Profile In Dreaming: The King Of Comedy

How does a child with a stutter go on to become one of the most recognizable figures on TV today? How does a man go from living out of his car for three years to building a net worth of over $160 million? Faith, hard work, and imagination have propelled Steve Harvey to a uniquely successful career in entertainment. The boy that once dreamt of being on TV has made it onto our screens five days a week.

“Little Stevey, come to the front.”

The teacher summoned the young boy to stand next to her and face the rest of his classmates.

He shuffled past the other children, his head bowed, eyes focused on the ground in front of him. He reached the front of the classroom and looked up at the teacher, all wide-eyed and innocent.

She had a stern look on her face. She waved a piece of paper in the air. “I asked you to write down what you want to be when you grow up.” She handed it to him and said, “Now, tell everyone what you wrote.”

The boy had a really bad stutter. He stammered and choked, opened his mouth, but no matter how hard he tried, no words would come out. She pressed on. “Well. What did you write down?” He tried to answer her, but he just couldn’t muster a response.

She looked up at the other kids and said, “Stephen wants to be on TV.” She glared at him and said, “Why did you write this on your paper? Who in this school ever be on TV? Who do you know ever be on TV?” He stammered and stuttered. She continued to berate him. “Look at you. You can’t even talk. How are they ever going to put someone like you on TV?”

Thankfully for the young boy, his father was far more supportive. He told him to keep the faith and instructed him to put that piece of paper in the drawer of his dresser. He told him to read it every morning before school and every night before bed.

And the boy did just that. Holding on to his dream of becoming a TV star through thick and thin, until his dream finally came true.

Fast forward to today. That boy is on TV five days a week, hosting multiple shows.

His name is Broderick Stephen Harvey, better known simply as Steve Harvey.

Harvey was born on January 17, 1957, in Welch, West Virginia. His father was a coal miner and his mother, a Sunday school teacher. He spent his first few years living on a farm, where he cultivated the strong work ethic that still serves him well today. His family moved to Cleveland early in his childhood and he spent his formative years there, graduating from Glenville High School in 1974.

Although Harvey had always dreamed of becoming a TV star, he took on a series of unrelated jobs after high school, including as a carpet cleaner, mail carrier, insurance salesman, and even a boxer for a short time.

He fell in love with comedy and spent the 1980s honing his act, but quickly realized that it was difficult to make ends meet as a comedian.

Harvey hit a low point when he spent three years living out of his 1976 Ford Tempo. He used an Igloo cooler in the backseat as a refrigerator and would wash up in hotel bathrooms, swimming pool showers, or gas stations. As he described it, “It was so disheartening. A week is really the maximum you can do. This was three years! It was rock bottom. But even in my darkest days I had faith it would turn around.”

Throughout it all, he kept faith in his dream. He finally caught a break when he made it to the finals of the Second Annual Johnny Walker National Comedy Search in 1989. A few years later, he landed an appearance on Showtime at the Apollo, which he parlayed into a multi-year gig as the syndicated variety show’s host.

Things took off for him from there. In 1996, he landed his very own sitcom, The Steve Harvey Show, on the WB Network, which successfully ran for six years and firmly established him as an up-and-coming star.

During the same period, Harvey joined Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac, and D.L. Hughley, on a Kings of Comedy tour that grossed $37 million in 1997 and 1998. It was also converted into a movie by Spike Lee, called The Original Kings of Comedy.

Now that he had a firm foothold in the entertainment industry, Harvey really went to work and he’s been prolific.

He’s been in several movies, has become the face of Family Feud, launched his own talk show, hosted several Miss Universe pageants, and written a series of best-selling self-help books. The boy with the stutter exceeded even his own wildest expectations.

As he put it, “When we utilize our gift, the universe thanks us by giving us an abundance of riches — from abundant opportunities to good health to financial wealth.”

The best part? He sends that old teacher a flat screen television every Christmas.

Here are some things you might not have known about Steve Harvey:

  • His childhood nickname was Va-Va-Vroom, because of his stutter.
  • He has an estimated net worth in excess of $160 million.
  • The street he grew up on in Cleveland was renamed Steve Harvey Way in 2015.
  • He once read off the wrong contestant as the winner of Miss Universe one year.
  • He was named after an actor from the TV show, Highway Patrol.

And three lessons from his life:

Never Give Up.

Harvey almost quit on his dreams. He was down to $35, ready to call his father, so he could come home and find a job. Then, out of nowhere he got a lucky break. That turned into a gig as the host of Showtime at the Apollo, and his career took off from there.

Throughout all the tough times in his life, he never gave up. He persevered, keeping faith with his childhood dream of becoming a TV star, until it finally came true.

You never know when you’ll get your lucky break. Stay focused and work through your challenges. Often times, things get worse right before you get your big opportunity. Keep the faith and stay positive.

Dream Big.

How could a boy with a stutter ever dream of becoming a TV star? But Harvey did. He did despite the fact that he was mocked growing up and his teacher berated him in front of his classmates. Nobody expected him to make it except him. He dreamt big and he kept that dream in his heart throughout his life.

Your imagination is your biggest asset. Use it to design the life you want and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your dreams are personal to you. Only you can see them. You will always be limited by the size of your dreams.

Work Hard.

Harvey is one of the hardest working men in the entertainment industry. He is on TV multiple times a week, hosting more than one successful show. He has written multiple best-selling books. He started a foundation with his wife. He continues to add new projects to his repertoire.

As he explains: "I'm running from homelessness. I can't ever be in that position again. If my show gets canceled, I've got three more. I don't have any free time, but I have 12 jobs."

Success is almost always a product of hard work. The more you work, the luckier you get. When you approach life as if your back is against the wall, it drives you forward and gives you the impetus you need to put in the work.