Carey slims, but alter-ego carouses on

Sunday, September 30, 2001

BURBANK, Calif. -- The world could have lost Drew Carey in August when the bespectacled comedian underwent emergency surgery to open a blocked artery.

Instead, it got two of him.

First, of course, is the familiar sitcom character "Drew Carey," beloved for his beer-swilling, junk food-loving lifestyle. But there's also the real, newly reformed Drew Carey, now health-conscious and increasingly athletic.

As the 43-year-old comic starts the seventh season of ABC's "The Drew Carey Show," his health scare has caused the divide to grow between the real man and his fictional alter ego.

That means one aspect of his trademark look -- black-rimmed glasses, crewcut hair and chubby frame -- will have to go.

"I'm going to definitely lose weight because of the healthy way I've been eating. But I'm worried about how I'm going to look," Carey said, flashing an uneasy smile. "I hope people don't get turned off because I'm skinny ... I hope that doesn't scare people away from the show."

His character, however, will continue relishing the coarser things in life -- fatty foods, beer with his pals and stressful romances (this season finds him married to two women.)

"It's amazing how the show has paralleled my real life, but Drew's not going to go on a health kick," Carey said of his self-titled character. "I don't think he's going to change at all. ... He'll just have better fitting suits."

Carey's blue-collar fantasia about a peculiar group of Cleveland friends has a new energy since his operation.

"The Drew Carey Show" retains a vigor that many sitcoms lose by their seventh season because it not only tweaks reality but wrestles it to the ground in an absurdist headlock.

"Drew was very smart by opening up the show to be whatever we imagine it can be. You can skew reality as often as you want," said Diedrich Bader, who plays Carey's lackadaisical pal with the unlucky name of Oswald Lee Harvey.

The program airs locally at 8 p.m. each Wednesday.

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