After well over 30 years in the public eye, you know his name, you know his face and you definitely know his memorable facial expressions, but stand-up comedian turned television host Steve Harvey is even more relevant today.
As his notable interviews, his passionate advice giving and his tendencies to speak his mind in a world that has seen better days, Harvey, 64, is now bringing his motivating messages from network television to Facebook Watch with new episodes of his show STEVE on Watch.
“For me, it was a blessing to get on Facebook Watch because you know, I left NBC,” Harvey tells me at Forbes. “I had a really successful talk show. They wanted to go in another direction. You can’t do nothing about that but my philosophy is very simple. When a door closes, God has always taught me to walk up the hall because there are some more doors. I have such a huge following on Facebook and Facebook is global, so I go from national to global and I go from having to work 34 weeks a year to produce 185 shows to I work two weeks a year and I produce 160 shows. Also at the same time, the pandemic taught me a lot. I lost income during the pandemic, as did a lot of people, but then I discovered that I didn’t need it. My wife pointed it out to me. She said, Steve, look at you. We didn’t have to lay anybody off. We didn’t lose any employees. We didn’t have to sell nothing. We still living a great life and you don’t have to work as hard, so don’t go back to that system.”
While Harvey is finding smarter ways to work and continue to build on his entertainment opportunities, he says that he has started understanding the true value of ownership within his business pursuits. “I don’t participate in anything unless I’m an owner. If I don’t have equity in the play, it’s not going to be a play, not with me. I’ve been at this a long time man, so if you want to be in business, then you have to make me a partner. That’s the biggest difference in my approach. Of course early on in my career, I was just happy to get a show, happy to get a gig, happy to make the appearance. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but after you’ve been in it this long, you start learning about ownership and you start learning about partnerships. I’m Steve Harvey, so if you want Steve Harvey, here’s the deal.”
After a year and a half of stay-at-home orders and all talk shows having to film without their in-person live studio audiences during the height of this pandemic, STEVE on Watch has been able to recently welcome back its audience without having to wear masks in the show’s Atlanta, Georgia studio while continuing to follow Covid-19 safety protocols. “An audience makes the world look different, especially for a performer like myself because I built my whole career in front of audiences. Without it, it’s a lot more difficult and challenging to be entertaining. When you have an audience like this that’s engaged and they got their masks off and you can see their facial expressions and stuff like that, I mean, it’s just everything man.”
While Harvey has gratitude for the receptive live studio audience he is able to interact with again, he also has a great appreciation for the younger generations of creative minds on his team that helps him keep the subject matter for STEVE on Watch as timely as ever in 2021.
“My executive producer Ianthe Jones, she has a great production staff,” Harvey continues. “It’s mostly young people and they got their ear on the streets to what’s going on, what’s viral, what’s out there in the social media space. They book a lot of stuff that they know I have a tendency to relate to. I like underdogs stories man. I like stories that show people that no matter what happens, you can win. I like interesting topics about how people find different ways to become successful.”
Arguably one of the biggest topics over the past year is the 2020 presidential election, an outcome that even now being almost a year later, still receives pushback and continues to widen the divisiveness between many Americans. With Harvey continuing to be a positive figure that many look to for guidance and good wisdom on matters affecting their lives, I asked Harvey for his personal thoughts on politics, racism and the ongoing pandemic today.
“Well it’s a shame that this country is as fractured as it is. It’s really, really sad and it became the most fractured during this last election. This last run fractured this country like I’ve never seen it and I’ve been here 64 years and this is the most fractured I’ve ever seen it. It’s not the most racist, it’s the most fractured, but racism has been allowed to rear its ugly head again. And it’s okay because we had some people up in the top that made so many openly racist statements without any shame or any repercussions that it just brought them out the woodwork.”
Even with the divide Harvey sees in America today, he also has noticed what he calls an upside during these times of conflict and unrest. “This Black Lives Matter movement has been the greatest movement I’ve seen since civil rights. I’ve been here for both of them, but this was the first movement, Black Lives Matter, that included more people who were not of color that got involved to support a movement to benefit people of color, even more so than civil rights. It ain’t just black people saying Black Lives Matter. It’s a lot of people saying Black Lives Matter and that’s what’s giving me a lot of hope. And as an older person you know that I am, I’m really proud of the young people doing this movement right here. The athletes that have got involved, the social media influencers that have got involved. So many young people of all colors that have gotten together that says Hey man, this ain’t right and we have a real chance for change. It’s just shame that the minority is using every powerful stroke they can to control the majority and that’s just a sad thing. All of this voting rights that they are trying to stop and rescind all of these rights of voting and all like this. This is deplorable man. This is a sickness and we got to do better.”
With the name Steve Harvey indisputably a household name, he is still finding ways to expand his already firm hand within the entertainment world of showbiz. Beyond Steve on Watch, Harvey continues to host new episodes of his popular game show Family Feud. He also has a new reality courtroom comedy series coming to ABC called Judge Steve Harvey, with all three productions being filmed in same Atlanta studio lot. So after all that Harvey has experienced and achieved over more than three decades, I wondered what he might say to his former self if he could, a man who overcame many obstacles and hardships before he ultimately got his big break.
“I would say to myself that no matter how dark it looks, keep the faith because God is coming. I had to go through everything that I went through in the exact order that I had to have it happen so I could be who I am today. You know, I can pass out advice to people today because I know it, I know it by heart because I lived it. I went out there and experienced homelessness for three years. I’ve been divorced two times. I’ve lost everything twice. I’ve been written off in the media. I’ve been written off by family members. I’ve been told I was going to be nothing by teachers. I was so low in my class ranking, it looked like I was never going to raise up. All of that, if I could have just known that God was coming. Then after three years [of homelessness], a phone call came and I went to New York and they put me on Showtime at The Apollo and the next thing I know man, I’ve been on TV ever since. He came and got me.”