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Comedy Preview: Drew Carey rocks!

Sure, he's from Cleveland, but we love him anyway. The man with the funny glasses comes back to open the Bone

Friday, September 27, 2002

By Scott Mervis, Post-Gazette Weekend Editor

The retro suit, the crewcut, the Clark Kent glasses that made him look like something out of "The Twilight Zone" or one of those old public school instruction films.

Drew Carey

WHERE: Funny Bone, Station Square.

WHEN: 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

TICKETS: Sold out.

INFORMATION: 412-281-3130.

A self-effacing Cleveland attitude that even Pittsburghers could somehow tolerate.

The jokes about driving a Yugo.

It all set Drew Carey apart from the Funny Bone pack in the days before he went prime time.

Back in the late '80s-early '90s, the former Marine Reserve and Kent State dropout was not only a hit with the Bone fan base, he was a comedian's comedian.

"I had several chances to perform with him," comic Shaun Blackham once told the PG. "I could watch every set he did and always crack up."

Frank Nicotero, a comedian who's gone on to work in Los Angeles, told us, "I look at Drew Carey as inspiration. Drew played Pittsburgh a million times. He's from Cleveland. This was like a home away from home for him. He was very popular here. The great thing about Drew is he's still the same guy. I see people change and become a little caught up. But Drew's this guy who'll return your call."

Well, we couldn't get him to return our call this week, but that's often the case with stars in the middle of shooting their TV season. Carey, however, is taking the time out to return, with his TV sidekicks, to the Funny Bone this weekend for its opening and 20th anniversary bash (the same weekend, by the way, that the Browns are coming to town).

Carey told reporters on the L.A. press tour this summer that he loves doing the show and loves going to work every day. He also gets a kick out of stepping away from "The Drew Carey Show" and its game-show spinoff, "Whose Line is it Anyway," to return to the stand-up scene.

"Every week 'The Drew Carey Show' is production," he said, "we always go to the Improv on Thursdays and perform. We don't get any money. We even pay for our own drinks and everything and just to do it just for fun and hang out with each other. And that's like my funnest night of the week."

Carey started out as a waiter in Cleveland. Taking a cue from a disc jockey friend who thought he was funny, Carey picked up a book on how to write jokes at the library and made a New Year's resolution to hit the amateur comedy nights in January 1986. By April, he was getting paid gigs.

When Funny Bone owner Jeff Schneider first saw him at the Bone in Milwaukee around 1987, what he saw in that big suit was a "cash cow."

"Drew was a very nice guy, warm guy, as soon as he hit the stage, that audience loved him. Unbelievable," Schneider says. "Everybody looked at him and said, 'This guy's gonna be gigantic someday.' I was booking road gigs for him and hated it. Needless to say I gave it up, and look where I am today," he adds with a laugh.

Carey's big break came in November 1991 when he made his first appearance on "The Tonight Show" and got that coveted invitation from Johnny Carson to take a seat on the couch. "You can't do any better than that for your first shot," said Carson, who had been doubling over with laughter. "You're funny as hell."

Carey was a made man. It led to a part in "The Coneheads" movie, a role on the sitcom "The Good Life," a CableACE Award for "Drew Carey: Human Cartoon."

And then the big prize.

"The Drew Carey Show" launched in 1995 and quickly became a popular hit though never exactly a critical darling, as indicated by the fact that he's won a People's Choice Award but has never been nominated for an Emmy. He says he keeps the awards that he has won in the garage.

"I think the whole idea of an award show is bad," he said. "You don't need -- you know, plumbers don't say 'Hey, you're a good plumber, here's your award.' Nobody else does that. 'Here's your best accounting award.' It's only show-biz people and it's only for publicity."

Carey, who purchased his childhood home in Cleveland, says he's struggled with the reality of being famous. But that he's coming around.

"You know, I'm really still getting used to being famous, and I think I'm more used to it now than I've ever been. I had a big talk with Howard Stern about that while on the air one time. I was on his show. It was one of the first times I was ever on his show. I said something about I didn't like being famous and he said, 'What? Are you crazy? I love being famous and everybody recognizes me' and he really just kind of read me the funny riot act. And from then on I just saw it in a new light ... I just try to look on the up side of being famous and well known."

Carey is committed to "The Drew Carey Show" for one more season after this and then things are up in the air.

"Sometimes I think would like to produce other shows. Sometimes I think I have a couple really good movie ideas I would like to do with friends of mine, and I also think, man, I would just like to take all my money and spend it ... I never know what I'm going to do. It's hard enough just to concentrate on just doing the show. I'm so happy right now. I really am. It's one of the happiest times of my life. That's one of the great things about having money and being successful. You don't -- I don't have to do anything that I don't think is going to be fun."

Scott Mervis can be reached at smervis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2576.

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