After finding his feet in the entertainment industry as a hilarious stand-up comic, before proving his credentials by starring and hosting in popular shows such as ‘The Drew Carey Show’ and ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’, Drew Carey is one of the most universally adored personalities in showbiz. Yet, Carey is so much more than a comic or actor and his fascinating background and rise to prominence is evidence of that.
Drew Carey served in the military for six years from 1980 to 1986. After leaving Kent State University at the beginning of the 80s, the young man decided to enlist into the United States Marine Corps.
Carey, though, is not the first celebrity to have spent his younger years in the military, in fact, A-list celebs such as Ice-T, Bea Arthur, and Chuck Norris, all served at some stage of their lives. Carey’s own experience in the military was decidedly positive and his tenure in the marines actually helped him launch his own career as a stand-up comic.
The Ohio-born Carey decided to join the military for a range of different factors. It is well documented that, as a young man, Carey struggled with depression, and following his expulsion from university, he decided that the military might end up providing the confidence he required. Reflecting on his decision to join the marines, Carey once said: “It instilled a great sense of discipline that I can call on when I need to”.
Talking about the level of discipline and confidence that he found in joining the marines, Carey also said: “If there was a fight, I would win it. If there was a problem, I could solve it… I could do it because I was a Marine, and Marines can do anything.”
But it wasn’t just a fresh attitude and a new outlook on life that Carey received from joining the military, his tenure in the marines actually provided him with a foundation in which to launch his career as a comic. As a side-hustle during his service, Carey – who was already a funny guy – decided to start making money from his jokes.
He said: “While in the Marine Reserves, I was looking for a way to make some more money… It was suggested that I try using my jokes.” It is understood that Carey was given around $10 per joke from fellow marines.
Carey – who rose to the rank of sergeant in the marines – eventually called time on his tenure in the marines in order to pursue his showbiz dreams, but his appreciation for the military remains strong. Carey once said: “I think if I did not have such a great break, I would still be in the military.
“I still wear my hair short and have the glasses. Also, I enjoyed the regimen and camaraderie. I knew that once I left the Reserves, I would give back to the military, so I teamed up with the USO [United Service Organizations].”
Life After the Military
Making inroads into the entertainment industry, Carey spent much of his time in the late ‘80s performing at comedy clubs in Cleveland and Los Angeles. And, by the early ‘90s, Carey had notched up appearances on ‘The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson’ and ‘Late Night with David Letterman’.
By the time ‘The Drew Carey Show’ – a sitcom that was a fictionalized version of Carey’s adolescence – had been developed and created, Carey was believed to be earning around $60,000 per episode. Yet, such was the success of the show, by the time it was in its last season, Carey was earning $750,000 per episode.
In 1998, while ‘The Drew Carey Show’ was still airing, Carey also began hosting the hit improv comedy show, ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’. Adapted from a UK TV show of the same name, the series featured a number of high-profile comics such as Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, and Wayne Brady.
Carey, who started every episode with the notorious opener “the show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter”, became increasingly more popular as the show became a big hit across the country.
Drew Carey’s Legacy
Carey – who is now understood to have a net worth of around $165 million – is generally considered to the “king of daytime television”, as, while many of his shows are certainly well-loved, they’re all decidedly similar in tone.
Like many celebs who start out in the military, there are question marks over whether Carey would’ve been as successful as he has been without spending his young years in the military.