ORLANDO, Fla. – Let’s do some Steve Harvey résumé polishing here.
Syndicated TV game show host (“Family Feud”), syndicated radio host, one of the original “Kings of Comedy” and co-author of the best-selling nonfiction book of 2009 (according to Nielsen), “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment.” The book, suggesting ways for women to identify and cope with “mama’s boys,” “players” and “dreamers,” won good reviews and the top spot on the New York Times best-seller list.
Now, Harvey gets another shot at film stardom, when “Think Like a Man,” his advice book, comes to the big screen as a comedy – with Harvey appearing in it as himself.
Don’t tell Howard Stern, but there’s a new, true “King of All Media.” And it’s a good thing James Brown isn’t around, because somebody just took his “Hardest Working Man in Show Business” title.
“Let’s you and me give Howard a call and let ’im know who the new King is,” Harvey jokes. “And James Brown? I’ll settle for being the ‘G.F.C.,’ the Godfather of Comedy.”
We reached Harvey, 55, in Washington, D.C.
Q. Why do you think the book touched a nerve the way it did?
A. When people found out that I wrote it for my (twin) daughters, who were dating, parents saw this as a father sharing insights to try and protect his children. I’m not going to tell them half of the truth and let them get halfway hurt. I’m giving it all away so they don’t get hurt. I hope readers found the honesty in it.
Q. What made you think a self-help book, even a funny one, would make a good movie?
A. I didn’t. But I didn’t think the book would reach as many people as it did. … So when Screen Gems and Will Packer (producer of “Stomp the Yard”) came and made a pitch, all I could say was, ‘Try it. But don’t make a mockery of my book, because my book was not meant to be mocked.’ It’s funny, but I use humor to get across what I think is valuable information. I asked them to make it sort of colorblind. And I asked them, rode them like a rented donkey, not to put buffoonery in it. I am more than proud of the movie they made from it.
Q. What did the screenwriters (Keith Merryman and David A. Newman of “Friends With Benefits”) discover, in working through the book and creating a movie, that surprised you?
A. They came up with these four different couples, illustrating the behaviors in the book. And a way for the guys to get together and reveal how men really think. Merryman and Newman figured out a way to make the guys friends, and found a way to connect the women, help them pass on the awareness of the book. It takes professional screenwriters to come up with that stuff.
And they made it colorblind. Relationships ain’t about color. There’s an interracial couple (Gabrielle Union and Jerry Ferrara) in the movie, and nobody ever mentions that. Nobody. This guy loves this girl, and that’s it. The book had no color in it, so I didn’t want this to be about race at all. When you take race away, you keep the stereotypes and the buffoonery out of it.
Q. Which character type that you name in the book and the movie were you closest to resembling?
A. I was a mixture of two of ’em. I was the ‘player,’ and I was the ‘dreamer.’ I was Michael Ealy’s character in the film. … I wanted something big to happen in my life pretty bad. The rest of the time, I was Romany Malco, playing the game.
But you know, the guy I BECAME is Gary Owen, the happily married man. I’ve been married since I was 24 years old. I like it. Now, this is my third marriage, but I figure it took that long to get it right. My mother and father were married for 64 years before they passed. I never knew anything else.
I always believed in marriage, even though I couldn’t get it right.
Q. Why DO you work so hard?
A. I don’t know anything else. My father was a really hard worker and he instilled that in me. I don’t know any other way to be successful. I’ve asked them to just mail checks to my house, but they refuse. So I’ve got to show up. Everywhere.