By Thom Jennings
Niagara Gazette — Drew Carey is one of those rare celebrities where it is hard to label him as “best known for …” The actor, comic, game show host, author, sports photographer and sitcom star seems to have a Midas touch in the entertainment industry.
All of those roads lead back to Carey’s first vocation in the entertainment industry, a stand-up comedian. Carey will be bringing his stand-up act to the Seneca Niagara Casino Events Center on Saturday for an 8 p.m. performance.
These days Carey is the host of “The Price is Right,” a role that became synonymous with Bob Barker until Carey took the helm in 2007. Given the show’s success, one has to wonder why Carey would decide to return to performing stand-up.
“I really missed it. After a while if you’re not writing anything for your act it begins to disappear. It becomes dated, or it’s no good anymore and pretty soon people ask you to do gigs and you don’t have enough material. I felt bad about telling people no and I missed that kind of performing where I had the freedom to talk about whatever I want,” Carey said during a phone interview this week.
“It’s just a really good outlet for me creatively and psychologically — and I’m good at it — so it’s crazy not to do it.”
Carey’s big break came in November 1991 when he appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
“The whole thing was like an out of body experience. I had been there before on the advice Kevin Pollak, he said a good idea was to go and visit the studio and stand out on the spot when nobody was around. So I knew what it looked like in my head.”
In the days when Carson hosted “The Tonight Show,” a stand-up comic’s ultimate goal was to be invited over to Carson’s desk, and that is exactly what happened after Carey’s performance.
“I had dreams of how it would look the night before so when it happened and I was doing it I felt like there was somebody else talking and I wasn’t even there. I was just floating on air and when he called me over I had dreamt that too so when it all happened I was living a dream.”
It was a dream that was five years in the making, and a career path that took Carey some time to identify.
“It just took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t start doing stand-up until I was 28 years-old so I was a late bloomer. When I got to “The Tonight Show”, I was 33, so I had been doing it for five years. I had a bunch of jobs through my twenties, working as a waiter or any job that paid the bills. When I started doing stand-up and realized I could make a living at it I thought, ‘all you have to do is show up in a good mood and be able to write jokes.’ ”
Carey perfected his craft on the road over those five years.
“Everything about the comedy business you have to learn on the job. People can purport to teach it but it’s kind of like writing, you have to write to become a writer. The best writing schools make you write a lot and share your stuff with other writers and they tell you if your stuff stinks or not.”
As mentioned earlier, there are many facets of Drew Carey. Carey was quick to note that his stand-up material is not for everyone. The show is restricted to audience members ages 16 and older.
“If you’re a fan of “Price is Right” and think ‘this guy is clean and I can bring my kid,’ well you can’t. I have a very adult act. People realize there is a separation there.”IF YOU GO • WHAT: Stand-up comedy with Drew Carey • WHERE: Seneca Niagara Events Center • WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday • TICKETS: Start at $45