Steve Harvey has the last laugh -- The stand-up comedian turned actor knows that the real money lies in television

By Dan Snierson
Updated December 16, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

Comedian Steve Harvey can sum up in one word why he put aside stand-up success to gamble on a wholesome, family-hour sitcom. ”Money,” he says without any sign of hesitation or remorse, breaking into laughter that fills the green room on the set of ABC’s Me and the Boys. ”It’s flat-out cold cash. I don’t know of anything else I could do legally that could make as much money as this and still let me go to bed and be at peace with myself.”

Harvey can sleep even more soundly now that his freshman series is proving no snooze in the ratings. In Boys — something of a cross between The Cosby Show and My Three Sons — Harvey stars as a widowed father of three boys, tempering lessons with laughs. As the real-life father of twin 12-year-old girls, he’s had plenty of practice. ”We have a cool relationship,” explains Harvey, who is divorced and currently living in Beverly Hills. ”I keep them laughing.”

Life hasn’t been all smiles, though. Harvey, 37, grew up poor in inner-city Cleveland and spent several years toiling in factories and hawking life insurance after dropping out of Kent State University. His big break came in 1984, when he won an amateur competition at a local comedy club. Inspired, Harvey took his stand-up act on the road, where in one year of traveling he put 124,000 miles on a Bonneville and ”saw enough racism to last me, you, and anybody else a lifetime.”

Although Harvey’s career on the tube appears promising — ”Everything about him says TV star,” enthuses Bob Myer, executive producer of Me and the Boys MDASH] live comedy remains the actor’s passion. He still performs stand-up sporadically and hosts the weekly Showtime at the Apollo, all the while grateful, albeit a bit surprised, that he’s made it this far. ”Some of the things I have done — and I’m still here? Whoa.” Like what things? ”Gotta save it for the book.” Spoken like a true TV comedian.