Auto mechanic. Boxer. Insurance salesman. Carpet cleaner. Letter carrier. These are just a handful of the odd jobs that Steve Harvey, the famous comedian, and host of Family Feud, worked before he became a household name. It’s a pretty amazing resume!
Before Steve Harvey became famous, he had been homeless and lived on the streets for three years. But he never gave up, and never stopped thinking of strategies to help propel him to where he is today.
In this article, I’m going to talk about how Steve Harvey became an unlikely success story and why people like him so much.
A Real Rags-to-riches Story: How Steve Harvey Got Popular
January 17, 1957, Broderick Stephen Harvey Sr. was born to Jesse Harvey, a coal miner, and Eloise Vera. He was named after the actor Broderick Crawford of the TV Series Highway Patrol. That he got his name from a TV actor and ended up becoming a TV host was a happy coincidence.
Growing up in coal country West Virginia is not a glamorous lifestyle. He didn’t have much money in his childhood, and things didn’t magically get better when he was an adult.
Harvey started his career as a comedian. Early in the 1980s, he did stand-up comedy. Later, he hosted Showtime at the Apollo and The Steve Harvey Show on the WB. After appearing on the Kings of Comedy Tour, he was a part of The Original Kings of Comedy. His latest performance was in 2012.
But it was a long way to the top for him. You see, Steve Harvey was homeless for three years in the late 1980s. He slept in his 1976 Ford when the comedy gigs he worked didn’t provide hotels. He spent a lot of time showering at gas stations and swimming pool showers.
Harvey found himself switching between odd jobs as a mailman, autoworker, carpet cleaner, and insurance salesman when he was working hard to reach success.
His fortunes started to turn when Rich and Becky Liss gave Harvey a chance on a carpet cleaning contract. It wasn’t comedy that saved him initially. You can see his gratitude in this video of him reuniting with the Lisses who helped him out so long ago. He can’t help but show his appreciation to them even though he’s already famous.
Steve Harvey’s early experiences with fame
Through years of struggle and working odd jobs, Steve Harvey persisted until he finally started to get some traction into what would eventually become his radio and television career. His fortune turned along with the decade in 1990, when he was selected as a finalist in the Second Annual Johnnie Walker National Comedy Search. His stand-up comedy was starting to get noticed!
Three years later, he was hosting It’s Showtime at the Apollo, a syndicated variety show that started in 1987. The hours the show was aired weren’t the best – often it was slotted in after Saturday Night Live so only the true night owls would see it, but at least he was on TV at this point.
The next year came, and in 1994, Harvey was selected to be a star on the ill-fated ABC series, Me and the Boys because of his popularity as a stand-up comedian. The show didn’t go much of anywhere, but it was just one more stepping stone toward his next big gig – The Steve Harvey Show which ran from 1996 to 2002 on WB.
By the early 2000s, Steve Harvey was a recognizable guy, but still not a superstar. After all, The Steve Harvey Show never really saw phenomenal ratings. It was well-liked within the African-American community, but mostly faded from public memory and remained as a show well-liked by a handful of viewers.
But he just kept working from there. He got into radio in 2000 where he was host of The Steve Harvey Morning Show for five years, which is still in syndication to this day. He starred in a handful of movies, then released a stand-up special called Steve Harvey: Don’t Trip…He Ain’t Through with Me Yet.
In 2009, he released his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. It stayed on the New York Times Best Seller list for over a year, spending nearly six months at #1.
There were no magic moments of success – just a slow build. He didn’t really become famous until his mid-30s or even his 40s depending on what you consider “famous.”
Steve Harvey revived Family Feud
If you know Steve Harvey for one thing now, it’s for hosting Family Feud. The show has been around since 1976 and has been hosted by six different men. Steve Harvey took over the show in 2010, and he’s now been the show’s longest-running presenter.
And arguably the best too.
In the US, where Family Feud got it’s start, the show had become boring and stale by the late 2000s. The viewership ratings were really low. Then Steve Harvey took over.
Since he started hosting Family Feud, ratings increased over fivefold compared to where they were when the previous hosted departed.
His brashness, willingness to poke fun a contestants (in a likeable way), and his quick wit breathed life into an old, dry, worn-out show. Now Family Feud is competing with Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy for syndication.
5 Reasons Steve Harvey Won the Hearts of Millions
Clearly, Steve Harvey worked his way to where he is, became recognizable in the 1990s, and really popular in the late 2000s and 2010s. He’s successfully won the heart of millions.
But the critics also love him. Steve has won 14 NAACP Image Awards across a variety of categories as wells as two Marconi Awards and seven Daytime Emmy Awards. It feels, in a way, like life is repaying him for the hard times he experienced earlier.
But why is Steve Harvey, in particular, so beloved by the public? What makes him such a perfect fit for our TVs? Why does he stand out among other comedians as being relatable and likeable? How have I even heard of him all the way in the Phillippines where I’m writing from?
Here are a few reasons that come to mind.
1. Steve Harvey is a genuinely hard-working man.
Harvey had a lengthy and incredibly successful career in the entertainment sector. And he has been effectively managing a number of enterprises under the name Steve Harvey Global since 2017.
One thing to bear in mind is that despite Steve Harvey’s success on the big screen, and his success in amassing millions of fans, he still had to put in a lot of effort. Harvey worked hard for every bit of the success he currently enjoys and was able to do so because he had a humble attitude that allowed him to take the unglamorous opportunities needed to get him to where he is now.
On some level, Steve remembers what it’s like to be homeless. He keeps working hard and stays busy because he knows on a visceral level – in a way most celebrities don’t – that he has a good life.
2. Steve Harvey knows what it’s like to be down on your luck, and he cares a lot about charity.
Have you heard about the Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s an influential philanthropic organization that provides youth outreach services. Steve Harvey himself is the Founder.
His focus through the charity is to “help cultivate the next generation of responsible leaders by providing educational enrichment, mentoring, life transformation skills, and global service initiatives. The Foundation strives to be a change-agent by fostering excellence in the areas of education, health, and social well-being in urban and diverse communities, ensuring that the needs of the whole child are met.”
In other words, Steve Harvey’s trying to find the kids who live the life he lived in the 1970s and 1980s and give them the chance they need to succeed that they would otherwise never get.
3. He has shown the ability to gracefully recover from mistakes.
Steve Harvey, like every public figure these days, has had the occasional run-in with social media over mistakes and controversies.
One good example comes from the year 2015 at the Miss Universe Event. He announced the wrong winner, and that was very embarrassing!
Around the 3 minute mark in this video, you can see Steve Harvey thinking about what to say. Here, he’s just told the wrong woman that her dreams have come true. Now he has to take away her moment.
He immediately apologized, made it clear that he misread the card, gave people a minute to process the information, then corrected his mistake. He showed the audience what was on the card he was reading off of, immediately took responsibility for his mistake and made it abundantly clear who was truly the winner so there would not be speculation.
It takes a lot of class to do that and a lot of wits to think on your feet like that.
4. Because he’s experienced really hard times in his life, Steve Harvey is a credible motivational speaker.
Steve is known first and foremost as a comedian, but many people take his motivational words to heart and change their lives as a result. Steve has several mentoring programs including The Steve Harvey Boys Mentoring Program and Girls Who Rule the World.
Steve Harvey has talked plenty about failure – specifically, how to reframe it as a necessary stop on the way to success.
He has also talked about how if you want to be successful, you have to think on a higher level with broad goals in mind. But you also have to find specific things that you can work on so that you can have focus and purpose at the same time. This will let you try things, fail at what you need to fail at, and figure out who you really are.
He’s also talks about how it’s important to smile, and how that can make more people smile at you.
This is evergreen, effective, useable motivational advice. It’s nothing particularly original, but originality isn’t the point. Steve Harvey says what he says with conviction – and that’s the key difference.
5. He’s really funny.
It’s obvious, but it’s true! People like Steve Harvey because he’s just really funny.
As Steve would say it, everyone has a gift that’s like a tree trunk. Trees have many branches that stem from the trunk. He says his gift is “comedy”, and that’s his tree trunk. His motivational speeches, his TV career, and his philanthropy all come from his tree trunk.
To close out this post, just check out this video of his funniest moments. Watch these and it will help you really understand just how much his humor connects with people.