The Untold Truth Of Steve Harvey

Steve Harvey may well be the most over-employed star in show business. Not only is he the longtime host of "Family Feud" (both the syndicated weekday version and ABC's primetime celebrity iteration), he's also hosted "Judge Steve Harvey," his talent contest for kids, "Little Big Shots," his entrepreneurial competition "Steve Harvey's Funderdome," several iterations of his daytime talk show, a few New Year's Eve Specials, and numerous editions of the Miss Universe pageant. He's also starred in two sitcoms, and appeared in a few movies, all while also hosting a successful radio show. And whenever he gets a free moment (a rare occurrence, to be fair), there's always his first love, standup comedy, which formed the basis of his enormously successful The Original Kings of Comedy Tour and subsequent movie.

Clearly, Harvey's version of staying busy is a bit more extreme than it is for most people, and if he's become a ubiquitous presence on television, that's entirely by design. It's also his own personal reaction to the financial insecurity he experienced early in his career. "I can't ever be in that position again," he once told People. "If my show gets canceled, I've got three more. I don't have any free time, but I have 12 jobs."

His fans have come to appreciate both his candor and his comedy, both of which have contributed to his ever-expanding popularity. To find out more about this fascinating funnyman, read on for a look at the untold truth of Steve Harvey.

He went to school with fellow comedian Arsenio Hall

Steve Harvey attended Kent State University, eventually flunking out. Another student there at the same time was future comedian Arsenio Hall, whom Harvey had come to know after spending hours together playing basketball. "Steve had this infectious smile. He was hilarious, and you knew it then," Hall told The Washington Post. "He didn't do characters, he didn't do impressions, he would just talk. You would have to tell Steve, 'Stop, stop!' because he would have you hurting."

As Harvey recalled in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he, Hall, and some other students were discussing what they planned to do after graduation when Hall declared that he was going to Hollywood to become a star. "And everybody laughed at Arsenio," said Harvey.

A few years later, Harvey was working a job that he hated. As he told the audience at "Family Feud" (in a video he posted on YouTube), he was so miserable with his life that he was in tears when he turned on the TV and saw Hall performing standup. Suddenly, Harvey realized Hall had achieved the dream that they'd both shared. "I was just stunned," Harvey recalled. "This dude went to Hollywood and did what he said he was gonna do. I cried all the way to my job, man." In fact, the realization that Hall set out to become a comedian and then really did it ultimately inspired Harvey to launch his own journey to stardom.

He didn't begin performing until he was 27

Two years after watching Arsenio Hall on television, Steve Harvey was 27 years old when he first set foot on the stage of a comedy club. As he explained to the audience on the set of "Family Feud" in a video posted on Facebook, a friend dared him to go onstage for a comedy club's open-mic night, with a small cash prize awaiting the winner. He accepted and delivered an impromptu standup performance that led him to be declared the winner. "I won $50, cried all the way home," he recalled. "Because I couldn't believe I had won this $50." 

His friend, somewhat perplexed, asked why he was crying about a measly 50 bucks. Harvey explained that she wasn't grasping the true significance of the moment and what it meant for his future. "I said, 'No, you don't understand. I was born tonight. I'm gonna go do this the rest of my life.'" While the friend was incredulous, Harvey saw winning that $50 comedy contest as nothing less than a message from the Almighty. "I've been talking to God my whole life about what He wants me to do," Harvey recalled telling her. "This is it." 

So certain was he that his future lay with comedy, Harvey told the crowd the next day he showed up for his job — and quit. "I jumped immediately," he said.

He was homeless for three years

Steve Harvey's decision to quit his job and focus on standup comedy was not without its downsides, the most significant of which was financial. As the struggling young comic paid his dues and honed his skills onstage, he was becoming the performer he always knew he could be. Money, however, wasn't exactly pouring in.

As Harvey told People, he was barely making ends meet after splitting up with his first wife and sending his meager paychecks home so she could support their two kids. When a couple of gigs he was counting on wound up evaporating, he faced a dire situation when he found himself homeless. While comedy clubs would sometimes put him up in hotels, afterward, he explained, "I had nowhere to go." As a result, his 1976 Ford Tempo served as both his means of transportation and his four-wheeled home, with Harvey keeping food in a cooler and washing up at gas station restrooms. "It was so disheartening," he remembered. "A week is really the maximum you can do. This was three years! It was rock bottom. But even in my darkest days, I had faith it would turn around."

As Harvey explained while talking with the "Family Feud" audience in a Facebook video, his faith only strengthened during the years he spent homeless. "God broke me down to get my attention," Harvey said. "'Cause all I had was him."

Being broke nearly cost him his big shot

While his living situation remained precarious, Steve Harvey worried that his comedy career had stalled. At his wit's end, he recalled in a motivational speech he shared via tweet that he had made the decision to give up on his dream and get a regular job. As he was about to call his father to share his decision, he happened to call his answering machine to check his messages first. One of them was from Chuck Sutton, producer of "Showtime at the Apollo," who'd seen a tape of Harvey's act and offered him a slot on the show that Sunday. 

While Harvey should have been elated that his dream of appearing on television was within his grasp, instead he was devastated. "I got $35. How I'ma get to New York? I can't make it," recalled Harvey, who was in Florida at the time and had no way to get to New York City. Harvey called his machine again, and heard a new message, offering him $150 to perform on Friday at a club in Jacksonville — just a few hours away from where he was. He took the gig and did so well that the owner offered him another $150 to perform on Saturday. With $300 in his pocket, Harvey was able to book a cheap flight to New York and make it in time for the TV debut that would ultimately change his life.

His first TV show was a hit, but got canceled anyhow

That appearance on "Showtime at the Apollo" jump-started Steve Harvey's comedy career, ultimately catapulting him to star in his own network television sitcom, ABC's "Me and the Boys." Harvey played the widowed owner of a video-rental store raising three sons on his own. Discussing the series with the Los Angeles Times, Harvey explained why he felt the show had a universal appeal. "When you have a cast that's black, America has a tendency to label it, call it a black show," Harvey said. "But this is a show about a family, a man and his sons, this man's undying love for his sons." 

The show was a hit, ending its season in 21st place among 142 shows. While that would seemingly ensure a second season, that didn't prove to be the case when it was canceled. The problem, suggested then-ABC president Ted Harbert, was that it didn't appeal to the sophisticated 18-49 adult audience the network was aggressively going after at the time. "Nothing was wrong with 'Me and the Boys,'" Harbert told the Los Angeles Times. "Too much of 'Me and the Boys' was kid-driven."

Harvey looked back on the situation in a 2022 tweet: "My first sitcom 'Me And The Boys' was a Top 20 hit that was cancelled in the early 90's. I didn't give up. I'm telling you this because now is not the time to give up on your dreams. Keep going." 

The shocking reason he was broke after the massive success of The Original Kings of Comedy

A year after the cancellation of "Me and the Boys," Harvey returned to television with a new sitcom on a new network when "The Steve Harvey Show" debuted on The WB in 1996. That series was a hit, running until 2002 and paving the way for what proved to be Harvey's most successful venture up to that point: The Original Kings of Comedy tour, in which Harvey partnered with comics Cedric the Entertainer (his "The Steve Harvey Show" co-star), Bernie Mac, and D.L. Hughley. The tour proved to be massively lucrative, ultimately raking in more than $37 million and spawning a concert film directed by Spike Lee.

When Harvey began taking stock of his financial situation, however, he was shocked to discover that, despite the millions that he'd made, he was broke. Appearing on Shannon Sharpe's "Club Shay Shay" podcast, Harvey explained the confluence of circumstances that began with his divorce and culminated with a shocking discovery.

"When my accountant passed, a lady went in the office and found a box on the floor, and I had seven years of unpaid taxes," Harvey said, revealing the late accountant had been siphoning the money that Harvey thought he'd been paying to the IRS. "So, I had to pay seven years of back taxes with interest. I was in a world of trouble, man. When I looked up, I had $1,700."

How a battle between media corporations led his talk show to end

As a quick peek at Steve Harvey's IMDb profile will confirm, The WB's "The Steve Harvey Show" may have been the first TV series with that title, but it wasn't the last. In 2012, he launched a syndicated daytime talk show, taped in Chicago, that had the same moniker. As Variety pointed out, when his deal for that show ended in 2016, he entered into a new deal with a similar show — titled simply "Steve" — based out of Los Angeles when it launched in 2017.

Under Harvey's new deal, he was given a larger ownership stake and a higher degree of creative control in the show, which was produced by IMG Original Content and distributed by NBCUniversal. His earlier show, however, had been co-owned by Endemol and NBCUniversal, with top brass at the latter company unhappy to lose their ownership stake in the successful show, which still aired on NBC-owned stations. 

NBCUniversal fired back in 2018 when the company cut a deal with Kelly Clarkson to host her own daytime talk show — which would air in the time slot that had been occupied by Harvey's show. As a result, Harvey wound up shutting down "Steve." However, as a source told Variety, Harvey wasn't harboring any regrets, despite the unfortunate outcome. "Steve took a shot," said the source. "He still made more money than he would have under the old deal."

He has a successful sideline as a relationship guru

In the midst of Steve Harvey's various TV hosting gigs, he's also managed to carve out a whole other sideline for himself by doling out relationship advice. Not only has he done that on his TV and radio shows, but he's also written some books about the subject, starting with "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man." After the book spent 23 weeks at No. 1 on The New York Times Bestseller list (while also spawning a movie of the same name), he returned to the subject in "Straight Talk, No Chaser: How to Find, Keep, and Understand a Man."

Although the books were both hits, they were also criticized as misogynistic. "I was shocked by his misogynistic views on love and marriage," one review read; "The book is sexist, stereotyping all men into knuckle-dragging, sports-loving hunters that just need a little sex to keep them happy," read another review on Amazon, both of which were included in an article for The New York Times

Harvey, however, brushed off such criticism, insisting that two divorces had taught him a lot. "I spent two marriages going, 'What do you want?'" he told the Times. Harvey came to the conclusion that men are simply hard-wired differently than women, and are simply incapable of responding the way women want them to. "The problem is women want their love returned the same way they give it out," Harvey explained. "That's pretty lofty expectations to put on a guy, and we don't have it in our DNA to give it to you like that."

He has a tendency to be sloppy

Steve Harvey's wife, Marjorie, had a big revelation to divulge about her husband when she brought a surprise guest on his talk show: Dr. Phil McGraw, who mediated during a segment dubbed "I love my husband but ... " The "Dr. Phil" host quickly took over the proceedings, asking Harvey's wife to share some of the less-enticing aspects of being Mrs. Harvey.

Her biggest complaint was that Harvey was a slob. "If you are ever looking for Steve, you never have to wonder where he is because there is a trail," she griped while Harvey sat next to her, fuming. "When he gets home, it's his briefcase. If he's eating it's food, all over the house. Like, Steve, are you kidding me? Even when I first met him I was like, 'Is he seriously going to leave this here?' I would start cleaning up but he was like, 'Oh, I have a housekeeper.'" In fact, she admitted his sloppiness was something when they first started dating, confirming McGraw's contention that when she'd visit Harvey's home it resembled "a yard sale." 

She also called him out for being a poor role model for their children, highlighting the hypocrisy of their father criticizing his kids' messy bedrooms. "I'm like, 'Steve, where do you think they're getting it from?' I'm not asking you to be extremely neat but just not quite so messy," she said.

He was sued over a private jet

While Steve Harvey's financial situation may have been precarious following his second divorce, he's rebounded spectacularly since then; Celebrity Net Worth, in fact, pegged Harvey's fortune at an estimated $200 million. With that kind of money, Harvey prefers to fly privately, not commercial, a preference that wound up landing him in court.

In 2015, USA Today reported that Harvey was sued by Nashville-based Business Aircraft Leasing, Inc., alleging Harvey had verbally agreed to lease a private jet from the company for $97,000 per month. First, however, Harvey requested the jet to be customized to his specifications, to the tune of more than $400,000. According to the suit, Harvey had paid about half of that when he abruptly informed the company he'd changed his mind, and would not be renting the jet after all. The suit demanded Harvey pay the remaining $200K or so for the changes he'd dictated. 

The company eventually dropped the lawsuit, but Harvey then launched a lawsuit of his own against Federal Aviation Title Company, the company that he claimed had been refusing to return the $208,000 that remained when he'd placed the full amount with them to hold in escrow. When the company never responded to Harvey's suit, despite being legally served, his lawyers asked the judge to award a default judgment in his favor. After deliberating, that's exactly what the judge did, ordering the company to repay him the full amount of $208,959.77.

His wife was instrumental in changing his fashion style

Steve Harvey's wife, Marjorie, may struggle with his inclination towards messiness, but she did prove to have a major influence on his fashion choices. During a visit to "The View," Harvey revealed that he set himself some goals as his 50th birthday approached. "At 50, I said I'm going to lose a little weight," Harvey explained. "I'm going to shave my hair, which I was tired of cutting. And then my suits went through a miraculous change," Harvey said, as reported by Yahoo! Entertainment.

Until then, Harvey had been known for his signature style, with extra-long, double-breasted suit jackets of various bright colors, accented by baggy pants. However, a remark from his wife caused him to rethink the outfits that had become synonymous with him and his comedy. "That's exactly what my wife said. 'I love you, Steve, but I'm actually tired of being married to a pimp,'" Harvey quipped. 

It was his wife, in fact, who was instrumental in hiring celebrity stylist Elly Karamoh to revamp her husband's look. "When I started styling Steve Harvey, it was a big assignment," Karamoh told Paper. "People had their own opinions and a full picture of what Steve Harvey should look like or does look like, full of expectation. And I just wanted to take that off. My goal was to always make him a fashion icon in my own right."

A street in Cleveland is named after him

Steve Harvey is a proud native of Cleveland, and that pride is apparently a two-way street. That became apparent in 2015 when the Ohio city named a street after him. This wasn't any random street, however, but E. 112th Street, the same street on which he grew up. Even more emotionally, the announcement that the street would now be known as Steve Harvey Way came in conjunction with the mayor of Cleveland designating his 58th birthday — January 17, 2015 — as Steve Harvey Day. 

Harvey's love for Cleveland was also on full display during an episode of his talk show, "Steve," in which he chatted with a member of the audience who grew up on the same block where he did. "We were Cleveland for real!" he reminisced in a clip posted on Instagram. "We was in the hood!"

During a 2020 interview with Cleveland's WKYC, Harvey admitted that he missed his hometown. "I'm in the glitz and glam business now but I miss the grit of Cleveland," he explained. He also credited that "grit" for giving him the durability and tenacity that pushed him to never give up on his dream and ultimately achieve the success that he did. "If it wasn't for Cleveland ... if it wasn't for the toughness of that, I wouldn't have survived the way I have out here in his business and been as successful," he said.

He regretted his brief involvement with the Trump administration

After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Steve Harvey received a letter from the transition team of President Barack Obama, asking if he'd be willing to meet with the incoming POTUS. He was reluctant (he'd endorsed Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton), but saw an opportunity to share an idea with incoming Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, suggesting closed schools in urban areas be converted into community centers. 

As Harvey told The Washington Post, he met with Trump and his team in Trump Tower, even pitching the idea to Carson on the phone. Harvey felt the meeting had gone well — until, just as he was exiting, Trump rushed into the elevator and insisted on going down into the lobby with him. When the elevator doors opened, throngs of photographers and reporters awaited. Trump praised Harvey as a friend (he really wasn't), and then declared his intention to get rid of Obamacare. Harvey was deeply embarrassed. "I'm going, 'Hold up, dog, that ain't got nothing to do with me,'" Harvey told the Post. "I didn't even vote for the dude."

Recalling the backlash, Harvey admitted he regretted not taking his wife's advice to blow off the meeting. "Here's the crazy thing: I'm supposed to be on a boat for my 60th birthday, so my wife says, 'Steve, just take off [and skip the meeting]. You'll meet with him some other time,'" he told The Hollywood Reporter. "God, I should've listened."

He and his wife denied internet rumors of infidelity

In August 2023, rumors began swirling around social media claiming that Steve Harvey's wife, Marjorie, was cheating on him with both the family's bodyguard and chef. Even worse, the unconfirmed reports claimed that she was angling to divorce him and abscond with half his $200 million fortune. 

Harvey typically hasn't responded to unfounded rumors, but in this case, both he and his wife chimed in to shut them down. In Harvey's case, that took place while he was appearing at the Invest Fest in Atlanta, where he confronted the elephant in the room head-on. "Before I get started, just let me say I'm fine," Harvey told the crowd, via footage posted to TikTok. "Marjorie's fine. I don't know what y'all doing but find something else to do because we're fine. Lord have mercy." After the crowd cheered and applauded, Harvey added, "Sometimes you wanna respond ... But I ain't got no time for rumors and gossip."

Marjorie offered her own take when she took to Instagram and posted a message. "My husband and I don't usually stop to address all the foolishness and lies that have been spread about us," she wrote, accompanying an appropriate Bible verse: "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to he who judges justly."