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Pee Wee Kirkland Discusses Street Basketball.

Basketball expert and playground legend Pee Wee Kirkland. Professor at Long Island University and basketball coach in Manhattan, Kirkland wrote the introduction to John Huet's photography book, "Soul of the Game" (Melcher Media/Workman pub.). It's about the impact playground basketball has on the sport. Kirkland also acted in and served as the Technical Basketball Advisor for the 1994 movie "Above the Rim."


Other segments from the episode on October 27, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 27, 1997: Interview with Drew Carey; Interview with Pee Wee Kirkland; Review of Dave McKenna and Buddy De Franco's album "You Must Believe in Swing."


Date: OCTOBER 27, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 102701NP.217
Head: Dirty Jokes and Beer
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Drew Carey is the latest standup comic to have both a hit sitcom and a bestselling book. His book, "Dirty Jokes and Beer," is a collection of some very funny jokes, humorous observations, personal reminiscences, and some not-so-funny stuff about his suicide attempts and his father's death.

His TV character is a variation of his comedy club persona. The TV Drew Carey is a likable, overweight, out-of-shape working stiff in Cleveland. Much of the show takes place in the personnel office of the department store where the character works.

Part of what makes his character so winning is how untrendy he looks in his crewcut and black glasses. I talked with Drew Carey about his TV show, his book, and of course, dirty jokes.

One of the chapters in your book is really a scream. It's 101 very funny jokes about the male member.



GROSS: I'm not sure how to put it.

CAREY: That's not what it's called, but there -- yeah.

GROSS: That's not what you called it.

CAREY: That's a good way to put it for radio. Sure.

GROSS: Yeah. And these jokes are really funny.

CAREY: Yeah, my friends and I started doing them. It started with John Kempenaur (ph) on "The Good Life," when he showed me his one day, as a joke. And I said: "what do you call that?" I was making jokes about, you know, "mine is so big that" -- and he went: "oh yeah? Well, mine is so big that." And we started making up these jokes.

And I started remembering all of them in my head, and every time a comment -- my friends would get together and we'd mention this thing, they'd always add their own jokes. And we thought it was so funny, they'd try to add in their own jokes.

And I started writing all these down and pretty soon I had 101 of them. And most all of them, I wrote myself, but a lot of them came from my friends and I credit them in the book. But they're really funny.

GROSS: Can you tell a couple of them?

CAREY: It's so big it's right behind you.


It's so big, there's still snow on it in the summertime. It's so big -- oh, I'll try to try to clean these up for the radio. It's so big it graduated a year ahead of me from high school. It's so big Stephen Hawking has a theory about it.


I love that one. It's so big, you know, it has an opening act. It's so big it only tips with $100s. It's so big it contains billions and millions of stars. It's so big...

GROSS: ... it doesn't return Spielberg's calls.

CAREY: ... it doesn't return Spielberg's calls. That's pretty big.


GROSS: That's really funny.

CAREY: It's so big my mother was in labor for three extra days.


GROSS: Oh, there's another joke I have to ask you to tell. This is the one about the beautiful woman who compliments the comic. I love this.

CAREY: Oh...


... yeah, I think that's a clean one. That's like a typical comic insecurity joke. There's this comic gets -- he's in the bar Friday night and he's done working the night. There's really the most stunningly beautiful woman he's ever seen in his life sitting at the bar.

And she says: "you were so funny tonight. I never laughed so hard. I think you're the sexiest guy in the world. I want to take you back to my place and make the most -- the hottest love with you and just give you the wildest sexual trip you've ever had in your whole entire life right now.

And he looked at her and he goes: "did you see the first show or the second show?"

GROSS: That is so great. I've heard that for jazz musicians, too, where the beautiful woman...

CAREY: Oh, have you?

GROSS: ... comes up to a jazz musician and he says: "did you hear the first set or the second set?"

CAREY: Yeah.


GROSS: It's the best joke about self-absorbed artists I've heard.


CAREY: There's a lot of those going around.

GROSS: Yeah, yeah. You know, in your book, you seem to really want to communicate that you're not the TV character Drew Carey -- that he's a lot more lovable than you...

CAREY: Well, he is. He puts...

GROSS: ... than you really are.

CAREY: ... the guy on TV -- the guy on TV puts up with so much more crap than I would ever put up with in my life, and I have so much more ambition in my real life than the guy on TV does. You know, if I was -- if that was the real Drew, I would be -- I would have quit that job and try to start my own business and, you know, I mean, a real business where I could make money. "Buzz" Beer isn't going so good on the show.

But yeah, I -- I mean, when you're writing a book, it's like a personal letter, you know, almost to like to you to strangers. And you -- so you want to let them know, like, hey this is me. I'm not, you know -- you want to write it in your own voice -- try to be some TV guy. Because I think the book, you know, might not have a -- it's scaring me that the book might be around more than the TV show, you know? The book can sit around for a long time after the TV has come and gone.

Could be sitting on some of these bookshelves in a library, you know, who knows?

GROSS: Yeah, the but the reruns come back to haunt you anyways.

CAREY: Yeah, I know, but you know, hopefully.


GROSS: That's right. If you're lucky.

CAREY: In a perfect world, yeah.

GROSS: Well another thing you point out in your book is that, you know, comics have to make fun of people. It's hard to be like the nicest guy if you're a comic.

CAREY: They have to. You have to make fun of people and ruffle some feathers, or why be a comic? I hate watching comics that have no opinion about anything, 'cause I watch comics on TV and if they have strong opinions, and even if I disagree with the opinion, if I'm laughing, I don't care.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

CAREY: I mean, they could have the strongest, most out-there outrageous, you know, even hateful opinions about, you know, certain types of people or certain groups of people, and if I'm in that group, you know, if I'm still laughing, that's a great comic; that's the kind of stuff I love.

I hate a guy who's -- or a woman either -- who's wishy-washy about their opinion and just doesn't -- takes a middle road and tries not to offend people. Doesn't have to be dirty. Like, even like Bill Cosby, his albums, when he's telling his stories and stuff, it's such a -- it's a strong point of view and he has a real strong, certain opinion about his brother; about his mom and dad; about, you know, things that scare him; about things he thought when he was a child. You know, he's telling those kind of stories, or as an adult as a parent.

And even then, it's a strong opinion behind it. He's not -- there's no wishy-washiness behind anything he says when he's doing that. It's a real conviction. And that's what you look for, so that that's important to have. If you don't do that, you shouldn't be in the comedy business.

GROSS: Now comparing the real Drew Carey to the TV character of Drew Carey, you said that you're...


GROSS: ... a lot more ambitious and not quite as lovable as the TV character. What are the other differences?

CAREY: Maybe I'm -- I might be as lovable, but you know, not like...


GROSS: We'll be the judge of that.

CAREY: You know -- OK. I mean, I'm a friendly guy.


GROSS: The TV Drew has to wear a suit to work every day, and in fact, you're wearing a suit on the cover of your book. But I doubt you wear a suit when you're off the set.

CAREY: Yeah. No, I heard that suit -- the book cover came from wardrobe, actually. That's a borrowed suit. Every time I need something, like when I'm doing a Tonight Show or I'm doing an interview where I'm need a suit, I got to the wardrobe department and they dig me up a suit.

I own, like, four suits in real life. That sit in my closet.

GROSS: Right.

CAREY: Yeah. And so -- and one of them, what -- I actually went out and bought a Versace jacket and shirt for the ABC premier announcement ceremonies -- when they announce their fall shows. And I got away with telling a real bad taste Versace joke in front of all the -- because of it. In front of all the TV critics at the TV critics award show; with their awards ceremony, right in front of Angelica Huston. She looked like I just shot her.

GROSS: What was the joke.

CAREY: Oh, it was really -- really what I thought, too. I bought this Versace jacket with 800 bucks. It was the most money I ever spent on a jacket in my life, 'cause I'm not a big suit-buyer, and then I thought -- or a clothes buyer -- I go to the Gap and stuff. So it's a really expensive jacket and I figure, what the hell, I'm going to be in New York. It's ABC, you know, and big things. I bought this shirt and the shirt was real expensive -- a couple -- you know, over $100 and the jacket was $800.

And when I got it up to -- I didn't wear it until I got up to New York. When I got it to New York, I went to try it on, and put it on to go out to this party, and a button fell off in my hand. And so when I heard he got shot, I thought "good."


GROSS: Oh, jeez.


I could see why this would have bombed.

CAREY: That'll teach 'em. It got a big laugh. It got a big laugh, actually, but Angelica Huston looked at me like I just shot her.

GROSS: So what are your standards for stuff like that? About when it's just unthinkable to tell a joke like that and when it's a decent idea?

CAREY: That joke I had to tell, like, right after it happened. You know, like right after he got shot, I had to tell that joke 'cause then -- 'cause then the attitude is on not making such a big deal -- I was happy he was shot just because, you know, his clothing was so cheap that the button came off in my hand. You know, for such a stupid -- that's what made it so funny to me.

Plus, I have a different attitude about death than most people have. It doesn't bother me. You know, I think that, you know, if you believe in heaven and all that stuff, you know, when you die on earth, it shouldn't be -- that's not -- it shouldn't be something to be sad about. It should be a happy thing that you're going on to a better place. I mean, there's nothing really -- there's nothing really to cry about or be sad about, you know.

So I don't -- especially when he lived such a great life. You know, Versace had such a great life. He was loved by everybody, and from what I read about him, he was, you know, really generous to his friends and was happy.

And you know, when you live a life like that, and when it ends, you know, at he like lived a good life and had nice things around him. You know, it's not like some, you know, poor starving bum died -- never had a chance to do anything and never achieved any goal or knew what a goal was. That's the person we should be sad about. You think, oh, this poor guy died without even knowing what fun was, you know.

So, at least Versace had a good time before he got shot.

GROSS: My guest is Drew Carey. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

Back with Drew Carey, star of the sitcom The Drew Carey Show and author of the new book Dirty Jokes and Beer.

Now in your book, you say that, you know, another difference between you and the TV version of you is that in real life, you date strippers, now that you can.

CAREY: Now that I can, yeah.

GROSS: Is it hard to date strippers?

CAREY: They're -- no. That'll get -- I don't have -- I don't have a -- I'm not the jealous type of person. If you jeal -- really a jealous-type of guy, a stripper would be a bad person for you to date 'cause you'd go -- you'd be all over her to quit her job and not do anything.

I mean I don't date just strippers, you know, but I have dated strippers. They're really fun, I think generally all in all. In think strippers are -- really, they're fun; they're open-minded; they're always out for a laugh and a good time, you know. They don't mind being naked.


GROSS: Drew Carey, in your book you confess that you had your nipples pierced, and you know...


GROSS: ... you didn't strike me as the nipple-piercing kind of guy.

CAREY: I know. It really -- that always shocks people. I was just -- I was -- I -- it's just after I did the pilot of the show, and waiting to hear if it got picked up or not. And it's really like a -- just gray-zone limbo that you're in, you know. And you never know what's going to happen to you. Like, your whole career is on the line.

And I was just in this weird mood and I was with some friend of mind who's a stripper. And she thought it'd be great if I got my nipples pierced. And so she was beautiful and she said "hey, pierce your nipples" and that's all it took. I said: "yeah, sure, whatever you say."

And I had a couple of margaritas and we went down to this place and I got them got them both done. I only have one now 'cause the other one was put in like too close to the skin, I think, and it hurt all the time so I had it taken out. But the other one I have in. It's still in there.

I figured I'd put up with that. I put up with the initial pain, I'm not going to get rid of it now.

GROSS: Do you think you've managed to transform the 1950s square look into something really hip?

CAREY: Maybe. You know, the only reason I have -- I mean, when I first started doing the act, I had the crewcut already and the glasses already from the Marine Corps Reserves. And I wore contact lenses when I was work, being a waiter, and then when I got off work, I'd take the contacts out and I'd put on my goofy glasses. I never knew how bad they looked until I started going on stage with them and people would laugh at me.

The suit, I bought at a Goodwill and because that movie "Stop Making Sense" had just been out, and I thought, oh, if I got a big, you know, old-style suit, that would be really hip to wear, and I looked so bad in it, I could never wear it out. And I only wore it on stage to see if it would get a laugh for me and it did.

And so I mean, it's not like I really tried all that hard to create a character, because it was pretty much -- that was pretty much just me in a Goodwill suit that I'd already bought, you know, before I drifted into standup.

It might be -- I mean, it was -- it might be a look. I don't know. Who knows.

GROSS: Did the Marines make you wear those glasses?

CAREY: Those are the official glasses. They have different ones know, but I think they let guys wear it. They're kind of wireless now, but then those were the official government-issue glasses and when you had an inspection and stuff, that's what you had to wear. And during your workday, you could wear wire-rims, you know. But for inspections and stuff like that, you had to wear the black ugly -- in the Marines they called them -- all through the service -- they called them birth control glasses.


GROSS: That's funny.

CAREY: BCGs. Yeah. And that's exactly why, too. They're so ugly...

GROSS: You write in your book that you, you know, you don't know what humiliation is until you've shown up on your first day of junior high with moon boots and a snowsuit that your mother got on sale during the summer. Did your mother dress you badly when you were young?

CAREY: No, it's just that -- you know, she would. She'd buy, like, the winter stuff on sale during the summer 'cause that's when it's the cheapest and she'd buy, you know, Christmas stuff for next year after Christmas when it all goes on sale, before it gets all put away.

And so, you know, you don't get the coolest stuff all the time when you mom's shopping like that because, you know, we didn't have a lot of money growing up and so -- but it's cold. Man, I'm telling you it's get cold in the winter in Cleveland so you have to wear what you can to keep warm.

I remember mom used to say: "do you want to look good, or do you want to stay warm?" And then, after you get to be about 14 or 15, you think, heck, you know, I'm not even wearing a hat. That was like the big thing at my high school -- nobody wore a hat no matter what; no matter how cold, they would all, like, you know.

I would come home from wrestling practice or gym or whatever, and my hair would be wet still and I'd walk home and I would refuse to put a hat on 'cause I didn't want to get hat hair. I'd have icicles in my hair. It would be like the stupidest thing. And everybody was like -- everybody in my school was like that, except for the nerds. You know, they would wear the hats, and I didn't want to be one of them.

GROSS: Right. Right. Right. Right. Ooh, where would you have fit yourself in in those days?

CAREY: Oh, I don't know. I never -- I was always pretty well-known and pretty popular. I mean, I could -- I was one of those kids that walked down the hall in high school without a pass and everybody knew me.

GROSS: Right.

CAREY: You know? And all my friends were really funny and I hung out with a group of guys that were all -- we were all really funny and liked to joke around a lot and play pranks and stuff. So I was in -- whatever that group is that I was in.

And I wasn't very athletic, you know, and I'd -- I didn't want to go through high school without trying out for a sport. There was an announcement over the loudspeaker one day: "any boy who's interested in trying out for wrestling, come to the gym and bring your gym clothes." And so I -- that's -- I tried out for wrestling. For two years, I went to wrestling practice; never even wrestled JV. I was really bad.

But I really liked it. It taught me a lot, you know, about sticking to it and stuff. But it was like -- I'm glad I had a, like a sport experience in high school. Then I graduated a year early, so I only had the two years and I skipped my senior year.

You know, so I wasn't very athletic. I didn't do anything great that way. And then academically, I wasn't so hot and I got a, like, a "B" average without even trying. I mean, you just have to show up for class and take the tests.

GROSS: You -- were funny in high school. Did you say to yourself: "I could do this professionally"?

CAREY: I always say no in interviews, but then when I -- had a development deal at Disney once and they were thinking of doing a show about me, and I had my mom send out all these pictures of me from when I was a kid and all this stuff. She has a little file about, you know, like every mom does.

And so one of the things in this file that she sent was -- I think I wrote it when I was 14 or so, judging from the handwriting. And it was on steno paper. And I wrote down like things I wanted to do with my life.

And on this list was stuff like "I want to be on the Johnny Carson Show," "I want to be a standup," "I want to be a nightclub comic," "I want to have a sitcom," "I want to" -- you know -- "I want to star in a situation comedy or a play" or something like that.

It was all these kind of things that I'm doing now that I wrote down when I was 14, and then I just forgot about.

GROSS: That's interesting.

CAREY: You know.

GROSS: Yeah.

CAREY: It freaked me out. It really freaked me out. I had no idea, you know, 'cause I didn't know what I wanted to do. When I started doing standup comedy in my late 20s, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I had no goals, no direction, nothing. I just kind of fell into it.

And so to see that list from when I was like 14 or 15 or whatever hell I was old when I wrote it, and I was like "wow." It must have been in the back of my mind somewhere.

GROSS: Maybe you forgot it because it seems like such a long-shot that it, you know, you didn't take it seriously even though you wrote it down.

CAREY: You know, it's like one of these -- like -- it's like, you know, there was also stuff like, you know, "pet a pony," you know, so.


But it was like -- I used to watch -- when I was -- when I was in junior high and high school, I used to watch the Tonight Show all the time if there was a comic on. I wouldn't watch the Johnny Carson show normally, only if there was a comic. And I'd look -- I always looked at the TV Guide.

If there was a comedian so and so, I would always make sure I'd watch and see who the comic was. I think that's where I got the idea that "oh, I would love to do that someday" and I wrote down, you know, be a nightclub comic, be on the Johnny Carson Show. And it all came true. I can't believe -- you know, it's weird.

GROSS: What was your first brush with professional comedy?

CAREY: Oh, just doing a -- working at one club in Canton. I lived in Cleveland, and the guy that owned the Cleveland club owned a club in Canton, and he put me in his Canton club for a week. Nine shows for $100. That was my first professional paid gig. I got like $10 a show.


GROSS: What was your first time on stage like?

CAREY: Oh, the very first time I ever tried to do jokes on stage, I was living in Las Vegas and it was horrible. I was terrible. I tried -- you know, I didn't have any -- I didn't know how to write jokes. I just, you know, kind of like jokes that I kind of heard and, you know, observations that weren't funny, that were like oh my God, it was like the worst.

I still have notes from those days that I saved. And oh my God, the worst. Ugh, I can't tell you how bad. That was like in '79, and then like in '80 -- I just did it as a goof, just to see what it would be like. It was a -- that's Sahara Talent Showcase at Sahara Hotel in the lounge. They let anybody get up there.

And then I, you know, I worked at Cleveland in '80 and there was a guy starting a comedy club there and -- late '79 and early '80. And he needed -- he wanted local comics and he just put me on just for -- 'cause I could breathe and standup and talk.

And I remember the very first time, I -- he didn't pay the MCs. He only paid the headliners, so I didn't get any money. But he worked me once, and I remember the first night I did. It was Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and the first night I did five minutes -- or 10 minutes, supposed to be 10 minutes. Then Friday, they said why don't you do just five. And then Saturday, they said, look, don't do any time. Just bring the other guys up.


They cut me out. They didn't want me to do anything because I was -- oh, I was that bad. I think I did it twice. Then I said well, I can't do this. This is silly, you know. At least I tried it and got it out of my system. I was going to college then and everything. I thought I'll just, you know, I did it as a goof. I got it out of my system. I won't try it again. And I never did, and I thought, well, that was just a...

So then later on in '86 when my -- you know -- late' 85, my friend said "hey," -- he remembered from when I used to be a -- when I -- I met him when I tried to stand -- he always thought it was funny. And when I was having trouble, you know, paying rent -- I got into a fight with my boss where I was waiting tables -- and he said: "hey, if you want to think of any jokes for my radio show, I'll pay you." "I don't know. How much?" And he goes: "20 bucks a jokes or so." And I though, oh, I could make an extra $100 a week.

And I went to the library and I finally got a book on how to write jokes. And from reading that book, that's what really started me. I thought, oh, wow, there's a formula to this. I could write jokes.

GROSS: How did the book help you write jokes?

CAREY: There's formulas for every kind of jokewriting. There really is, and it's ease...

GROSS: Give me an example.

CAREY: ... easily learned. Well, the -- like, the example they used in the book, for example, usually they take driving, then you'd write "driving" at the top of the page. And then you write down -- it's all -- it's all about list-making -- jokewriting, writing one-liners -- it's all about list-making.

So you write "driving." Then you write down everything you could think of that relates to driving, you know -- angry drivers, slow drivers, fast drivers, you know, new cars, old cars, junk cars, you know, car washes, you know, red lights.

And you write all this stuff down, and then you try to -- those of you -- you try to exaggerate something to make it bigger than it is; you try to use, you know, plays on words. There's words that sounds like other words. You try to make puns up that way; make jokes like that.

And you use all these different techniques to take these little -- all these little lists you made, you know. And even angry drivers -- angry women drivers, angry men drivers, you know. And you try to -- when you detail it down, you try to make every little thing exaggerated or minimalize it or twist it around.

And then you try to make like, you know, 20 jokes; try to get one good joke out of that. And that's how you come up with one good joke; should take, you know, if you're starting out, it takes you like three hours.

GROSS: Hmm. I can't believe you actually honed your technique through a book. Yeah.

CAREY: Yeah, yeah. I'm really big on self-help, you know, so I always try to get a book at the library or a book on -- whatever I want to learn, I try to learn it from a -- some kind of book.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Now, I know when you were young, you studied accordion, trumpet, and you sing in the school choir. Do you still play anything?

CAREY: Right. I bought -- I don't know why -- the last couple of years I've had this bug to go to everything I did when I was in high school that I quit doing...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

CAREY: ...'cause I just got bored with it or for whatever reason. And I bought a really expensive accordion. I bought a midi-accordion (ph) that I can hook up to a midi-board and make it sound like, you know, trumpets and violins and all that stuff. And I went and I bought a real expensive trumpet. I practice my trumpet all the time. I just -- I played the trumpet on the show on an episode that's coming up pretty soon. I got to play "A Taste of Honey" by Herb Alpert.


GROSS: Oh, no. God, I remember that version of it, too.

CAREY: Yeah, yeah. We tried to get Herb Alpert to do the show. He wasn't available. We tried to get him on as a cameo -- we were going to show him just looking up at the bar while I was playing, and just walking out really sad.


GROSS: Drew Carey -- his new book is called Dirty Jokes and Beer. He'll be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with Drew Carey, star of the sitcom The Drew Carey Show and author of the new bestseller Dirty Jokes and Beer.

Drew Carey, I like the way your book shifts tones successfully, I think, between telling, you know, dirty jokes and so on and talking, you know, pretty candidly about more depressing things like your suicide attempts.

CAREY: Yeah.

GROSS: You know, I really think that so many comics are depressives.

CAREY: Yeah, maybe they are, yeah. I mean, I don't know why that is, but yeah, that's probably right. I would be sur -- yeah. I'd have to say you're right when you say that.

GROSS: What sent you over the edge with the suicide attempts?


GROSS: This was years ago, like when you were in college?

CAREY: Yeah, it was really -- when I was 18 and then the other time I was like 21. And you just -- a lot of it to me had to do with like I didn't have any goals in life. I didn't have any direction. And you know, when you're like that, you know, you have nothing to work for; nothing to live for. You figure why live anymore.

And you just feel like you're the biggest creep in the, you know, you're a loser. You aren't going anywhere. You know, nothing's happening for you. Nobody'd miss you if you did kill yourself. You're just taking up space, you know. You're just -- why are you living your life? You're just going day to day for nothing. You know, you have to go to this crummy job. You have to -- you know, what are you working for? What are you living for? Nothing -- you know, you have nothing going on; no plans.

So when you're like that, you know, it's -- killing yourself's like a good option, you know. Seemed like a good thing to do.

GROSS: What did you choose to end it with?

CAREY: Oh, sissy sleeping pills.


It probably wouldn't have worked anyway, if I didn't -- like the first time I took a bunch of -- like a whole bottle of Sominex and I -- who knows if that would have killed me, but it might have put me to sleep for a weekend. But I -- as soon as I swallowed them, you know, I told my friends -- my fraternity brothers -- I said "I just tried to kill myself" -- you know, "get me to the" -- I swallowed a big, couple glasses of beer, and they took me to the health center and they gave me ipicac (ph), you know, and I -- that -- I mean, it was over. I stayed in the health center like overnight and stuff and they called my parents.

But, you know. And then the second time, it was a lot more serious. I took another bottle of sleeping pills and alcohol. And I called this one girl I was dating to say good-bye, and she figured out what I was doing and called somebody. But I just remember waking up in the hospital. So they just -- you know, they came and got me. It was a lot more serious attempt the second time.

The first time -- as soon as I took the pills, I thought: "what the hell am I doing? What if I die?" You know, I mean, that was the idea, to die, then I thought: "wow, if I die, what's going to happen to me?" You know, that scared me so much -- you know, the thought of going to hell or any of that kind of -- like, so unsure about that kind of thing that I got somebody to help me right away.

GROSS: Have you ever done suicide jokes?

CAREY: Yeah. I joke around about everything. I joked around my dad dying when I would -- before I was a comedian, you know, it was just in college and high school, I used to make jokes about my dad being dead and how people always thought I was really sick. But I mean, that's how people deal with -- that's how a lot of people deal with bad things and bad news, is they make jokes about it.

GROSS: Yeah.

CAREY: And that's how they can cope with it, 'cause there's so much bad news in the world all the time. You know, especially nowadays with -- when you have all this information coming at you.

You know, I don't think we were built to have so much negative information coming at us and bombarding us through the day with the newspaper and the TV and the radio, and bad news always leads off every half-hour. You know, you'll never see the -- if a -- you'll never see the "Good News Network." That would be off the air; wouldn't exist; nobody would watch it.

But like, you know, you know -- so you'd come up with these coping mechanisms, and one of the ways to cope is to laugh about it. That's why you make Versace jokes and space shuttle jokes after the space shuttle blew up. I remember friends of mine called me within five minutes of the space shuttle blowing up, with jokes about it blowing up.


CAREY: And you know, if I knew -- it's just, you know, it's just a sad, a big disaster and that's the way people cope with these kind of things.

GROSS: Drew Carey is my guest. Star, of course, of The Drew Carey Show and author of the new bestseller Dirty Jokes and Beer: Stories of the Unrefined.

You enlisted in the Marine Reserve Corps.

CAREY: Right.

GROSS: How old were you when you did it? What was your motivation?

CAREY: I was like 23 I must have been. That was in '80. I needed money.


It was a job. I was -- it was always in the back of my -- you know, it must have been from playing with Army men when I was a kid or something, but it's always, you know, being in the military was always in the back of my mind as a last resort. If nothing else ever worked out, you could always join the army. You know, that's always how I thought.

And I was living in Las Vegas and having a really bad time, and I got thrown out of my motel room that I was living in because I couldn't pay the rent. And I had my car that was totaled in the first place; had everything stolen out of it. So all that was left of it was really was like the clothes on my back and a few other things they didn't take.

And so my buddy gave me a ride to L.A. to stay with my brother who lived in Mission Viejo. And my brother took me in and got me a job, bought me some clothes. And he worked for a Porsche-Audi dealer, and I would deliver parts in Southern California in this van. That was my job. And he was the parts manager.

When the owner of the place found out that he -- a relative was -- he didn't want relatives working for relatives 'cause it would be easy to steal from the place then. And so, my brother had to fire me.


GROSS: Oh, no.

CAREY: So I was in Mission Viejo, my brother had to fire me, and I didn't want to mooch off of him, you know, and I -- all I had was a little bit of clothes that he'd bought me. I mean, he had to buy me underwear and everything. I was -- I didn't have anything when I showed up at his door, 'cause everything was stolen out of my car after I got kicked out of my motel room.

And so I thought I'll just join the service, and I went to the -- I went to the recruiting office and I went to the Navy thing. I talked to those guys. And I was in the -- before I could go in, I was in the lobby and the Marine guy came out and saw me, and he looked really squared away and everything. He said: "make sure you see me before you leave."

So after I saw the Navy guys, I went over to visit with the Marine guy, and he was, you know, he was just a good salesman, man. He talked me into joining the Marines, and I thought if I'm going to join the service, I just want to join the toughest one, you know, and get it over with. I don't want it said -- don't want to take the easy way out. I'm just doing this this one time, you know, 'cause I can't -- you just can't like switch branches of the service throughout your life and go through boot camp after boot camp.

So I joined the Marines and it was great.

GROSS: What was great about it?

CAREY: I really liked it. Well, first of all, I got three meals a day.


I was earning my own money. I was so happy. I mean, after that, you know, mooching -- mooching off my brother and getting kicked out of my motel in Vegas, I was so happy just to have a job and -- but -- they really like build a -- they really are good at building like a team spirit and a camaraderie, you know. And every day you get done, you really feel like you've been doing something, you know; and accomplishing something.

And I was running and getting in shape and, you know. And I was older than a lot of the guys in the platoon, you know, so I -- and I knew what they were doing, like psychologically, when they were doing stuff to me. So I mean, they could yell. I just stood there. It didn't bother me, you know. And I -- you know, I knew they weren't out to hurt me, so everything they said to do, I would just do it as fast as I could, right away. I trusted them, you know.

And a lot of people think you go to boot camp, and they -- all the drill instructor's out to really -- he's going to try to hurt you. That's his job. That's not his job. The drill instructor's job is to make you into a Marine and to get you through this training. And all you have to do is -- I remembering telling -- I did -- I just totally trusted him. I thought this guy's really not going to hurt me. You know, I just gotta do what he says. And so that's all I did.

And it came out -- it worked out really well. I got a -- I graduated with a -- graduated from boot camp with a meritorious PFC; got a top 10 percent of my -- they give the guys in the top 10 percent of the platoon a meritorious promotion. So I got meritorious PFC out of boot camp and really had a good time -- really liked the reserves. I had a lot of friends. I liked the life, you know.

GROSS: This is great -- the Marines kind of gave you a sense of accomplishment; a sense of self-esteem; and a look.

CAREY: Yeah.


Yeah. I know, the Marines were pretty good to me. I'd still -- I'm telling you, man, I'd still be in the Marine Reserves if I wasn't doing standup. You know, I quit because I was making -- you know, I saw the money you could make doing weekends and I was only making like $125 a weekend in the reserves as a sergeant, you know. And I thought, you know, I can make $300 on a weekend if I was a standup comic starting out. Why would I give up that $300, you know, for the $120 -- so I quit doing the Marines.

GROSS: Hmm. So before we have to let you go, are you beloved in Parma?

CAREY: They -- oh, man -- people in Cleveland-Parma, they, you know, I really -- I mean, I don't want to brag on myself or anything, but I'm very, very popular. Yeah, it's insane when I go back home; how people treat me. Like "thank you for everything you've done for Cleveland;" "Gee, we love your show" -- everywhere I go. It's the greatest. I mean, my fans in Cleveland are the greatest. I'm telling you. I try to give them as much love back as they give me. It really makes it all worthwhile.

'Cause when I -- I'm telling you, man, when you grow up in Cleveland and you have Cleveland made fun of all the time, when you're growing up -- your Cleveland jokes on TV and stuff like that. And then you go to, like, go to college "you're from Cleveland, ha, ha, ha" -- and people make fun of you just 'cause of the town you're from.

That's why I couldn't wait to get a -- you know, when I got my show, I couldn't wait to have it set in Cleveland and promote Cleveland, and just -- I just want to shove Cleveland down everybody's throats now; get back at them, you know, to get back at them for making a -- I just want to cram it down everybody's throat and make them chew it.

And so, yeah, it's great. People in Cleveland know exactly what I'm talking about, and so they're really grateful and I'm grateful to them.

GROSS: Well, Drew Carey it's really been fun having you on the show. Thank you so much for talking with us.

CAREY: Oh, thank you.

GROSS: Drew Carey is the star of the sitcom The Drew Carey Show. His new book is called Dirty Jokes and Beer.

Coming up, street basketball. This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Drew Carey
High: Comedian Drew Carey. His ABC Wednesday night sitcom resides in the top 20, a product of Carey's "everyguy" humor. Carey has written a new book, "Dirty Jokes and Beer: Stories of the Unrefined." It's his autobiography as well as a joke book.
Spec: Media; Television; Drew Carey; Books; Authors; Dirty Jokes and Beer
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Dirty Jokes and Beer
Date: OCTOBER 27, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 102702NP.217
Head: Pee Wee Kirkland
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:40

TERRY GROSS, HOST: The new book "The Soul of the Game" is about the legendary players of street basketball and the best-known playgrounds in the country. Pee Wee Kirkland is one of the players profiled. He also wrote the introduction.

He learned the game in the '60s at one of New York's famous playgrounds, Rucker Park (ph) in Harlem. He went on to play for Norfolk State. In 1968, a Sports Illustrated article said: he may be the fastest man in college basketball.

Kirkland was drafted by the Chicago Bulls, quickly cut, and then returned to Rucker Park. But after getting into trouble related to drug dealing, he ended up playing on a prison team in Pennsylvania while serving a 10-year sentence. Now he coaches the team at a private school in Manhattan, the Dwight School (ph). They won their first high school championship this year.

Kirkland was the technical adviser on the basketball movie "Above the Rim." I asked him if there are certain moves that came from street basketball.

PEE WEE KIRKLAND, SCHOOL TEACHER, FORMER TECHNICAL ADVISER, "ABOVE THE RIM," BASKETBALL COACH": I don't know if they're are any moves that didn't come from street basketball: shake and bake; head-fake; stutter-step freeze; 360 crossover; reverse crossover. I mean, all these moves came from street basketball.

And when you watch Michael Jordan in NBA, when he made that great move in the playoff and he had it in one hand in the air and he switched it in the air from his right to his left hand, and he kissed it off the glass with a little spin -- I mean, it was a great move because they showed it over and over on national television, so the world could see it.

But that was a move that I would do when I was 13 years old. And that was a move that's just a natural, regular move in street basketball. But it had to be introduced to the NBA and it was, in an unbelievable way at an unbelievable time. And you have to credit Michael Jordan for that.

GROSS: What about trash talking? Do you think that comes from street ball, too?

KIRKLAND: Amazing that you'd ask me that question 'cause a lot of people said I was the guy who invented trash talking in basketball. I know I did at Rucker, you know. I mean, it wasn't enough for me to come to the game to score 40, 50, or 60 points. It was more important to me to announce it, because if I announced it, then it would make me real as a competitor.

Sort of like what Muhammad Ali used to do when he would announce fights. People would say: when you gonna win? He'd name the round. He'd name the -- if it would be a knockout; if it would be a decision. That sort of taked the hyper-street basketball to another level.

GROSS: So what would you say on the court?

KIRKLAND: Well, I would say things like "pushup, pushup -- you can't guard me." You know, "wait a minute -- hold up -- pushup -- you ain't got no defense; you don't know what defense is; 'cause watch -- lay -- I ain't going to shoot the J, I'm gonna shoot the leg. I'm going to keep taking you to the basket 'til you want to walk off the court. I'm gonna make you ask your coach to take you out." Things like that.

GROSS: Trash talk is pretty controversial, I think, in professional basketball. What do you think of it there?

KIRKLAND: Well, it's controversial in professional basketball because -- and professional basketball is sort of out of control simply because they don't want to accept it. I think when professional -- the NBA decides to stamp certain players as being great players, they don't want the crowd to see that person be abused verbally on the court. And you know, trash talking can get into verbal abuse, irregardless if it's done intentionally or not intentionally.

I don't think anybody wants to see somebody on the court talking trash to a Michael Jordan. Say, for instance, a guy like myself -- I could never play against Jordan without talking trash talk 'cause I would want to try to get into Jordan's head. That's another level of the game -- to see if -- how good a person is mentally. And that's what a street basketball player would want to reach -- that person mentally because you may not be able to break a guy down physically, so you try to break him down mentally.

GROSS: What did you have to do when you were a kid to prove yourself on the court, so that, you know, you could play with other people; so that you wouldn't just be playing by yourself?

KIRKLAND: When I was a kid -- oh you mean, just to get on the court...

GROSS: Yeah.

KIRKLAND: ... for a regular? -- well, what you had to do was you had to prove that you had heart, number one. Number two, you had to prove that you had skill. You had to have a reason for getting on the court because the courts were so crowded in them days that you'd be standing on the side for seven and eight hours trying to figure out how to get on the court, unless somebody knew you was a good ballplayer; you was a good scorer; you was a good defensive player; you could block shots.

You could -- you know, it was winners. They called it "winners" there, and the winners stayed on the court. So my purpose in coming early was to be on the court and stay on the court 'til the end of the day. And sometime, we play from eight, nine o'clock in the morning 'til twelve and one o'clock at night.

GROSS: What's the longest you had to wait to get on the court?

KIRKLAND: Well, I never had to wait, and the reason I never had to wait because I started basketball maybe at the age 11 or 12, and under the tutelage of a coach named Roger Bryant (ph), who was more like a father figure. And he taught me so much about the game and how to think the game and understand the game from the neck up that my reputation sort of grew real fast.

So when I walked in the park, I mean, I actually had walked in the park and had guys say "we picked him to play until you came. Now, he can go sit down and you got your -- you come on -- let's do this." You know, things like that.

GROSS: When you have one of those tournaments with players from the NBA, where could crowds gather to watch you from? I mean, there's not -- were there bleachers or anything? Was there a place to be?

KIRKLAND: When I played in Rucker -- Rucker is a small area.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

KIRKLAND: There was at least 3,000 people packed in Rucker watching the game. You had people on fences -- who had climbed on fences. You had people -- there was a -- above Rucker, was sort of like a bridge, an overpass. You had people standing on the overpass. I used to look up sometime when I was on the fire line, and see people looking out of project windows, with binoculars.

Outside of Rucker, you couldn't see a car no place. It was really hard to get in Rucker, because Rucker was on 155th Street and Eighth Avenue, and at least for 15 blocks going downtown on Eighth Avenue, it was packed -- sort of like Coney Island or something; like it was a museum. It was -- 'cause people actually waited outside at Rucker until the game was over. And then when the game they wanted to see, they would come inside.

And when we played against teams like Jerry Servin (ph) and Tiny Archibald (ph) -- big games when me and Joe Hand (ph) was in the backcourt together -- that the streets consider big games -- at that time, three or four hours before the game, people were sitting there waiting.

GROSS: You were drafted out of college by the Chicago Bulls, but you never really played with them. What -- why not?

KIRKLAND: My problem with Chicago was I got drafted with a guy who went to a much larger school. I don't want to say his name, but when we arrived at Chicago together and we finally played against each other, I mean it was no contest. The way I played compared to the way he played, you had a guy that actually couldn't go but one way. And in street basketball, that's like not being able to talk and chew bubble gum at the same time.

So I was much more advanced in the game, but the coach had explained to me because he went to a junior coll -- a bigger school -- and I went to a smaller school, that he would start. And I left that night.

GROSS: So you walked out?

KIRKLAND: That night, I left. I just never came back to the gym.

GROSS: Wasn't that cutting your nose to spite your face?

KIRKLAND: Well, when you're a kid, you don't always know that you are cutting your nose off to spite your face when you make those type of decisions. And I would tell kids today that that was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made in my life, because I understand the importance of kids drawing from that type of experience.

That's another thing the book reveals, that a lot of players who have made decisions that they should not have made -- you know, I mean it's understood in the book that they wished they had that decision to make again. And me leaving Chicago was not a good decision.

GROSS: You're now working with young people in Harlem, at a place you started called "School for Skills" and you're working with young people at a very exclusive private school in Manhattan called the Dwight School. Do you find that you have to give different types of advice to kids who are coming from poverty than you do to kids who are coming from, you know, fairly upper-middle class or wealthy backgrounds?

KIRKLAND: Oh, there's no question. You know, most of the kids that are in poverty, they are closer to being targeted, because kids in private school basically, they live in areas where crime do not exist. But kids in poverty, they walk around crime. When they come home, it's crime. When they leave to go to school, they see crime. They come in the building, there's crime.

I mean, they just see it. There's no way they can get around it. So naturally, you talk to them about crime and about people approaching them, and try to make them understand how to avoid crime -- try to make them understand -- the end result, I try to make them look at my life like they looking in a mirror, and look at how my life was destroyed because I allowed myself to make the wrong decision at an early age.

And when you're dealing with kids in private schools, it's almost like you sort of talk to them in a way like, well, you don't want to find yourself associating with the wrong kind of person because that can lead to crime; or when you think in terms of rap music, you might not want to spend as much time listening to videos because you might find yourself in a situation where your grades may go from 90 to 80, as opposed to a kid in the ghetto who will find his grades going from 70 to him not being in school.

GROSS: Do a lot of the young people who you work with at the private school and at your school for skills expect to be in the NBA? Expect that they're really going to make it in the NBA?

KIRKLAND: Well, not really; not a lot of them, but there are a few of them. There are a few of them for certain.

GROSS: Do you encourage them or discourage them from thinking that way?

KIRKLAND: Well, I just be real with them, and I tell them, you know, the percentages of a person making the NBA is very small; that you know, it's more important that you figure out a way to establish yourself in life, and to be able to make sure that you have a future. You know, if you plan to become an NBA player and you don't have an education or you don't have nothing else planned in your future and don't become an NBA player, you may find yourself homeless.

So I just keep it real and explain that type of thing to the kid. But I also explain to every kid who I think has that type of potential and has that type of dream, what he needs to do; what he needs to learn; what he needs to think to become an NBA player.

GROSS: Pee Wee Kirkland -- he wrote the introduction to the new book The Soul of the Game: Images and Voices of Street Basketball.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Pee Wee Kirkland
High: Basketball expert and playground legend Pee Wee Kirkland. Professor at Long Island University and basketball coach in Manhattan, Kirkland wrote the introduction to John Huet's photography book, "Soul of the Game." It's about the impact basketball on the playground has on the sport. Kirkland also acted in and served as the Technical Basketball Adviser for the 1994 movie "Above the Rim."
Spec: Sports; Basketball; Education; Colleges; Pee Wee Kirkland
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Pee Wee Kirkland
Date: OCTOBER 27, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 102703NP.217
Head: You Must Believe in Spring
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:55

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Pianist Dave McKenna and clarinetist Buddy De Franco are featured on a new duo recording. McKenna is a throwback to the 1920s tradition of stride piano -- the bouncing style epitomized by Fats Waller; while De Franco was the token clarinet player in the modern jazz bebop movement 20 years later.

But Kevin says they make a good fit. Here's his review.


KEVIN WHITEHEAD, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: Dave McKenna and Buddy De Franco playing the bepop anthem "Anthropology."

The pianist and clarinet player had rarely crossed paths before recording these duos. But all the musicians of all schools are often thrown together at festivals and in studios. They long-since dissolved their differences in one big jazz mainstream, where you only have to swing and play sensible notes to blend in.


For material, they can draw on a few hundred old songs these guys all seem to know. McKenna and De Franco also toss in a few overlooked tunes, like the '40s ballad "Autumn Nocturne."

WHITEHEAD: A clarinetist tells me Buddy De Franco changed his mouthpiece a few years ago, which made his sound a little less silky and more raspy. Personally, I like it better. He's better equipped to stand up to a sparring partner.

Dave McKenna comes back at him with a kitchen sink of piano strategies, starting with strong basslines.


WHITEHEAD: That's the title blues from the CD "You Must Believe in Swing" on the Concord jazz label. Dave McKenna is the soul of good taste on piano, and his polish more than covers for one or two bobbled phrases the clarinetist plays over the whole CD.

If anything, it's all too nice. It doesn't have the raucous, free-associative quality of McKenna's solo medleys of songs about baseball, foreign capitals, or kinds of fruit.

Lots of jazz people love the cliche that the music is "the sound of surprise." But as Raymond Chandler once observed about Sherlock Holmes mysteries, folks are not as easy to surprise as they used to be. But these guys still manage sometimes.

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead reviewed You Must Believe In Swing, featuring Dave McKenna and Buddy De Franco.

Dateline: Kevin Whitehead; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
High: Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews "You Must Believe in Spring" featuring pianist Dave McKenna and clarinetist Buddy De Franco.
Spec: Music Industry; Jazz; You Must Believe in Spring
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: You Must Believe in Spring
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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