Drew Carey

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Biography

Husky, blond, and bespectacled comedian Drew Carey hit pay dirt in 1995 as the star of his own sitcom, "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC, 1995-2004), but the comic's road to stardom was marked by a difficult childhood and a long struggle to make his mark in the brutally competitive world of stand-up comedy. After a failed attempt at earning a degree at Ohio's Kent State University, the young Carey - struggling with depression and a lack of direction …
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Job Title

Actor

Born

May 23, 1958

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Husky, blond, and bespectacled comedian Drew Carey hit pay dirt in 1995 as the star of his own sitcom, "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC, 1995-2004), but the comic's road to stardom was marked by a difficult childhood and a long struggle to make his mark in the brutally competitive world of stand-up comedy. After a failed attempt at earning a degree at Ohio's Kent State University, the young Carey - struggling with depression and a lack of direction - enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. The experience seemed to have been a positive one for Carey, who came out of the service more self-assured, later writing jokes for a local radio station at the urging of a friend. It was not long before he was performing stand-up comedy at clubs around the country, eventually appearing on the televised talent competition "Star Search" (syndicated, 1983-1995). From there it was on to a comedy special on HBO, followed by a slam-dunk guest spot on "The Tonight Show" (NBC, 1962- ), where Carey made a most favorable impression on late night king, Johnny Carson. Of course, it all led to the 1995 premiere of "The Drew Carey Show," a vehicle that would soon make him a household name. After the Cleveland-based series left the airwaves, the comic brought his affable, "life-of-the-party" persona to several series and game shows - most notably as host of "The Price is Right" (CBS, 1972- ), where after a highly publicized search, he replaced the venerable Bob Barker. When asked about his decision to take on the mantle of game show host, the comedian's response was typically laid back and 100 percent Drew Carey: "They told me all I would be doing all day is giving away prizes, and I thought, you know, that's not such a bad thing to be known for."

The youngest of three brothers born to Lewis and Beulah Carey, Drew Allison Carey was born on May 23, 1958 in Cleveland, OH. What later surprised fans of his fun-loving persona was the fact that his early years were marked by sadness and loneliness - in no small part due to Carey losing his father to a brain tumor when he was only eight, as well as enduring sexual abuse at the hands of a family member. In order to make ends meet, Carey's mother worked long hours, leaving him to find solace in television and comedy records, or practicing with the school marching band. Though Carey developed a reputation among friends as a comic wit, in private, he suffered from depression to such a degree that he even attempted suicide on two separate occasions. After graduating from James Ford Rhodes High School, Carey made a go at higher education when he enrolled at Kent State, but was expelled twice for poor grades, eventually dropping out short of earning his degree. This less-than-rewarding experience deepened his depression, prompting Carey to return to Cleveland with no goals and little optimism as he looked to his future. In 1980, he joined the Marine Corps., in the hope that it would build up some personal discipline and self-confidence. By all accounts Carey's time in the service did just the trick, as he emerged six years later with a healthier and more positive outlook on life.

Carey's route to a career in comedy began when a friend asked him to write some jokes for a local radio program. Having no experience in writing, he went to the local library and read as much as he could on the subject. Eventually, Carey felt confident enough in his material to try it out before live audiences. A win at an open mic contest led to a steady gig as the emcee at the Cleveland Comedy Club. Soon afterwards, Carey's brand of humor - broad, bawdy, self-deprecating; but rooted in an everyman attitude - earned him live dates at comedy clubs across the country. In 1988, he gained national exposure as a contestant on "Star Search" (syndicated, 1983-1995). Three years later, he was a featured talent on "The14th Annual Young Comedians Show" (HBO, 1991) hosted by neurosis-ridden comedian Richard Lewis, and alongside future heir to the throne of political comedy, Jon Stewart. The following year, Carey's rise to fame was all but guaranteed when Johnny Carson gave him the coveted, rare honor of inviting him to sit on the guest couch after a performance on "The Tonight Show" (NBC, 1962- ). Within days, Carey was fielding calls from casting agents. His ascent to the big time could not have come a moment too soon, as Carey had by then reached the end of his savings.

After a successful cable comedy special, "Drew Carey: Human Cartoon" (Showtime, 1993) - which earned him a Cable Ace Award - he made his first foray into acting with small roles on television series and in feature comedies like the misbegotten comedy, "Coneheads" (1993). All these efforts led to a supporting part on the sitcom "The Good Life" (NBC, 1994), an office comedy starring fellow stand-up John Caponera. The series lasted just 13 episodes before cancellation, but the experience proved invaluable, as it introduced Carey to former "Roseanne" (NBC, 1988-1997) writer Bruce Helford, who partnered with him to develop a sitcom based on Carey's persona and comedy. The result was "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC, 1995-2004), which centered on the lives of nice guy Drew and his friends - improv veteran Ryan Stiles and actors Dierdrich Bader and Christa Miller - and co-workers - Scottish comic Craig Ferguson and comedian Kathy Kinney as Drew's garishly dressed foil, Mimi - as they endured their jobs while pursuing happiness and romance. A ratings hit during its early seasons, Carey and Helford soon found themselves stifled by the rigid format of a sitcom - to say nothing of Standards and Practices' requirements for "clean" humor. This led them to frequently break the mold with special episodes like "What's Wrong with This Episode?" offering a prize to the viewer who could name all the deliberate mistakes throughout its running time. Carey and crew also mounted a challenging live episode that was performed separately for East and West coast audiences. A 2001 episode titled "Drew Carey's Rock & Roll Back to School Special" broke away from the storylines entirely, putting the characters through a string of skits that also included guest appearances by Jenny McCarthy, Amanda Bynes and Eric Clapton. In addition to serving as executive producer for the series, Carey also wrote and directed several episodes.

It was a good time for Carey, with his growing popularity allowing him to experiment with a variety of different performance venues and projects. He penned a best-selling autobiography, Dirty Jokes and Beer (1997), in which the comedian candidly revealed much of his troubled past. In 1998, Carey had begun hosting duties on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" (ABC/ABC Family, 1998-2006), an improvisational game show that featured many of his "Drew Carey" cast mates and fellow comics. The program proved popular enough to warrant a regular touring company of improv comics culled from the show's ranks, with Carey joining them on numerous live dates across North America. For the most part, Carey met with success in these side endeavors, such as showing off his vocal skills - a talent Carey had demonstrated when he performed his sitcom's theme song, "Moon Over Parma," during the show's original opening - or in the title role of "Geppetto" (ABC, 2000), a "Wonderful World of Disney" TV-movie based on the children's story of Pinocchio. On the other side of the entertainment spectrum, Carey surprised everyone when he stepped into the wrestling ring for the World Wrestling Federation's "Royal Rumble" (2001), during which Carey offered money to his opponent, the man-mountain known only as "Kane," just before he fled the arena. A longtime supporter of various charities in his home state of Ohio, Carey won $500,000 for the Ohio Library Foundation from an appearance on a celebrity edition of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" (ABC/syndicated, 1999- ), and competed in the World Poker Tour for the Cleveland Public Library charity in 2003. Even after receiving an honorary doctorate from Cleveland State University in 2000 and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003, he stated in an interview that his greatest award was a bobble-head doll in his own likeness from the Cleveland Indians for his unflagging support. Perhaps the only downside to this period was a brief health scare in 2001, when Carey underwent emergency open-heart surgery to repair a blocked artery.

Eventually, declining ratings and rising production costs spelled an end to "The Drew Carey Show," and after nine years and 233 episodes, the series left the air in 2004. But Carey would not be unemployed for long. That same year, Carey returned to television to produce, host and appear in "Drew Carey's Green Screen" (The WB/Comedy Central, 2004-06), an improv show that shared much of the same cast and premise as "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" with one added concept: the skits were performed in front of a green screen, which would, unbeknownst to the performers, feature film footage and animation. However, the expense of the series led to its early demise, even after Comedy Central showed its support by picking up the show when the WB dropped it. Carey also made several forays into feature films at this time, lending his voice to one of the automaton characters in "Robots" (2005) and contributing to three documentaries - the hilarious "Aristocrats" (2005), about a long-standing and appalling in-joke in the stand-up world; "F*ck" (2005), which focused on the impact and usage of the word in comedy and everyday life; and "Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie" (2005), in which Ross documented Carey's trip to Iraq as part of the U.S.O. The latter picture highlighted one of the more controversial aspects of Carey's personality - namely, his conservative political leanings. In the late 1990s, Carey was frequently labeled as a Republican - in 2002 he had hosted the White House Correspondents' dinner, much to the delight of President George W. Bush - but in subsequent years, he dubbed himself a Libertarian, voicing his support for such non-right-wing subjects as same-sex marriage, gay rights, and government regulation of drugs and cigarettes.

A longtime sports fan, Carey found time to produce and host "Drew Carey's Sporting Adventures" (The Travel Channel, 2006), a five-part series that provided a behind-the-scenes look at the World Cup. Carey also enjoyed a side career as a sports photographer at numerous U.S. National Soccer Team events. In 2007, Carey shot the pilot for "The Power of 10" (CBS, 2006-08), a game show which asked contestants to guess how Americans would react to polls about politics and popular culture. The show would not last long, but by then Carey had landed a much more high-profile game show gig when he was selected by CBS in 2007 to replace the iconic Bob Barker as the new host of "The Price Is Right" (CBS, 1972- ). The announcement followed months of speculation with names like Rosie O'Donnell and George Hamilton being bandied about in the press. Carey continued to keep busy with guest spots on other series, like the comic roundtable talk show "The Green Room with Paul Provenza" (Showtime, 2009- ), and in an episode of the hit sitcom "Community" (NBC, 2009- ), in which he played a sleazy corporate lawyer.