Chris Rock to step aside and not host. That’s not fair. I think he should host. As a matter of fact, I’m tuning in because I can’t wait to see what Chris Rock is going to say. Because if you don’t think Chris Rock is going to drip bits right here—this could be the greatest Oscars of all time,” he chuckled. “I’m tuning in to see what my buddy got to say. I’m calling him. I’ve got a couple of lines he can use.”
Harvey spoke out against Stacey Dash, who recently drew fire for suggesting the eradication of BET and Black History Month would better serve equality.
“I’ve known Stacey for a long time. Sometimes we forget that Stacey Dash’s entire career started on BET,” he said. “Her entire career. The videos, the movies, the shows—just look at it. We can’t get to where we want to be and then forget how we got there.”
“I think if she really stepped back and thought about this a little bit longer…I think she was trying to be more like, ‘Hey, let’s do away with this and let’s just all consider each other one.’ Well, that’s great. But BET is necessary. Telemundo is necessary. The Asian stock market is necessary. Going to the South of France is necessary,” he laughed.
“So many of my fans are middle-class, hard-working people, and I try to represent those people whenever I can,” Harvey said, leading into his tax season spiel as the celebrity spokesperson for Green Dot.
“You don’t have to worry about some guy at the IRS who don’t like people with the last name Johnson or something so he wants to save them for last because his schoolteacher was named Miss Johnson and she failed him in biology,” he dutifully explained.
Do you think that really happens? I couldn’t help but ask.
“I think so!” he said, laughing at his own Steve Harvey spin. “It’s happened to me, I think.”