Drew Carey has carved a comedy career for himself as not only the funniest guy in the room, but the most naturally nice, too. Hilarious and humble, his affable approach led him from the stand-up circuit to a successful self-titled sitcom, which he's parlayed into a slew of starring roles as a game show host, including improv institution “Who's Line is it Anyway?” and assuming Bob Barker's imposing throne on “The Price is Right.”
While his wholesome, life-of-the-party presence endears him to the daytime delirium of the latter, he's still workin' on his night moves by frequently performing stand-up. And, in the case of Saturday's visit to the Seneca Niagara Casino Events Center (310 Fourth St., Niagara Falls), bringing along Los Angeles-based improv duo Heather & Miles to open the show.
Anyone familiar with the nine-year run of “The Drew Carey Show” knows the star's hometown by the show's use of the Ian Hunter classic “Cleveland Rocks” as its theme song, and the assumed blue-collar character that comes with Rust-Belt roots fits Carey's character. One might wonder how one qualifies to host a game show like “The Price is Right” – perhaps an accurate answer could be Carey's combination of everyman props and improv chops.
“I thought everything I'd done in my whole career prepared me for 'The Price is Right,'” Carey, 55, said by phone during a break between filming of the show in Los Angeles earlier this week. “Growing up without a lot of money; knowing how much value the prizes have to a lot of people; not being jaded – I know what a lot of money is, and how important and great it is to win a prize when you're a working person, which is our main audience. That, plus my improv and standup experience has helped me fit in just great. I feel really comfortable here … It's easy to take every day, being around people who are happy.”
It helps that he had been making a good living making people happy with laughter for some two decades before taking over “The Price is Right” in 2007. While his standup audience has changed a bit with such a spike in fame, his approach to performing hasn't. “I can't change the way I do standup,” he insisted. “I only talk about what I think is funny … a lot of it is personal. I write about things I'm thinking, things that bother you, that you're afraid of or insecure about – anything that's a good subject.”
For the most part, though, his standup act forgoes improv in lieu of his still-loose style of situational humor, for which Carey himself is usually the subject of the punch line. “I talk to the crowd a little bit, but mostly stick to my act,” he said. “When it's just me on stage, I usually don't like to put anybody on the spot or make fun of anybody – people can get uptight when you talk to them or think you're making fun of them.”
As for the city that will surround him, Carey fears not his relative unfamiliarity with Western New York, as the man is somewhat of a pod a la Cosmo Kramer – never inhibited, always comfortable. “I can't wait to get there,” he said with a sense of sincerity that seems consistent in all he does. “It's not like I've been there a million times, but I can't imagine it's much different than Cleveland – I feel like I'll be right at home, naturally.”