Performing at New York City’s Apollo Theater in any capacity is always an exhilarating experience for Cedric the Entertainer.
For his latest act, “The Original King of Comedy” will host the world-renowned theater’s 12th annual Spring Gala on Monday. The benefit event, which is the Apollo’s biggest fundraiser for artistic and education programs, will feature musical performances from the likes of CeeLo Green, Sheila E., Charlie Wilson and Wé McDonald of NBC’s “The Voice.”
The celebration will also honor Verizon with the annual Corporate Award for its philanthropy, and Peabody Award-winning director and producer Stan Lathan with the Trailblazer Award for his groundbreaking work as one of the first African American directors and producers in Hollywood.
Cedric told HuffPost that his experiences working with his mentor Lathan on shows like “The Steve Harvey Show,” “The Soul Man” and “Def Comedy Jam” taught him how to transcend urban comedy boundaries and become a business-savvy comedian.
“With Stan being on the forefront on the whole ‘Def Comedy Jam’ movement with Russell [Simmons] and all the guys who created the show, it gave urban comedy an opportunity to be seen in its rarest forms,” the St. Louis native said. “Being a part of so many great comedians getting their shine, he had that comfortability with it. It goes back with Stan to legends like Redd Foxx and being a part of their careers.”
“Especially in a TV environment with him, he was one to really help you, motivate and encourage you to push for your money,” he continued, “[or] let you know when it’s not gonna work for you in this brand of television. Like, ‘That might be funny on HBO, but you can’t do that on The WB.’ That’s the kind of ways he would influence you.”
For Apollo Theater President and CEO Jonelle Procope, having the award-winning comedian participate in honoring Lathan’s career continues the Apollo’s legacy as a center that recognizes thought leaders in the creative field who have pushed the arts forward.
”We are honored to present Stan Lathan ... with the first-ever Trailblazer Award, recognizing his groundbreaking work as one of the first African-American directors and producers in Hollywood,” Procope told HuffPost in a statement. “Stan not only paved the way for other African-American artists, but he also created a platform for emerging artists, particularly comedians.”
“So a comedy legend like Cedric The Entertainer is the perfect person to host this year’s Gala because he can truly appreciate Stan’s contributions to the arts and especially comedy,” she added.
All proceeds from the fundraising event will benefit the theater’s year-round performing arts programming, innovative education initiatives and community programs.
“These are rare circumstances where young people are being encouraged and motivated to not only be in front of the stage, but because they work hard can be behind the scenes as well,” Cedric the Entertainer said. Lighting engineers, set designers. And so, this is the kind of programming that is very important.”
To purchase Gala tickets or to make a donation to the Apollo Theater, please visit the theater’s website.