"The first thing that crossed my mind was when Kevin Hart got canceled for the Oscars," the 57-year-old comedian says in an interview, referring to Hart stepping down from hosting the 2019 Academy Awards after past homophobic comments and tweets surfaced.
"I accepted the job and I was like, 'Wait a minute, what have I done in the last three months that is going to get me cancelled before I even go to work?’"
But the only thing in danger of being canceled was the Emmys, set for Sunday (CBS and Paramount+, 8 EDT/5 PDT) as COVID-19 cases rise across the country due to the delta variant. Cedric says the ceremony will move forward as an "intimate" affair with limited nominees and guests in a tent on The Event Deck at L.A. LIVE, behind Los Angeles' Microsoft Theater. Reggie Watts ("The Late Late Show with James Corden") will DJ and Jon Batiste ("The Late Show with Stephen Colbert") will perform in a special In Memoriam segment.
"It was going to be a much bigger audience there," Cedric says. "At first, the idea was to really bring it back full steam ahead and now, with the new variant, there’s been some sizing down."
Cedric the Entertainer set to host 2021 Emmy Awards with live audience
Although things will look a little different, viewers can expect some surprises, he says.
"As a stand-up comedian, I had to wiggle a few minutes where I can get my jokes off…We got some fun sketches, good musical numbers," Cedric says.
But don't expect him to poke fun at any stars the way Ricky Gervais and Jimmy Kimmel have done at previous awards shows.
"We’ve all been through a lot the past few years," he says, "So the idea of cynicism and mean-spirited jokes is not going to be what the vibe is at all."
The comedian aims to bring a "celebratory" tone to the Emmys, a night to salute how "TV got us all the way through (the pandemic) with most of us being stuck at home."
"The idea is discovery, great entertainment and you get to see your favorite celebrities go all out," he says, playfully adding: "Ain’t no telling what ("Pose" star and nominee) Billy Porter is going to have on."
Cedric, born Cedric Antonio Kyles, 57, has a lot of experience as an emcee, from hosting "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" to "Cedric's Barber Battle," but the star admits it's "scary" and "tough" to return to the stage amid the pandemic.
"It was kind of a challenge… to get my sea legs back," he says. "You just don’t take for granted this idea that one can just turn on the switch and go out and entertain people, but I’m really blessed to be able to do it."
"The Kings of Comedy" veteran says he turned to "Family Feud" host Steve Harvey for advice on being the new "King of Prom."
"My good friend Steve Harvey gave me some great advice," he says, sharing that Harvey told him to think of the ceremony in three parts: "Think of the whole thing in a beginning, middle and end… and to make sure to take them to a fantastic ending."
So prepare to be entertained until the final curtain, because Cedric says he's not the kind of host to bail on you: "Most times you want to come out, hit your monologue and be like, 'Alright, peace out. I'm done.'"
But that's not the case.
"I’ve already been crowned King of the Prom’ without winning an Emmy," he says. "When you are the host, that is your job to make sure everything is running and having a great time and you are hosting the party."
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Expect a triple dose of Cedric the Entertainer on CBS this week. He hosts "The Greatest #AtHome Videos," a compilation of social media videos created during the pandemic, which airs Friday (9 EDT/PDT), followed by the Emmys on Sunday and the Season 4 premiere of his sitcom "The Neighborhood" on Monday (8 EDT/PDT).
In the sitcom, Cedric plays Calving Butle, an auto-repair shop owner raising his family in a predominantly Black area of Los Angeles, in the sitcom, alongside his new chummy white neighbor Dave Johnson (Max Greenfield). In the Season 4 premiere, Johnson discovers they are more than just neighbors after looking into his genealogy. Tichina Arnold ("Martin," "Everybody Hates Chris") and Beth Behrs ("2 Broke Girls") also star.
"I'm holding it down," he says. "At least for that one week, the C (in CBS) is for Cedric, for sure."
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