Towards the end of Tuesday’s Television Critics Association virtual press conference with Steve Harvey, the veteran comedian was asked if had any plans to return to his stand-up roots.
Harvey was promoting his new primetime series Judge Steve Harvey, airing Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC and CTV.
“The only way I can do one more special is that it would have to be at the end of my television career because it will end my television career,” he told reporters. “See, we’re in the cancel culture now.”
The long-time Family Feud host, who turns 65 next week, is old enough to say what he wants. There are limits to free speech in today’s society, however, as he explained:
“Nobody, no standup alive that is sponsor-driven can say anything he wants to. Chris Rock can’t. Kevin Hart can’t. Cedric the Entertainer can’t. D.L. Hughley can’t. I can do down the list. The only person that can say what they want to say on stage is Dave Chappelle, because he’s not sponsor-driven; he’s subscription-driven.”
Harvey, who started his standup career at 27 and once toured as one of the original Kings of Comedy, has not done standup in a decade. He’s been pretty busy on TV, hosting Family Feud since 2010 as well as Celebrity Family Feud.
He told critics that his wife predicted God had other plans for him that would take him off the road.
“I didn’t know that he was going to give me this TV career that he did, and it turned out to be the best thing that happened to me. But if I had tried to continue as a standup, there’s no way I could maintain the TV career because of the political correctness has killed comedy. It’s killed it. And, you know, every joke you tell now, it hurts somebody’s feelings.
The problem, he says, is that comedians “can’t write jokes about puppies all the time. The joke can’t be about bushes all the time. Some of these jokes is going to have to be about people — because that’s the most interesting topic.”
Harvey says he’d like to come back and do one last standup show, but he’d have to call it something like, “This Is It,” or “Bye-Bye.”
The West Virginia native said he came up with the idea to be a TV judge about 12 years ago but “just never told anybody.” Not his team, not the network, not his production company.
Then, during COVID, he was called into a zoom meeting with various ABC executives who were pitching him on a scripted series, a sitcom.
“They got through talking,” he says. “It was a great idea, but I wasn’t that enthusiastic about doing a sitcom anymore. And, so, the president of ABC said to me, ‘Well, Steve, what would you like to do if you could do anything?'”
Harvey answered, “Well, I always wanted to be a judge on TV.”
The Zoom call got quiet, he remembers. Harvey explained that he wanted the show to be funny and insightful and not about the verdict but about the story. “And the next day they green-lit it.”
The unscripted series features real people with real conflicts; minor things such as family disputes and unpaid bets. “I allow the litigants to say things that no other court show would allow them to say,” he told reporters, adding nothing is out of order in his court. “To me, it has everything do with it, so let’s hear it, you know.”
He’s glad he’s not ruling on the bigger issues, such as US constitutional law — although he has strong opinions.
“Every law is not a correct law,” he said. “We have a law in this country that everybody has the right to bear arms. Well, everybody shouldn’t bear arms. I mean, come on. That’s the law. But if you listen to the story, everybody shouldn’t have a gun. That’s clear to me.”
Harvey has no law degree, but, as he puts it, has a Ph D in common sense. He has some experience with the law, having won “four federal cases” and also “lost two major divorces.”
Judge Steve Harvey is in good hands, he added, with executive producer Myeshia Mizuno as his showrunner. She previously presided over a little something called Judge Judy.