Home Box Office honchos wanted Steve Harvey to shoot his standup comedy special for the cable television network in a big city like Cleveland, where he grew up. Or New York, where he is host of the syndicated TV program Showtime at the Apollo. They would rent the Apollo for him, they said.
Mr. Harvey didn't go for it. He wanted Augusta.
"HBO didn't really care for the idea, but it ain't their special," said Mr. Harvey in a phone interview from his home in Dallas.
Mr. Harvey and HBO will film two performances Saturday night at Bell Auditorium. The special, Steve Harvey: One Man, will include highlights from the two shows. No air date has been determined.
He wanted Augusta because, well, it has been good to him. The Comedy House organization is promoting this show, and he wanted to play in a city where it has a club. He has played the club on Washington Road many times and has always found a receptive audience.
And when in town he has seen more than just the club and his hotel. In 1992 he gave an inspirational speech at a Youth Detention Center. Earlier this year, he spoke to Augustans Together, a group devoted to improving race relations and was impressed by people's good intentions.
So he was willing to forget that, as HBO reminded him, Augusta isn't exactly the media center of the universe.
"All that matters is that I'm comfortable when I walk out on stage and I love the people I'm working for when I walk out on stage," he said.
The risk of Augusta is having to fill up Bell Auditorium twice in the same evening when many name acts have a hard time doing it once. It's hard to present yourself as a happening comedian when you're playing to empty seats.
Mr. Harvey wants people to know that he needs them.
"It would be a sad thing if the place was half-full for both shows," Mr. Harvey said. "You can't show the house full if the house ain't full."
Part of the incentive to show up is that you might end up on television. The other part, he said, is that Mr. Harvey is a professional comedian arriving with club-tested material. He guarantees comedy.
"From the time I walk out there to the time I walk off, everybody in the theater's going to be vomiting," he said.
His stand-up routine is more a collection of stories and observations than a string of jokes. He'll be talking about his father, or about words that you hear in the South but nowhere else.
Mr. Harvey, a stand-up veteran, has two TV shows - Showtime at the Apollo and The Steve Harvey Show, which is coming back for its second season on the WB Network.
He's best known as host of Showtime at the Apollo - or at least, those fans are the people who approach him the most.
Wherever Mr. Harvey goes, he finds people auditioning for a few minutes on the show. They come up to him in restaurants and, instead of just asking for an autograph, sing a song. They knock on his hotel room door and start singing through the keyhole when he won't open up.
He hopes that people who know him as a master of ceremonies or actor will watch this special and see another side of him - what he considers his best side.
"I think this HBO special will show the rest of the country and overseas a side that they are not familiar with," he said. "I think they will see I am a greater standup than anything else."
You can't show the house full if the house ain't full.
Show informationOn stage
What: Steve Harvey
When: 8 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bell Auditorium, 712 Telfair St.
How much: $20 in advance, $24 at the door.
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