By Brady Rhoades
The Price is Right host and Hollywood icon Drew Carey is, in many ways, an unlikely Marine.
The congenial, bespectacled, self-described “peacenik” comedian served his country as a sergeant and field radio operator with the 25th Marine Regiment and calls the experience a pivot-point in his life.
“Military life and experiences gave me incredible experiences in leadership — especially in small groups, and under pressure,” Carey, 63, said in an interview with U.S. Veterans Magazine. “The military is not about yelling at someone to do things, as people wholly unfamiliar with the military would believe. There’s a tremendous amount of trust that other people will do their jobs and that you’ll do yours. So, there’s social pressure. And a lot of subservience to the mission and the greater good of the group. So, you learn to swallow that and perform because there are always stakes, great and small. And you never want to be the one who can’t rise to the occasion. You’re reminded of this dynamic constantly in the Marines. It’s just there. No one has to yell at you about it.”
Rewind to 1980. Carey, who hails from Cleveland, was jobless, broke and crashing at his brother’s California home when he joined the military.
It turned out to be a watershed move.
“I went from not being able to afford to eat or clothe myself to getting three meals a day. I had an instant family,” Carey said.
The lessons his new family — the Marine Corps — taught Carey ring true to him to this day. They explain, in part, why he’s committed to the ideal of service.
One of his most famous philanthropic efforts took place in 2014 when he promised $10,000 to help find the perpetrators of a fake “ice bucket challenge” involving an autistic 14-year-old Ohio boy who had been told he was going to be doused in ice but instead was showered in urine, tobacco and cigarette butts.
“Horrendous,” Carey tweeted at the time.
Drew Carey and others meet with and perform for military members during comedy tour for USO.
Carey, who checked out a joke book from a local library after his stint in the Marines, is a big supporter of libraries. Over the years, he has donated millions to the Ohio Library Foundation and Cleveland Public Library.
And he advocates for active military personnel and veterans — performing in USO tours, competing in the Marine Corps Marathon, and raising money in various ways.
On a lighter note, Carey continues to advocate for the Cleveland Browns, who sported a disappointing 8-9 record this season. After Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield was sacked nine times in a 26-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 3, the funny man tweeted this:
Maybe the #Browns offensive line just doesn’t like Baker Mayfield?
Ever think of that?
Or it’s some kind of insurance scam.
When Carey completed his military service in 1986, he turned to standup comedy at the Cleveland Comedy Club and other venues.
In 1988, he competed on Star Search. In 1991, he landed a spot on HBO’s Young Comedians Special and appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He went on to co-star in the Disney TV series The Good Life and worked as a staff writer on The Gaby Hoffmann Show.
By the mid-1990s, Carey was a household name, starring in The Drew Carey Show, which ran from 1995-2004, and the improv/sketch show Whose Line Is It Anyway? on which he was host and producer from 1998-2007.
The success of that show led to the creation of Drew Carey’s Improv All Stars, a talented troupe that performed across the country.
Carey was cast in movie roles and penned a best-selling memoir titled, Dirty Jokes and Beer: Stories of the Unrefined.
In 2007, he was named the host of The Price Is Right, succeeding longtime host Bob Barker. This year marks the show’s 50th anniversary.
As if that doesn’t keep him busy enough, Carey is more-than-passingly involved in music.
“I play rock n roll every Friday night on Sirius channel 21,” Carey said. “Little Steven’s Underground Garage. It’s called the Friday Night Freakout, and it airs from 8 to 11 p.m. EST. Also streams on the Sirius app. It’s my passion project.”
Most people know all about Carey’s TV career — and now they know
about his love of rock and roll — but what do they know of pre-famous Drew Carey? Probably not much.
That goes back to the unlikely part, although Carey said he’s not that unlikely.
“I know it sounds paradoxical, but despite being such a supporter of our troops and the military, I’m a real peacenik. I’m half hippy, to be honest. But I know I’m not the only one.”
He’s also not the only Buddhist who’s served his country.
“I discovered Buddhism and meditation late in life,” he said. “You do it because it’s the least conflicted and happiest way to live. And because it’s just the right thing to do. It took me a while, but I no longer consider anyone else above or below me. I used to think I did. But I didn’t. I would be intimidated by or jealous of different types of people in power or with different social standings. And I would feel sorry for people who didn’t have as much in one way or another. Now none of that matters to me as far as how I treat them. We all have our path. I try to treat everyone with the same dignity and respect.”
And, of course, he will always be an Ohio-style diehard when it comes to veterans, a feeling that took root in his teens.
“I graduated high school in 1975, the year we got the last helicopter out,” he said. “I delivered the Cleveland Plain Dealer as a paperboy. They broke the Mai Lai Massacre story. I remember folding all those papers with those awful pictures on the front page. And I remember how badly soldiers were treated when they got home, both by civilians and our institutions. I believe it’s important for us to always recognize the sacrifices it takes to serve in our military, and how necessary they are… We need to recognize and applaud people in our military who do their jobs well, and with honor. Period.”