Comedian returns to his alma mater as grand marshal

Sunday, October 21, 2007

When Cedric Kyles graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1987, he wanted to be a television news anchor.

That career didn't quite work out, the stand-up comic and star of comedies like "Man of the House," and the 2005 movie "The Honeymooners" told a group of students at the Rose Theatre Saturday morning.

Kyles, clad in a Southeast track sweat shirt, jogged onto the stage following the Homecoming parade Saturday, of which he shared parade marshal duties with his mother, to speak to a group of Southeast students and local Boys and Girls Clubs.

The Caruthersville, Mo., native landed a great job right out of college, working for a CBS affiliate, he said.

Before he could start his first day of work, the job was cut because of budget constraints, he told the audience of about 350.

"So I was back at Mom's house, with a college degree, no money, and loans," he said as empathetic groans echoed throughout the auditorium.

He always thought of himself as a funny guy; in fact, he'd been master of ceremonies numerous talent shows at Southeast, so he decided to try his luck at a comedy competition at a St. Louis club.

He won $500, and went on to become one of the original "Kings of Comedy."

Kyles used examples of his own career choices to illustrate his message by pointing out that many of his comedy "peers" were critical of his decision to host BET's Comicview in 1992 after having already participated in more prestigious, premium channel events.

"I just had so much stuff that people needed to hear, I said, 'I just need to be on TV right now,'" Kyles said.

The move was the best he could have made because it put him front and center, in people's homes, night in and night out, and helped him become a household name, he said.

"Don't let other people tell you what's good for you or what's bad for you," he said.

He spoke for about 40 minutes before preparing to perform the coin toss at Houck Stadium for the football game.

Kyles cautioned students to accept that college is a transitional period and to make the most of it by getting as much experience in their chosen field as possible.

"When I came to school, let's just say I wasn't college material," he said.

What he learned at Southeast helps him every day when it comes to structuring the format of his comedy routines, he said.

While at Southeast, Kyles also hosted a radio show, "Late Night Love Music," as deejay "Dash."

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