How Did Steve Harvey Get Famous?

Simply put, Steve Harvey became famous by being funny. Every once in a while, people were laughing at him instead of with him (think the infamous beauty pageant) but Harvey has persisted through his various gigs with good cheer.

It’s easy to spot him on TV as the host of Family Feud, where his sense of humor makes a good foil for the antics of the contestants. Even when the game tests his patience or the patience of the players, Harvey easily smooths things over.

Steve Harvey got famous as a stand-up comic 

Steve Harvey presents onstage
Steve Harvey | Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Harvey grew up in the Cleveland, Ohio area, sometimes laughing through hard times. In his early days, he had a place to work but not a place to stay, as he performed comedy gigs many nights while sleeping out of his car in the 1970s. He finally started to break through in the early 90s, landing a gig as the host of It’s Showtime at the Apollo. 

From 1996 to 2002, Harvey starred on The Steve Harvey Show on the WB, but what truly catapulted him into the mainstream was the comedy concert tour and the 2000 concert film The Original Kings of Comedy, directed by Spike Lee. Joining him at those concerts were Cedric the Entertainer, DL Hughley, and the late Bernie Mac. 

One of Harvey’s most memorable quotes from his routine was:

“When you go to church that much when you’re a kid, you don’t really care for church that much. So what you got to do is find little things to like about church, that make you want to go. And the one thing I liked about my church — it might seem a little strange to you — but the one thing that made me want to go all the time was when I found out that there was people that cussed at the church. That might not do it for y’all, but dammit, that done it for me.”

Steve Harvey’s infamous mistake

It’s a good thing Harvey is as good-natured as he is, because he got a taste of the kind of fame people don’t want — fame for making a major, embarrassing mistake. 

In December 2015, Harvey hosted the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas. Erroneously naming  Miss Colombia (Ariadna Gutiérrez) as the winner. She went as far as being crowned before Harvey admitted he read the results incorrectly and that Miss Philippines (Pia Wurtzbach) was really the new Miss Universe.

The incident made headlines for weeks, with Harvey the subject of many a meme,  getting all kinds of things wrong. 

Still, Harvey had made an honest mistake and did his utmost to make amends. He apologized to Wurtzbach outside the venue. When he hosted the  Miss Universe pageant the following year, he apologized to the Filipinos for the incident that occurred in the last Miss Universe pageant. The apology worked. Harvey returned to the gig for multiple years.

“Did I make a mistake? Yes I did, wholeheartedly,” he said, as reported by the Miami Herald. “I’m not in the finger-pointing business and rolling people under the bus. So, I did what I was trained to do by my father … You made a mistake and you own up to it. And I tried to fix it, I tried to fix it right there.”

Steve Harvey wins the ‘Feud’

The gig that puts Harvey on television is Family Feud, which he has hosted since 2010. The original host of the show, Richard Dawson, was famous for schmoozing with the guests, but Harvey brought his own ingratiating style to the part. He put contestants at ease with his indefatigable good cheer. 

Harvey’s Biography page quotes him as saying, “The producers are going, ‘Wow, you really know how to handle everyday people,’ and yeah, because really I just got this money I got recently.”