Cedric the Entertainer more than two decades ago was Cedric Antonio Kyles, a State Farm claims insurance adjuster who dabbled with stand-up comedy at night.
On Sunday, the man whose career skyrocketed after the “Kings of Comedy” tour in the late 1990s will tell fans about how he navigated the road to stardom as part of a free “Dreams Protected Tour” at the Fox Theatre Sunday sponsored by a State Farm rival, American Family Insurance.
“When American Family Insurance called,” Cedric says in a recent phone interview, “it was just the kind of thing I like to talk about. I grew up in St. Louis area watching all these young people getting into crime. I want to give the young men and women in Atlanta motivation and understanding to be able to dream.”
In other words, this will not be a standard stand-up stop for Cedric, but his family-friendly brand of upbeat humor will undoubtedly come through.
And he’s enjoying a more diverse fan base thanks to his role as a preacher on “Soul Man,” which debuted earlier this year and is awaiting a possible second season renewal after averaging 1 million viewers. The show could have just as easily landed on TV One or BET, but TV Land’s audience in general is more diverse.
“TV Land has given me a lot of creative freedom,’ he says, compared to his efforts to create a sitcom on ABC, where “there were way too many chefs in the kitchen. I’m cool with it being nice and quiet here [at TV Land.]”
Budgetarily, he said TV Land isn’t far off the mark compared to his experience back in the 1990s with “The Steve Harvey Show” on the WB. (A key executive at TV Land Keith Cox used to work at the WB, shepherding “Soul Man” into production.)
And he hopes he has mined humor out of the African-American church experience without being disrespectful or saddling his character with a “holier than thou” attitude. “He’s flawed off the top,” Cedric says.
Cedric visits Atlanta when he has time. His regular opening comic J.J. Williamson lives here. He also had a great uncle and plenty of friends here. “We find really cool non-touristy spots to hang out,” he says. “I like variety.”
He’s also following his mentor and fellow “Kings of Comedy” man Steve Harvey with a new hat collection at Saks Fifth Avenue. His first line of hats will be at the Phipps Plaza Saks next month, Cedric says. He hopes to come to Atlanta to unveil the spring line though his schedule will depend largely on whether “Soul Man” gets renewed. He also hopes to come for a comedy show next year here. His last stop here was in 2010 at the Atlanta Civic Center.
If you go
The Dreams Protected Tour presented by American Family Insurance featuring Cedric the Entertainer, AJ Calloway (host on “Extra TV”) and Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter.
2 p.m., Sunday. Free, but you must register in advance at www.amfam.com/tour. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St., N.E., Atlanta.