Cedric Kyles has found so much success in standup comedy, acting (on both the big screen and TV) producing, directing and more that he’s certainly earned his stage name: Cedric the Entertainer.
Known for his work on The Original Kings of Comedy, The Steve Harvey Show and Top Five, the multi-talented Kyles has brought a hilarious approach to every form of entertainment he’s tackled—but he shines brightest in his standup comedy, and he’s headed to Indio for a stop at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1.
I recently chatted with Cedric the Entertainer over the phone while he was on set of The Neighborhood, his current network sitcom.
“Season five just started back up,” Kyles said. “We’re excited about coming back for a fifth season on CBS.”
It’s rare these days for TV shows to have such longevity—something Kyles knows well, as he’s both the star and an executive producer on The Neighborhood.
“We try to come in and see if we can create a vibe that would almost motivate the network to order us again,” said Kyles. “We try to bring that fun, family-oriented sitcom that we all kind of grew up on back to television, and it’s been working, and the network is really excited about it. We’re on Monday night, so we’re up against all the live shows, Dancing With the Stars, and America’s Got Talent, so we’ve got to fight hard, but it’s been really good that we’re able to hold on to that kind of space.”
Kyles said he always keeps his audiences in mind, no matter what form of entertainment he’s producing.
“I try to put on things that I think are enjoyable to watch,” Kyles said. “I try not to do what I call snarky or sarcastic television, so it’s usually about characters who people can enjoy. People can come home from work, get their shoes off, and just laugh with somebody about this, and just be entertained for 30 minutes. That’s my move.”
Kyles said he’s happy to be back on tour.
“Before the pandemic, we did The Comedy Get Down tour with me, George Lopez and D.L. Hughley,” Kyles said. “That ended right before the end of 2019, so right before the pandemic. I’m about to do a tour that will start right after Thanksgiving, and these are some of my warm up dates.”
With the amount of creative work that Kyles gets into, he needs a firm schedule.
“I’ve got to be at least a good six months ahead on strategizing moves, and what I’m going to do, especially because I’ve got the TV show,” he said. “When I’m in production, that’s going from August to March, so we’ll start planning movies, and tour ideas. Right now, we’re trying to develop a residency concept for Vegas. These are the kind of things that I’ll try to do, and plan those out for next spring.
“You’ve gotta be ahead. You look up, and everything is right in front of you. With the TV show, that just has me really locked in, so when I know that I’m here for those eight to nine months, I just have to let that be.”
That’s not to say that The Neighborhood keeps Kyles away from the stage. After all, it’s between August and March right now.
“I still try to do standup every other weekend or something like that,” said Kyles. “I like to go out and be onstage a couple of times a month. I try to give myself some space to make sure that I’m on that stage. (Standup) is the freest form of art that I deal with; everything else has producers involved and network opinions and all these things, but when you do stand up, it’s just you, the microphone and the audience.”
Kyles has been performing so long, he said, that he’s always ready to perform a great standup set.
“I always kind of stay smoldering, as I call it,” Kyles said. “When I’m on a tour, and doing it back to back to back, of course, you’re a lot tighter, and your skill set is down. But because I’ve been doing this for well over 30 years, I always have that engine running and revving, so when I hit the stage, I have something on deck. When I go up there, I’m here to have a good time, and I’m here to give you a good job.”
Kyles went to college with an original goal of becoming an businessman.
“I went to college and was working, always wanting to be an entrepreneur of some sort,” Kyles said. “I wasn’t sure exactly what that was, but I never really saw myself working in the corporate world. I had a job as a claims adjuster at State Farm, and when I discovered I could do comedy at the same time, I would do comedy at night, and then do State Farm—but I always tried to sing and write songs and be in groups and sell bootleg sunglasses at the swap meet. I was always trying to figure out how to get that dollar, man.”
Kyles has been performing since the late 1980s—a time when it was much more difficult to get noticed.
“There’s, of course, been the introduction of the (smart) phone, where you can have the ability to shoot skits and do stuff on your own,” Kyles said. “Now you have a generation of people who don’t even have to kind of get up in front of people; they can do everything in front of their friends, and build an audience from that just based on their own sensibilities and their own comedy. I would definitely consider that easier than when I started. Even more so, it was predominantly white comedy clubs with predominantly white audiences, so you had to change your cadence and your dialect and some of your wordplay in order to make sure that you translated it to an audience. Then Def Comedy Jam and stuff like that came in, and so it became more susceptible to be yourself. Now, it’s even more individualized. You can come up with a skit today, shoot it, and then put it out for the masses, and see how it goes. I think that is a little bit easier.”
Some veteran entertainers criticize social-media stars who have found fame without having stage experience—but not Kyles.
“A lot of the young TikTok-ers, and especially the guys who came from Vine, you see them now working very hard to build up their standup careers, and some of them do really great,” Kyles said. “People like King Bach. Some of these guys actually go onstage and really work hard, and they’ve been good standups, so you’ve got to give them their props to that.”
Kyles said he’s been pondering these newer entertainment forms and distribution channels himself.
“I feel young and energetic, so I feel inspired to do great things, but at the same time, you don’t want to spin your wheels taking something that’s not necessarily you,” Kyles said. “There’s trying to be a social media star, and feeling like that’s the next wave that I should have got in on, but there’s an aspect of who you are that you have to be authentic to, while still figuring out how to make yourself new. That is something that I’ve been thinking about. I do a lot of creating and producing for other people, partnering myself with these younger guys who have got fresh ideas, and seeing if I can help them translate into the bigger television landscape of things.”
Is there a form of entertainment that Cedric the Entertainer won’t touch?
“Probably MMA or UFC,” he said. “Recently, there have been all these social-media boxing events. The Paul brothers just started his thing, and so I went to see one of my friends, ex-Laker Swaggy P (aka Nick Young), in a boxing match. I was like, ‘Yo, this is a hard way to make a living,’ and I don’t think I’ll be able to do that.”
Cedric the Entertainer will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1 at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets start at $59. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.