Cedric The Entertainer About His New Book “Flipping Boxcars”

By: Amber Barbee Pickens

Oak Cliff native, Amber Barbee Pickens chatted with actor, comedian, producer, and novelist Cedric the Entertainer. He stopped in Dallas during his book tour for his latest novel, Flipping Boxcars!

Amber: You’ve done it all. Today we are celebrating your new novel. You’ve gone from stand-up comedy to classic sitcom, film, entrepreneur with your wine named after your late mother, Rosetta, voiceover, and animation. And now today in Dallas, we’re celebrating your latest novel, Flipping Box Cars.

Cedric: I mean it’s really a blessing. I started in St. Louis doing comedy in the late eighties. Black comedy was still fairly rare. We had, of course, the greats you know, Richard Pryor’s and Eddie Murphy’s and Cosby’s and stuff. Then it started to be that resurgence in the late eighties early 90s. We started to meet The Wayans Brothers, and comedy started to boom around the country. So, a guy from St. Louis could actually get put on because black comedy started and people were looking for it. To be able to take it with no steps, I left my job at State Farm, and then, you know, I’m here now.

Amber: You have a special connection with Oak Cliff.

Cedric: Shout out to Oak Cliff! My boy Steve Harvey used to do one of the early black comedy clubs. A spot called VuCuRae in Oak Clif. It was at Red Bird Mall. Steve had the club popping. I was his main dude. I came down here quite a bit, started to have a lot of friends and made, you know, inroads into the town.

Amber: I got to read Flipping Boxcars and it’s so amazing. You were inspired by your grandfather and his picture.

Cedric: Yeah, so this is my mother’s dad. My mother was the youngest. My grandfather passed away before I was born. So, she was a young lady when he passed to her, but she would share all these stories about who he was. In the post-civil war, pre-civil rights era, he was a real go-getter. He was a guy that was an outside the box thinker. He was a businessman, you know, in a way had to be a pseudo politician. He was like the unofficial mayor of the black side of town. He was friends with the sheriff. He also dibbled and dabbled in bootlegging, and he was a very famous gambler. We know how we know poker players nowadays. Back then, they knew craps players.

Amber: I was trying to understand all those different terms in your novel, because I’m really not familiar with that.

Cedric: It was a glossary back there!

Amber: Yes, I have to go back and study the glossary. I’m one of those people who nobody ever taught how to play any of the games at the barbecues.

Cedric: Yeah, yeah, you’re like, guys this is crazy. It’s like, you know, but just spades left, guys. Girl, get on somewhere. Get on out of here! She’s cute but I don’t know what to do with her. Whose daughter is that again? That’s at the family reunion.

Amber: Hahahahaahaha

Cedric: Keep her away from the potato salad!

Amber: There was a moment when Babe was standing with Rosetta and Rosie, and they were looking at their future, reflecting about time. It was just really beautiful. I love romance and family, so that just naturally resonated with me. I really appreciate that moment, and I can’t wait for the sequel.

Cedric: That moment right there was you know, rain true to how my life developed. My mother and I lived in that town for a long time. So, my mother would often talk about this land that my grandmother had and that was out of the family for various reasons. So, I went back, and I felt it was my duty back, so I bought 17 acres down there. Now I’m trying to figure out what to do with it. It’s in a small town, it’s not like I can put a Four Seasons down there.

Amber: You’ve done so many different characters. I used to love watching Cedric the Entertainer Present. It made such a huge impact. My friends and I still talk about that show to this day! I love the choreography, especially since my background is in dance. How did you go about incorporating dance and including comedy, even in the choreography?

Cedric: It’s really from my family. My grandmother and I used to watch the Jackie Gleason show. Jackie was a bigger guy, he would dress nicely, he would have these ladies, and he would do a little dance. So, when I wanted to do a variety show, I brought that back. It was fun to come out, do the routines each week. That show was really ahead of his time.

Amber: What is your favorite character?

Cedric: Probably with Chef Reverend. And of course, you know, Cafeteria–

Amber: Cafeteria Lady is my favorite!

Cedric: She’ll say whatever! We had so many great, great characters.

Amber: It definitely was ahead of its time. I hope that projects like that get another chance because it keeps us inspired. It reminds us to create.

Cedric: Yeah, that’s really one of the big motivations of why I do so many things. Even doing this book reminds people to create, just to let things come out of you. I’ve never written a novel before. I could have, you know, doubted myself from trying many years before. You think I’m a comedian and people don’t want to hear this from me. You’ll give yourself a hundred reasons why it won’t work. When I did it, I was so enlightened, and it led me to some place different. Of course, I want you to love the book and enjoy the book, but the journey of this book for what it did to me, was what it was for like now, you know. In my 50s and I feel new because of this experience of being able to stretch myself and do something I’ve never done before.

Amber: The Neighborhood on CBS is entering its sixth season, over 120 episodes and an incredible cast including. You all deliver comedy and cultural impact. What do you hope the audience walks away when they watch The Neighborhood?

Cedric: That’s really it. The show started in that big area of gentrification. It was going on in the country where it felt like a lot of our neighborhoods were being attacked. The culture was being asked to move out so that people can move back in. We brought that show to light at the height of that era. I think one of the things that we really need to show is that these neighborhoods are already neighborhoods. They already have wonderful people living there and it’s okay. It’s okay if you want to come back, but understand you are coming back to something where we’re already running things over here. So the idea of us wanting services and our neighborhood, be it Starbucks and the Whole Foods and Shake Shacks and all those kinds of things that, you know, we want. We want to have that without necessarily having to move the people who live there out in order for it to be worthy for big business. And show that humanity is the idea that people can be different. If we allow ourselves to just take the time to get to know somebody else. So I think that we don’t spend enough time recognizing who we are and allowing those people to be themselves inside the culture, and then allow that we can understand, there’s harmony in that.

Amber: Well, your longevity does not go unnoticed. What words of wisdom would you like to share with aspiring artists?

Cedric: I always tell people to recognize that they are unique individuals. No matter if someone is doing something similar to you or what you think, you know the pace is, or somebody’s hotter. You’re uniquely your own individual and nobody can actually deliver what it is that you can bring to the world. And that’s what your purpose is, is to be yourself, and be great at it. And those things will then lift up other people.

Amber: Amen! Thank you for chatting with me. Congratulations on Flipping Boxcars and everything under the sun. I’ve been an admirer of your work for so long and I really appreciate you putting time inside to chat with me.

Cedric: Thank you.

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