For the past decade, actor and comedian Drew Carey has been emceeing the long-running daytime game show The Price is Right, proving himself an able replacement for tenured former host Bob Barker. (Carey even echoes his predecessor’s plea to spay and neuter pets at the end of every episode.) Prior to that, the 60-year-old had two hugely successful series, including a self-titled sitcom and the improvisational Whose Line Is It Anyway? Take a look at some things you might not have realized about the glasses-sporting comic. (Like the fact that he doesn’t really need to wear them.)
1. HE CREDITS SELF-HELP BOOKS WITH HIS SUCCESS.
Carey’s Cleveland upbringing was not particularly joy-filled. His father died when Carey was just 8, succumbing to a brain tumor. His mother worked two jobs to support her three sons and couldn’t afford to take Carey to see a psychiatrist to help deal with the trauma. Feeling isolated and depressed for much of his adolescence, things didn’t improve when he attended Kent State University: He was expelled twice for poor grades.
At rock bottom, Carey started reading self-help titles like University of Success and Your Erroneous Zones. The books changed Carey’s way of thinking, getting him out of his frustrated mindset. He later moved to California, joined the Marine Reserves, and began eyeing a career in stand-up comedy.
2. JOHNNY CARSON LAUNCHED HIS CAREER.
While writing jokes for a friend who worked in radio—Carey again turned to books, taking out a joke-writing title from a local library—he began honing a stand-up act. Attending an open-mic night at the Sahara in Las Vegas didn’t go well (he bombed), but after putting in years of practice, Carey got two breaks. The first was Star Search, a talent competition hosted by Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon, and the second was the Tonight Show itself. In 1991, Carey was invited to perform and appeared to win over Johnny Carson, a move that caught the attention of television executives eager to find another stand-up to build a sitcom around. The Drew Carey Show debuted in 1995 and ran for nine seasons.
3. HE DOESN’T REALLY NEED THE GLASSES.
Wearing black horn-rimmed glasses for the first half of his career helped make Carey an identifiable presence on television. In 2001, when he got LASIK to correct his vision, he no longer needed them to see. But because his persona was so closely intertwined with spectacles, Carey continued wearing the frames—this time with clear lenses—for work. When he opts to go without them, he finds that fans can be oblivious to the fact they’re talking to him. Conversing with a small group in a Cleveland night club one year, Carey told them he was on television and host of The Price is Right. “I thought Drew Carey hosted The Price is Right,” one replied.
4. HE UPSET A&W OVER A FAST-FOOD INFRACTION.
After signing a deal in 1998 to endorse the A&W burger chain, Carey found himself in trouble over his sitcom character’s preference for McDonald’s. In November of that year, an episode of The Drew Carey Show featured Carey lost in China and wandering into a Golden Arches location for a meal. A&W took offense and refused to pay the remainder of the comic’s endorsement fee. They also insisted he return the $450,000 already remitted to him. “I didn't eat at the McDonald's on the show,” Carey told Esquire in 2007. “I grabbed a fry off a kid's plate, but I didn't get any of the food. When I was in China, I ate at A&W almost every day. There was one around the corner from where we were staying. I like the company. I thought we had a good relationship.”
5. HE’S SHOT SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY UNDER AN ALIAS.
Carey is part owner of the Seattle Sounders soccer team, but his involvement is more than just financial. Carey has been field-side to shoot action photography of the team and has distributed them to wire services under the pseudonym Brooks Parkenridge. “If I wasn't a comic or TV star, my other dream job was to be a photojournalist,” he told Sports Illustrated in 2005. “I envy [photographer] Carolyn Cole from the L.A. Times, and when I see Christiane Amanpour on TV, I think, ‘Man, wouldn't it be great to be her cameraman and be at these cool places where history is changing.’ Plus, being a celebrity, you always get good seats to sporting events, but you never get seats as good as the photographers get.”
6. HE ENTERED THE ROYAL RUMBLE.
The annual WWE wrestling event Royal Rumble admits one wrestler in timed intervals until 30 grapplers have entered the squared circle. While this contest is normally a playing field for mammoth participants like the Undertaker or John Cena, Carey found himself involved in 2001. Staging a sketch in which he raised the ire of WWE owner Vince McMahon, Carey cheerfully agreed to enter as the sixth man in and the first celebrity in the show. Instead of being allowed to walk off, he was confronted by Kane and nearly choke-slammed before another wrestler intervened. The comic went on to occupy a spot in the promotion’s Hall of Fame.
7. HE FOUGHT A DANCING BAN IN ARIZONA.
In a bizarre Footloose scenario, Carey came to the defense of an Arizona steakhouse in 2008 after local officials were targeting the open-air restaurant San Tan Flat for allowing dancing outdoors, a possible violation of an outdated noise ordinance. Carey dispatched a film crew to interview the owners as part of his Reason.tv series examining individual rights. A judge subsequently ruled that the establishment was not an illegal dance hall.
8. HE LOST NEARLY 100 POUNDS.
Known for his generously-proportioned physique, Carey had struggled with type-2 diabetes and heart problems as a result of the excess weight. He underwent a coronary angioplasty in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he decided to get fit for his son, Connor, who was born in 2007. Carey cut out soft drinks and switched to healthier options, replacing steak and bread with chicken and vegetables. Coupled with running, he shed roughly 85 pounds. “I was at a wedding on Saturday, and I ate cake,” he told Success in 2015. “I’m not a maniac about it. But 95 percent of the time, I’m right on the money.”