The serious multi-tasker expects to work in tapings of his new NBCUniversal syndicated talk show around his other gigs as syndicated morning-drive radio personality and host of Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud. Something has to give, however, and it will be his standup comedy. But he says he’s not giving up humor: “I want to do a daytime show that is inspirational, uplifting and insightful. Then, the twist I’m going to put on it is that, in the middle of the day, it’s going to be funny.”
Steve Harvey may not be the first name that pops into your head when you think “talk show host.” But his upcoming syndicated daytime show was met with enthusiastic responses from TV station groups. Steve Harvey, which is produced by Endemol USA and distributed by NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution, cleared four-fifths of the nation’s TV homes in short order with the NBC O&Os taking the lead. It’s set to debut this fall.
As Harvey tells it in this interview with TVNewsCheck Contributing Editor Kevin Downey, the new show will be one part Oprah, one part Carol Burnett, one part Conan and maybe even one part American Idol. “It will involve singers and … it will be entertaining and inspirational. People love to see someone given a shot to see what they do with it.”
What it won’t be is celebrity-driven, he says. “My show will focus on everyday people.”
Harvey expects to work in tapings around his other gigs as syndicated morning-drive radio personality and host of Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud, which has seen its ratings rise 33% so far this year. But something has to give and it will be his standup. “Sometimes, to go to the next level, you have to shed something that you really care about.”
Harvey also pledges to do whatever he can to promote the show. “I’m ready to give the local markets as much support as they need. That’s the game. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. I’m not going to go at it halfway. That’s not how you win.”
An edited transcript:
You have been a guest on many daytime talk shows. Did you ever think you would be hosting a show of your own?
Having a talk show has been on my bucket list for years. It just never came to fruition. Finally, this year it is coming true. So, unknowingly, all my appearances on shows like Oprah and Good Morning America were laying the groundwork for me to go to daytime TV. I feel that now I am seasoned, so I’m ready to go.
How is the show shaping up?
It’s going to be a combination of things. I want to do a daytime show that is inspirational, uplifting and insightful. Then, the twist I’m going to put on it is that, in the middle of the day, it’s going to be funny. I think I can deliver that.
You have become something of a relationship expert with your books like Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. How will that factor into the show?
When I talk about relationships, I’m talking about all of them, not just the relationships between men and women. I’m talking about relationships with siblings, children, relatives. We’ll also talk about things that will motivate people in business and educate people on a variety of topics, from health to wealth.
I have a very unique opportunity in daytime TV. As great as a lot of the hosts have been, the ultimate goal for anybody is to just hope for the success that Oprah had. Half the success she had would be great. A third of that would be great.
If I can deliver the topics that Oprah did, rather than reinvent the wheel, I just want to add one twist. I’m a standup. I can be clever. And I’ve learned how to make my comedy work on all levels. I know how to work clean. I know how to work with a huge general-market appeal.
You said you’ll focus on all types of relationships, but your books are about relationships between men and women.
I’m going to be a guy on daytime television who is like a teammate for women. I’m championing their cause. I’m not telling secrets on guys. I’m giving the male perspective. That’s where the success of my books comes from. It’s a very honest perspective on the mindset of men.
That right there is something that most guys aren’t willing to give because, when they’re talking to women, they have an ulterior motive. I don’t have that right now because I’m really into one woman. I couldn’t have said that 10 years ago. Now that I am, I can unveil a man’s perspective to women. I think that gives me an edge in daytime television.
So, you see Steve Harvey as having mass appeal?
I think the success I’ve had on Family Feud has proven something I have been saying for a long time. If you don’t pigeon-hole me and you let me fly, I have a much wider and broader appeal than people imagine. Yeah, I’m a black guy in daytime TV. So what?
I can still be very insightful. My 55 years has included a couple of marriages and a blended family. I’m a father, a husband and a philanthropist. And I’ve made my share of mistakes. My willingness to share those mistakes and discuss my flaws can be inspiring to a lot of people. It can be insightful. You take all that and put a comedic element to it and I just have a good feeling about it.
You mentioned the success of Family Feud. How instrumental was that show in Endemol approaching you about doing a talk show?
Family Feud has had a huge role in this. It has allowed me to take myself out of the box that advertisers and the TV networks want to put me in. Family Feud has destroyed that. They took a show that had been on the air for decades, that had ratings that were just keeping it on the air, and turned it into a hit show. Family Feud allowed me to be me. I’m not a movie star; I learned that a long time ago. I’m a TV guy. All my TV shows have had some success.
If you put me on Family Feud 15 years ago, it would have been a disaster. I was a lot edgier then and I didn’t have the sense of responsibility I do now to the public, my wife and children.
Right now, my style of comedy helped shoot up the ratings on Family Feud. I know that played a big part in (Endemol North America Chairman) David Goldberg talking to me [about the talk show]. NBC heard about it and then they jumped on board. I’m sure Feud had a great deal to do with that.
How will you incorporate comedy into your talk show?
You can tell people some very serious things. But, if you put a comedic spin to it, when people are laughing they think, “Wow, that’s funny but it’s true.”
I’ve used that in my books. I’ve used it on Family Feud. And I’ll use it on the talk show. I think we will open the show in the Carol Burnett Show style. I’m a huge Carol Burnett fan. I’m going to talk to people. I’m going to take questions. That’s my forte. That will be the comedic moment in the beginning. Then, after that, hopefully we’ll find some great producers soon who will find me some great subject matter.
It’s like nighttime TV. The reason guys like Conan, Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel have had success is that, when the guest isn’t the best, it’s OK because the host can cover. I think that’s the magic that I can bring to daytime TV.
In the 1990s, you hosted the latenight show Showtime at the Apollo. Will you have musical guests on your talk show?
Music is huge in my life. It always has been, especially as a radio show host. And Showtime at the Apollo still beats in my heart. I was saying years ago that we should take Showtime at the Apollo and make it mainstream to let America see young people trying to make it as a singer. Nobody listened but, then, guess what? Along came American Idol.
I’m going to take that, and I can’t leak the details now, and put it into a segment on the show. It will involve singers and I think it will be entertaining and inspirational. People love to see someone given a shot to see what they do with it. They sit there and get involved. They have a vested interest in the show.
How are you going to fit a daytime talk show into your schedule?
I’m about to sign another book deal, so I’ll continue to be an author. I would never give up the radio show because it matters to me. And I’m a pretty good player in the syndicated radio world.
So, this is the way I’ve got my days planned. I’m going to get up and do the radio show like I always do. Right now, I wake up at 3:45 a.m. I go to the gym until 5 a.m. I make it to the studio by 6 a.m. I do my show until 10 a.m. — same schedule. Then, I’ll go right over to the TV studio and do my prep work. Around 1 or 2 p.m., we’ll start rolling tape. In the evening, I’ll do some homework to prepare for the next day’s TV show. That’ll be my schedule five days a week.
I’m retiring from standup this year, in August at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. That’ll be my last touring date. I’ve been in comedy for half of my life. Sometimes, to go to the next level, you have to shed something that you really care about. Standup has meant the most to me and it always will. But the radio show and the TV show will allow me to keep elements of that in my life.
So, you’re taping the show in Atlanta?
Man, I don’t know. They promised me that I can tape it in Atlanta. But I’m open to doing whatever’s best for the show. If they come to me with an alternative, I’d have to talk to my wife about it. She thinks we’re taping it in Atlanta. If that changes, Mrs. Harvey is going to have to give me the go ahead.
If it does tape in Atlanta, won’t that make it tough to book celebrity guests?
We’re not planning on being a celebrity-driven show. I believe that real people are the driving force behind this country. My show will focus on everyday people. I have been a celebrity for a long time. What I know is that celebrities cancel, all the time. Since I’ve been hosting Family Feud for two years, not one family has canceled. So, I’m going to play ball with them.
In big media markets, your show will be on NBC-owned stations, some of which air Warner Bros.’ Ellen. Will your show lead into Ellen?
I’ve been hearing people talk about that. I even spoke to Ellen about it. I was on her show and, during a break, she asked me if I was doing a daytime show. I said, “Yeah, I might be your lead-in.” She said, “Great, I’d love to have you.” I think that’s the game plan, that I’ll lead into her show on some of the owned-and-operated stations. If I do, it would be an honor. Ellen is a friend of mine. I absolutely love her. So, hopefully I’ll make her proud.
Have you selected a showrunner for Steve Harvey?
At NATPE, [Endemol] is going to present to me who they want me to consider to be the showrunner. I’ve met a lot of producers from a lot of shows over the years. So, a lot of people are calling. But, first, we have to select the showrunner. I trust them. We’ll sit down and talk.
Have you started to think about how you will promote the show?
I’m already doing that. I’m talking to station owners and making visits. I’m getting ready to do some localized stuff. I’m a hard worker. One of the things that I think NBC and Endemol are excited about is that I’ve been promoting comedy tours, and selling out, for years. I’ve been promoting my radio show in 60-some markets for five years. I’m used to doing that. I’m ready to give the local markets as much support as they need. That’s the game. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. I’m not going to go at it halfway. That’s not how you win.
Read other NATPE 2012 stories here.