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9 Quick Questions for Cedric The Entertainer

Comedian-actor writes first novel, ‘Flipping Boxcars’

spinner image cedric the entertainer in red shirt and dark hat with red and blue ribbon; blue background
Jeff Katz

In his debut novel, Flipping Boxcars, veteran comedian-actor Cedric The Entertainer, 59, serves up a charming 1940s crime caper that pays homage to his grandfather’s generation. He tells AARP what inspired him to write the book, how he’s feeling about turning 60 and why he’s starting a barbecue business.

What inspired you to write a book in this genre?

spinner image book cover that says flipping boxcars; cedric the entertainer; cedric kyles; a novel with alan eisenstock; two dice showing sixes is on cover, along with a man from behind
Cedric The Entertainer’s first novel is a 1940s-era crime caper.

I love the Walter Mosley  kind of storytelling — those characters coming to life from the ’40s and these men that had to fight to be men when there was even more oppression. They were very much men of their community, yet flawed people. I would have these imaginations about my grandfather. I’d never met him. My mother would tell me stories. My uncle would tell me stories. As I started to become me, I started to think about him as a person who wanted to be me in the 1940s. In his own way, he wanted to be free. He wanted to be creative and do things and not have nobody stop him. He was that in his own version, in a small town.

Would you like to see a movie made of it?
Oh, for sure. I’ve written a TV series version of it at one time that we tried to sell, but I’m really, really happy that we didn’t, because I love the idea of this book experience being the first introduction. I set it up to where I could tell more stories.

What advice would you give to young people today who are trying to break into the creative business?

Really, the spirit of creativity is just to do it, man, just to do it — not let people judge you, not to judge yourself by what you think someone is gonna think of your works — and just make many, many mistakes. Just go, man, because the art of creation really can’t be defined by what you think is gonna be on the outside of it. You really just got to start it and deliver it and let the world absorb it. Some of your things are going to be great, and some things are not. But the more you do it, the better you get. That’s the only way you can be creative is just to do it. Like really just dive, go, take losses, get wins. If you love it, get up and do it. Don’t worry about it, man.

Who were some of your creative inspirations?

Probably my greatest influences as a comedian, of course, were the legends. I love Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx. These people were the comedy you got introduced to through your parents listening to albums and that kind of thing. In my generation, Eddie Murphy became this person that did a lot of the things that I saw myself doing. He could act and he could sing and he would do characters. He was just funny naturally, as himself. My greatest influence really became the late Robin Harris because he looked more like how I identified myself, like a regular person. He wasn’t a superstar already when you met him. He was just the funniest dude in the room. He was that uncle, he was that cousin, and for me coming from St. Louis, it felt more digestible. He became my comedic hero — somebody that inspired me to go on stage and do it the most.

You’re turning 60 next year. How do you feel about that?

It’s a blessing. It was funny that this year, my younger sister said, “Oh boy, you’re running out of fives.” That made me laugh so hard. I didn’t realize that. It was like, “You can't claim the 50s anymore. You’re running out of fives. You’re 59 years old.” Of course, we used to see these ages as really old when we were younger. But now, me being who I am and the spirit that I have, the energy I have, 60 is just another age, and it’s a blessing to be able to reach it. I’m feeling good, and working harder to feel even better, and so this is the spirit I walk into 60 with — really thankful.

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How are you working harder to feel even better?

These are those little struggles — I definitely need to bring my weight down — so I’ve been [eating] less sugar, taking real sugar out of my diet. That includes alcohol.

Your A&E series with Anthony Anderson, Kings of BBQ, follows your journey to create your AC Barbeque brand of spices. What inspired you two to start the business?

We would go on golf trips with our buddies, and Anthony and I are often the ones that cook. We’ll make food for everybody. We would rent a house and we got a cool group of friends. It’s me, Anthony and George Lopez and Don Cheadle, D.L. Hughley. … He likes to cook, I like to cook. We thought barbecue was just a unique space in that it is a very community thing … everybody come out, let’s cook, let’s share, let’s have some food, let’s fellowship with one another. That’s what AC Barbeque is. … It’s very true to who we are, both of us individually. We love when people get together and celebrate, and a cookout is how you do it.

Besides golfing and barbecuing, how do you like to spend your time off from work?

Maybe binge-watch some TV if I get an opportunity. I like to go back and watch a series over. I’m back watching Boardwalk Empire, again. Enjoying it all over again. That’s kinda my move.

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If you could, what would you tell your younger self?

Not to overthink things — that you have to push forward. A lot of times as a young person, you definitely have the hubris and the attitude that the world is yours and you can go get it. Then, if you ever have any real kind of failure, you often will kind of stop yourself from trying or pursuing it full-out. I would just encourage and motivate yourself and be a fan of yourself and get up and do the work. That’s the only way it can really happen. You can’t dream of an ideal or ideal self and never actually try to do it.

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