In the world of sitcoms, comedy shows, and game shows, the name “Drew Carey” looms large. For more than 30 years, Carey has been an accomplished figure on television shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway?, The Drew Carey Show, and The Price is Right. But behind the scenes, Drew Carey has lived a more interesting and dramatic life than most people realize.
Drew Carey Facts
1. Number Three’s Arrival
Drew Allison Carey was born to Lewis and Beulah Carey on May 23, 1958 in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the youngest of three boys born to his parents.
2. The Good Old Days
Carey attended classes at Cleveland’s James Ford Rhodes High School during the 1970s. During his time as a high school student, he performed in the marching band. Looking back, Carey described his childhood and high school self as a “weirdo” and an “underachiever.”
3. Starting Small
Before his career in the entertainment industry kicked off, Carey worked a number of different jobs to pay the bills. When he moved to Las Vegas in 1983, he spent time working as a Denny’s waiter and as a bank teller.
4. Adapt as You Go
Prior to his hosting The Price is Right, Carey hadn’t actually seen a single episode of that game show. He had to undergo a crash course in how everything worked before he could take up his new position on the show.
5. Not My Finest Hour
After graduating from high school in 1975, Carey went on to study at Kent State University. However, his time there didn’t end well. His less-than-ideal academic marks resulted in him getting expelled. Twice.
6. Winning the Right People Over
Carey’s big breakout was thanks to none other than Johnny Carson. Still trying to make it as a stand-up comedian at the time, Carey’s act impressed the venerable television host and he invited Carey to come onto his show. This act gave Carey a lot of spotlight and allowed him the chance to build on his career in a way that most up-and-comers could only dream of doing.
7. Bad Times
Tragedy struck Carey’s family when his father died of a brain tumor. Carey was only eight years old at the time. To make matters worse, he was unable to see a therapist to deal with his trauma. His mother, now a single parent, had to work two jobs just to make ends meet at home, and there was never time or money available to assist Carey in dealing with the loss of his dad.
8. Majoring in TV
One reason why Carey’s post-secondary education didn’t exactly take off was his obsession with game shows. Specifically, Carey was a fan of The Gong Show, and allowed it to dictate his schedule, even at the expense of classes. We’d say that he had seriously misplaced priorities, but given his later career, hey, maybe he was onto something!
9. Military Record
Following his stint with post-secondary education, Carey instead turned to the military as a career move. Enlisting into the United States Marine Corps Reserve, in 1980, Carey spent six years as a field radio operator with the 25th Marine Regiment based in Ohio.
10. Supporting the Troops
Carey has never forgotten his time with the US military. As the host of The Price is Right, Carey is known for his heartfelt salute to US veterans.
11. From Within
Following his departure from college, Carey hit a mental rock bottom, and the only thing which got him out of that spiral was a series of self-help books. Carey credited books like University of Success and Your Erroneous Zones as saving his life and giving him the direction that he needed to move forward and build a life that he was satisfied with.
12. Starring Me as Me!
In the mid-1990s, Carey teamed up with Roseanne writer Bruce Helford to develop a sitcom which revolved around a fictionalized version of Carey himself. According to Carey, the version of himself portrayed in this sitcom was meant to be what Carey himself might have been had he never become an actor. Starring Carey, as well as Diedrich Bader and Kathy Kinney, The Drew Carey Show was a big success, airing for nine seasons from 1995 to 2004.
13. And Now for Something Completely Different
Three years into his work on The Drew Carey Show, Carey became involved with a little show that you might have heard of: Whose Line is it Anyway. To give you the brief history, this improv-focused comedy show originally aired in the UK, created by Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson. After it first began in 1988, the show was such a hit that an American version was created ten years later. Carey was selected to host the show, with Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles appearing as two of the regular performers. They had previously spent years on the British version.
14. You Seem Familiar
Speaking of Ryan Stiles, he wasn’t just a stranger to the show Whose Line is it Anyway, he wasn’t a stranger to Carey either. The two men were co-starring in The Drew Cary Show and Whose Line is it Anyway simultaneously. This naturally led to a lot of jokes, often at Carey’s expense.
15. Late Bloomer
It might surprise some of you to know that Carey didn’t begin pursuing stand-up comedy until he was 28 years old. It was another seven years before he made his first appearance on television.
16. Simple Style
Long after Carey left military service, he continued to maintain a crew cut hairstyle, by which he became well known on television.
Carey has long been a self-professed computer geek, and like any geek with lots of money, he has indulged this hobby to the fullest extent. At one point, Carey owned more than 30 computers and 10 video game consoles! We can only imagine what his house parties looked like with all that entertainment lying around.
18. What are the Odds?
Carey’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame just happens to be beside an army surplus store called The Supply Sergeant. Given Carey’s military past and his continued support of troops, we can’t be totally sure that that’s a complete coincidence…
19. Kick Off!
One sport that Carey loves more than most is soccer. Not only does he follow soccer, but he also became a part owner of the Seattle Sounders soccer team.
20. The Struggle is Real
Due to his excess weight, Carey has spent a significant part of his life dealing with health concerns that are related to his heart (more on that later). He is also a type-2 diabetic.
21. Hurt Feelings
In 1998, Carey signed an endorsement deal with the fast food chain A&W that was worth more than half a million dollars. However, this deal came to an abrupt halt that same year when Carey portrayed himself walking into a McDonalds in The Drew Carey Show. Even though Carey wasn’t portrayed as purchasing a meal in the McDonalds, A&W took offence to the portrayal in Carey’s show. In fact, they insisted that Carey return all the money that he’d made in their deal together.
22. Back to the Well
Carey’s time on Whose Line is it Anyway came to an end in 2007 when the show was concluded; he has not returned to the revived show (which has been hosted by Aisha Tyler). However, Carey has never left the world of improv behind. He hosted a series of improv shows in Las Vegas, featuring most of the regular comedians from Whose Line. This turned into a show in 2011 which was titled Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza, which ran for 40 episodes.
23. Handsomely Paid
If there’s one positive trait that Carey has ever had, it’s his open-handed generosity. In particular, he shows his kindness through tipping. Carey is well known to tip as much as 100%, and sometimes even more than that. You can imagine how popular this makes him whenever he goes out to eat!
24. Stealth Cameraman
Not only did Carey become a co-owner of the Seattle Sounders, he also worked part-time as one of their photographers. Working under a pseudonym, Carey has distributed his action photography of soccer games on several occasions. Carey has gone on record saying that he always loved photojournalism, saying if he’d never become a comic or an actor, he would have gone into journalism instead. Another benefit he gained from photographing soccer games was the incredible view he got of the games. As he put it, not even the celebrities get seats as good as the photographers do.
25. Try Wearing That Hat for a While
Aside from creating and starring in The Drew Carey Show, Carey also directed four episodes between 2003 and 2004 (“A Speedy Recovery,” “Love is in the Air,” Liar Liar House on Fire,” and “Still Life with Freeloader”).
26. Well, This Took a Turn
In 2000, Carey starred in the made-for-television film Geppetto. Based on the popular children’s story Pinocchio, the film loosely adapts the storyline, albeit with Geppetto as the protagonist rather than Pinocchio. The film is also a musical, giving Carey several songs to sing. If you’re wondering what Disney had to say about this bizarre interpretation of the story which they’d already turned into a hit film, it turns out that Geppetto was released under Disney’s banner.
27. We Don’t Talk About It… Wait, Yes We Do!
It’s safe to say that Geppetto has a rather mixed reputation. Upon its release, it was nominated for four Emmy Awards, but didn’t win any. It managed to live on in infamy thanks to Carey’s hit show Whose Line is it Anyway. The fact that Carey had acted in Geppetto was regularly mined for easy laughs by the improv performers, much to Carey’s own chagrin.
28. Playing it by Ear
Even now that he’s busy hosting The Price is Right, Carey never left his improv roots behind. While many television hosts would demand strict rehearsals, Carey much prefers to rely on the reactions of his audiences to gauge where his performance might go from there.
29. Sentimental Guy
Despite his less-than-ideal childhood, Carey had a profound attachment to his childhood home. In fact, he used the first paycheque from The Drew Carey Show to purchase that old home.
30. Working with Your Hero
One of Carey’s favorite musicians is none other than Canadian singer Snow. Depending on your age, he’s either the guy who sang “Informer” or the guy whose song inspired Daddy Yankee’s “Con Calma.” In the early 2000s, however, Carey was such a fan of Snow that he hired him to make a new version of the song “Moon Over Palma,” which Carey was using as the theme song for his sitcom The Drew Carey Show. Snow’s version can be heard in the 8th and 9th seasons of the series.
31. Footloose in Real Life
In 2008, Carey found himself fighting for the right to dance in the open. An open-air steakhouse in Arizona was called out for allowing dancing to occur, which apparently violated a noise ordinance which was obsolete. Carey came to the defence of the steakhouse’s owners, interviewing them and giving them a chance to voice their position. Later, the courts determined that the steakhouse wasn’t doing anything wrong.
32. No… Wait, Yes
It might surprise you to know that Carey actually turned down the chance to host The Price is Right. To be fair to Carey, he was working on another show with CBS at the time, and he didn’t have a high opinion of The Price is Right’s audience. However, he was persuaded to change his mind when pointed out just how many people still watch the show.
33. Thank Goodness!
Carey suffered a serious health scare in 2001. It turned out that arteries to his heart were completely blocked. He underwent emergency surgery, which thankfully proved successful.
34. A Profound Bond
In 2007, Drew Carey found love and proposed to Nicole Jaracz. While the couple eventually broke off their engagement in 2012, they had a very amicable separation and continue to co-parent Nicole’s child from a previous relationship, Connor. Even though they’re not biologically related, Carey and Connor are very close, with Carey referring to the teen boy as his own son.
35. Slimming Down
Following this health scare, and the entrance of Connor into his life, Carey decided to make a serious change to his weight. Taking up an exercise regimen, Carey also adopted healthier eating habits, all in an effort to make sure that he’d see his beloved son grow up. It looks like Carey’s hard work paid off. He lost more than 85 pounds from his frame, and more impressive, kept the weight off.
36. Let the Good Times Roll!
It’s safe to say that Carey spent the late 90s and early 2000s rolling Scrooge McDuck style in a pool of money. By the final season of The Drew Carey Show, Carey was making $750,000 per episode. At the same time, he was also making bank with Whose Line is it Anyway. In 1998, the income from both shows added up to $45.5 million. This led Carey to be listed by Forbes as the 24th highest-paid entertainer of that year.
37. Rolling On!
Carey, like so many others, participated in the celebrity version of the classic quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. However, what makes Carey’s participation so unique is that he has won the most money of any celebrity on that show. In the two appearances that he made on the show, he won a total of $532,000. Money seems to stick to Carey like wet leaves!
38. He Does That for Us?
If there’s one feature that Carey’s fans know him by, it’s the Buddy Holly-style glasses which he always wears. Believe it or not, he doesn’t even need to wear them by now. In 2001, he corrected his vision with LASIK surgery, but his glasses are so iconic to his image that he continues to wear prop glasses.
39. The Clark Kent Syndrome
In case you think that Carey might be taking his glasses-wearing persona a bit too far, Carey once told a story of how he was walking around his home town of Cleveland without his glasses on, he fell into a conversation with people who didn’t recognize him. Even when he said that he was the host of The Price is Right, he was met with scorn and a reminder that Drew Carey hosts that show. We can only imagine how red their faces were when he presumably got his prop glasses out of his pocket and wore them for the rest of the night.
40. Giving Back to Books
Given that Carey developed his own success by reading self-help books, it should surprise none of you to know that Carey is a devoted supporter of libraries. When he won $500,000 on his first appearance on the celebrity version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Carey chose the Ohio Library Foundation as the benefactor of his winnings.
41. Making Bullies Accountable
In 2014, during the height of the ALS ice bucket challenges, a 14-year-old autistic boy in Ohio was subjected to a horrific prank when he was doused with feces and urine instead of the ice water which was the norm. When Carey found out about this act of unspeakable cruelty, he immediately offered $10,000 as a reward to apprehend those responsible for the boy’s humiliation. This offer was later matched by celebrities Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy. While this action on Carey’s part was criticized as feeding into an Internet mob mentality, one can’t deny that Carey’s heart was in the right place.
42. Twisted History
In 2000, Carey wrote and published a memoir that was titled Dirty Jokes and Beer: Stories of the Unrefined. In it, Carey opened up about his childhood, revealing it to be even more disturbing than one would have thought. Aside from his obvious trauma from dealing with his father’s early passing, Carey also admitted that he had been the victim of sexual abuse.
43. Dark Times
Sadly, Carey’s horrific experiences during his youth led the comic to attempt suicide on two different occasions before he was 25.
44. A Big Tipper
Drew Carey is famously generous. He’s known to leave huge tips for servers at restaurants and bellmen at hotels. But his biggest tip went far beyond extra cash. When Carey’s bosses at The Price Is Right gifted him a new Porsche, he asked the crew who had the worst car. When he learned one employee didn’t have a car at all, Carey gave them his previous car.
45. Want Not
Why doesn’t Carey seem attached to his money and possessions? He’s a Buddhist. Part of his religion means not getting too obsessed with material goods!
Drew Carey’s middle name is, of all things, Allison.
47. A Sad End
In February of 2020, Drew Carey suffered a sad loss. Between 2016 and 2018, he had been engaged to the author and family therapist Amie Harwick. Even though they broke up, their split was amicable. The tragedy came in 2020, when Harwick was killed, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend Gareth Pursehouse. As a sign of respect, The Price Is Right cancelled their filming schedule for the week to allow Carey to grieve.