As the cranky old-timer Eddie from the “Barbershop” movies, Cedric the Entertainer snips at conventional wisdom like it’s an overgrown Afro.
In 2002’s “Barbershop,” he stole the whole movie with one well-placed rant — and does it again in the sequel, “Barbershop 2: Back in Business,” with a high-flying sense of outrage that remains as profound as his character’s windblown, white-streaked hairdo.
In the first movie, the fictional Eddie wanted to prove that no conversation is off-limits in a barbershop — and managed to irritate the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Rosa Parks with his politically incorrect tirade about the civil rights movement.
However, many fans of the movie, including the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, understood the irony of the scene and came to the defense of Cedric and the filmmakers.
Eddie the barber is a little less reactionary the second time around.
Meanwhile, at 39, Cedric the Entertainer still makes a pretty good old curmudgeon.
AP: So what’s going on with Eddie’s hair?
Cedric: I wanted to have that Frederick Douglass kind of look. I thought it would age me without having to do a lot of prosthetics and makeup. On the first film I grew my hair for that. It’s just a big flying ’fro and a part — that would age any man. There’s probably a little bit of Grecian Formula going through there.
AP: Is Eddie based on anyone you know?
Cedric: I really pulled him from a mixture of older people, old men as well as old women. He’s got those mannerisms and the idea that ‘I’m old and I’ve earned the right to be who I want to be, and that’s that — you gotta deal with it.’ I just made him up out of those types, but nobody in particular.
AP: In this sequel, you get to play him old, young, funny, sad — and there’s even a little song-and-dance scene.
Cedric: I loved that when I saw the script. I get to doo-wop, I had a love interest, I get to have a serious tough guy moment, and you go back in time with some melancholy touching moments. And Eddie always getting into trouble and being funny, so I love that.
AP: Eddie likes to push people’s buttons, doesn’t he? He’s an armchair radical.
Cedric: He definitely has a different point of view about certain subject matter and makes references that are really politically incorrect, but he has no problem being this way. For him, that brings about better dialogue and conversation, that’s what he thinks. If he pushes the button as far as it can go and everybody’s in an uproar, now we can get to some real conversation.
AP: After the Rosa Parks and Jesse Jackson lines in the first movie, was there talk of pushing it further for “Barbershop 2,” or did you want to hold back a little more?
Cedric: The main thing for me was, I didn’t mind pushing buttons but I didn’t want to pick fights. That was the main note I gave to the writers and producers. If we find stuff that’s a little controversial and tough on people and maybe make them uncomfortable, I don’t mind going there. But basically, we didn’t want to go back to Jesse just because he said something (about the movie), or bring up the same issues again.
AP: The shock line in the sequel will probably be when Eddie describes the D.C. snipers as the Jackie Robinson of psycho crimes.
Cedric: (Laughs.) Yeah, what kind of analogy is that, man? He crossed the line on that.
AP: When did Cedric Kyles become known as Cedric the Entertainer?
Cedric: It was happenstance early on in my career, around 1988. I didn’t have a lot of material, but I was popular. So when people would introduce me as, ‘This next comedian coming to the stage,’ I’d say, ‘You can’t really call me a comedian,’ because to fill up 30 minutes I would tell some jokes, sing a song, play a record and do some dances, just to fill up the time. So I’d tell the guy to just introduce me as ‘the entertainer.’ It stuck, and I liked it.
AP: When you go home to St. Louis, do you frequent a local barbershop?
Cedric: When I go back home, one of the hangouts is my old barber. It doesn’t matter how famous you are, because in the barbershop you’re just another guy getting your hair cut. Nobody cares, no hoopla, it’s just: ‘Hey, man, I’m next ...’
AP: If you’re sitting in the barber chair and Jesse Jackson walks in and sits in the chair next to yours, what would you say to him?
Cedric: Oh, man. ... Well, we already had our conversation. We talked after the hype calmed down a bit. He wanted to say his side, that he felt the scene got out of hand, that he was mainly going at the film distributors and not so much at the film or what it said. He didn’t really have a problem with that ... so I guess we’d probably just be talking about the (latest sports) game.