The Stunning Transformation Of Drew Carey

Comedian Drew Carey has been a constant presence in entertainment for nearly three decades. Over the years, the funnyman has hosted game shows, acted in his own sitcom, made countless appearances on other shows, and even written a memoir. He told "20/20" (via ABC News) that the secret to his success is his relentless focus on a positive mindset. "It's all about love and kindness. Not about comparing yourself to anyone else," he said.

It's an ethos he brings to "The Price is Right," too — a show where Carey gets to meet people and give them things. "This is a really good fit. I'm really comfortable here, and it seems like I should have been doing this a long time ago," he told The Associated Press. "I wouldn't be good at this if it wasn't for all that other stuff I did." 

In other words, Carey's career has taken him to many different stops along the way. He hasn't always been so upbeat, and while "The Price Is Right" is decidedly family-friendly, Carey's comedy wasn't always so PG. Read on for a look back at the stunning transformation of Drew Carey.

Drew Carey's childhood was tough

Drew Carey's childhood was a lonely one. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1958, the youngest of three brothers. Unfortunately, his father got sick when he was young. In his memoir "Dirty Jokes and Beer" (as excerpted in a biography called "Drew Carey"), Carey wrote that his father was in the hospital frequently. "I still have very few memories of him when he wasn't sick," Carey wrote. 

His father even had an eye removed when Carey was seven. "I thought it was cool because he wore a patch," Carey recalled. The eye removal was an attempt to reach a tumor on his brain, and when Carey was eight, his father died from the tumor.

The following year, still struggling with his grief, Carey was molested. He kept the pain bottled up. "I was raised in a time [when] everyone thought that sex was dirty, and nobody talked about it, ever," Carey reflected. "... Never told a therapist, or a teacher, or a minister, or a family member." By writing about it in his book, Carey said, he could move past it.

Dealing with his loneliness after his father's death, Carey turned to television to cope. He watched sitcoms like "Bewitched" and "The Beverly Hillbillies," and he soaked up game shows, too. As a child, Carey also began to read joke books. "I'd listen to the morning radio jokes and mimic the[m] for my friends," he wrote. "I thought it would make people like me more."

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He struggled with depression in college

When Drew Carey reached Kent State, he was severely depressed. "Back then I was so full of a lot of self-hate," he told ABC News. He found himself attending fraternity parties and wondering why no one around him had as much trouble letting go and having fun as he did. "I wasn't as good as they were. I wasn't as worthy as they are," he told himself. "And all that stuff makes you just hate yourself and judge yourself."

Carey turned to drinking. "I partied all the time and stayed drunk. I would be angry a lot," he told The Baltimore Sun. "One time I punched my dashboard and broke it in two."

Eventually, Carey attempted suicide twice, seeking help after thinking about the afterlife. He told Success that he turned his life around after reading a number of self-help books. In a video for the Army (via DVIDS) about his depression, Carey reflected, "I'm the way I am now because of actions I've taken, and advice I got, and surrounding myself with positive people and positive environments. ... If you think it's weak to have somebody see a counselor, or somebody help with a problem, you're living in the '50s. Seriously. Check your watch."

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Drew Carey served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves

After Drew Carey's second suicide attempt, his brother Roger brought him back to Cleveland. A few years later, he moved to San Diego, living with his other brother, Neal. Carey was living on his brother's couch and effectively homeless when he signed up for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. 

He needed a change, and he felt that the Marines would give him the direction he was looking for. "It instilled a great sense of discipline that I can call on when I need to," he told TIME. That being said, he hedged the importance of his service to Success, claiming that he was "not really a Marine. Just the reserves. Not a big deal."

In addition to discipline, the Marines gave the budding comedian something else: a haircut that he kept for decades. He discussed his signature 'do on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," joking, "I always promised myself, I'm going to grow my hair down to my butt as soon as I get out of the Marine Corps, because I can't believe I had to keep it short all the time." 

He became interested in comedy in the last few months of his service, however, and by the time he was free to do what he wanted with his hair, his look was synonymous with his budding career. He recalled, "It caught on, and I was like, oh man, I'm stuck with this."

An appearance on The Tonight Show launched Drew Carey's career

By the time he was preparing to leave the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, Drew Carey knew he wanted to go into comedy. He had tried to tell jokes onstage before enlisting, back when he was living in Las Vegas. He told NPR that it went poorly. "I was terrible ... I didn't know how to write jokes," he said, adding he just worked with jokes he had kind of heard before and "observations that weren't funny."

"Oh my god, it was the worst ... I can't tell you how bad," he recalled, laughing. However, he realized he could make more money as an amateur comic than he was making in the Marine Corps Reserves, so that's what he did.

By 1991, Carey was successful enough that he was booked on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." Dressed in a suit, still sporting his Marine-issued glasses and haircut, Carey cracked jokes about his own appearance and living in the Midwest.

 After he finished his set, something monumental happened: Carson invited Carey over to the couch to continue the segment. The comedian would later describe that moment as akin to being saved at the Pentecostal Church he attended in his youth. "I rolled around, talked in tongues, all that stuff you hear about. And being called over to the couch by Johnny was the closest thing I ever had to that," Carey told Success. After receiving Carson's blessing, Carey knew he was destined for this life.

He became a sitcom star in the 1990s

In 1995, a few years after making his "Tonight Show" debut, Drew Carey had his very own show on primetime. "The Drew Carey Show" featured an affable version of the comedian starring as himself. He told ABC News that he wanted the show to be an "anti-'Seinfeld,'" explaining, "Every show, it's like, oh, it's in New York. Yuppies that have minor problems. This show's about one person: a dumpy white guy who lives in Cleveland."

In interviews, he took care to emphasize the separation between his real-life persona and the person he played 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," he told NPR.

The show was a ratings success, which proved to be a blessing and a curse. In a 1999 interview with Esquire, Carey fully admitted that he'd done the show for one specific reason. "I did this all for the money, you know," he confessed. "I think it's to my detriment. I think I've changed in certain ways I don't like." 

Contractual obligations kept the show on the air long past its creative expiration date, according to The Tampa Bay Times; it would last until 2004. "I only tried to do a good show," Carey said. "After that, it's out of my hands."

Drew Carey helmed Whose Line Is It Anyway?

In 1998, several years into the run of "The Drew Carey Show," the comedian got a new gig. He and Ryan Stiles, his "Drew Carey Show" co-star, helped launch an American version of the popular UK improv show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" 

In each episode, Carey led a guest and the regular cast (which included future 'Let's Make a Deal' host Wayne Brady and comedian Colin Mochrie) through a series of improvised games, awarding points at random when things made him laugh. In each episode, Carey introduced "Whose Line" as "the show where everything's made up and the points don't matter."

It seems that the points weren't the only thing that didn't matter; being on the show itself wasn't even the main draw for the cast. Instead, it was their love of the improv craft. They all regularly appeared at the Improv in Hollywood when they weren't filming, including Carey himself. "If we weren't getting paid doing 'Whose Line,' we'd do it in clubs anyway for free," Stiles told Guy MacPherson.

With Carey behind the host's desk, "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" ran until 2007. It was later revived with much of the original cast, sans Carey as Aisha Tyler took over hosting duties. Still, the comedian told The Washington Post in 2014 that he still got recognized for that show the most. "I think 'Whose Line' is always going to be around forever and ever," he reflected. "I knew when I was doing that show, it would be my legacy show."

He ditched his trademark glasses in 2000 ... then kept them

When Drew Carey got famous, he regularly wore a pair of thick-rimmed glasses. The look became a bit of a trademark for the comedian, and he wore them not just in his personal life but as the character named after himself on "The Drew Carey Show." 

However, in 2000, Carey decided to make a change. He got LASIK surgery to correct his vision after an experience that made him realize he was tired of the glasses that had become his signature. "I had just been scuba diving on vacation and couldn't wear my glasses with the scuba gear," he said in a testimonial for The Maloney-Shamie Vision Institute. "I was getting tired of being denied all this stuff."

The surgery meant that Carey no longer needed his glasses, but he continued to wear them in public anyway, using clear lenses so that audiences wouldn't be confused by the change in his look. "The two bad things about me getting LASIK surgery that I realized were that (a), I have a whole career built on me wearing these black horn-rim glasses," he joked at a network party, according to The Houston Chronicle. "The second bad thing about it is I can see myself naked in the shower now." Carey added that he had taken up sailing since making the change and that contrary to reports in The National Enquirer, he had not done it to become a "babe magnet." 

Drew Carey wasn't ready to rumble

Drew Carey: actor, comedian, host ... professional wrestler? In 2001, Carey participated in the WWE's Royal Rumble ... sort of. After a jokey bit that saw him survive in the match as the other two competitors knocked themselves out of the ring, Carey appeared shocked when Kane entered the arena. 

"I don't think Drew really understands what he's gotten into here tonight!" one of the commentators warned (via YouTube). "The Big Red Machine's a carnivore, and Drew Carey's a porkchop!" Sure enough, after Kane lifted Carey up by the throat, he quickly fled the ring. We hope we're not crushing any dreams by saying outright: Wrestling is fake, folks!

Even though his bout at the Royal Rumble ended in shame, Carey was nevertheless inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2011. He was even introduced by his former rival, Kane. The wrestler bragged about having eliminated eleven competitors at the 2001 Royal Rumble, complaining (via YouTube), "The day after the Royal Rumble, was everybody talking about my accomplishment? What I had done? No. Everybody was talking about Drew Carey. Drew Carey stole my spotlight." 

In his acceptance speech (via YouTube), Carey joked, "I'm so excited about my experience here, I'm thinking about changing my name back to Dwayne Johnson!" 

The comedian has a surprising side gig

In the mid-2000s, perhaps thanks in part to his new and improved eyesight, Drew Carey picked up a surprising side gig: sports photography. A reporter for the German newspaper Der Spiegel recognized him at the 2006 World Cup and asked what he was doing on the sidelines, taking pictures with the other photographers. "I found out that, for some reason, I'm really good at taking sports photos," Carey explained. 

He told U.S. National Soccer Players that he was a fan first before he was a photographer. "I needed an excuse to be on the field for games," he joked. "Photography seemed like as good an excuse as any."

Sure enough, Carey became a regular sports photographer, frequently photographing soccer games in Los Angeles. He bragged to Contact Music, "Being a celebrity, you always get good seats to sporting events, but you never get seats as good as the photographers get." Carey's photos were so good, in fact, that he sold many to wire services under a pseudonym.

While Carey did take some time off from comedy to pursue photography, he hoped his passions would be able to coexist. He told TIME in 2007 that his schedule was becoming cramped, and he didn't want to do his sports photography a disservice. "You can't do it once a year for fun and expect to do a good job," he said. "And I take pride in what I do."

Drew Carey took over for Bob Barker in 2007

In 2007, longtime host Bob Barker retired from "The Price is Right," and Drew Carey got the job as his replacement. At first, he wasn't interested in stepping into such an iconic role. "I thought, 'Never take over for a legend because people just treat you badly.' It is kind of like marrying a mom with a 15-year-old who keeps saying, 'You're not my dad,'" Carey explained to TIME. CBS kept asking, however, and when Carey realized that his job would be to give out prizes, he decided to go for it. "That isn't a job," he said. "That's a good time."

When Carey took over, he focused on keeping things the same. He still signs off each episode with a reminder to spay and neuter your pets, and the game still functions much as it did when Barker was at the helm. Carey told Reason that they made only a few tweaks to modernize the show, like using a cordless microphone, unlike his predecessor. "And then this year is the first year 'The Price is Right' theme song is in stereo," he laughed. "Can you believe it?"

The job seems to have agreed with Carey. In 2023, he celebrated 15 years at the show, remaining humble in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. The contestants were the draw, he said, not him. "It's just average people having the best day of their lives. That's the secret sauce of the whole show," he said.

Drew Carey's weight loss

One need only look at old headlines about Drew Carey to see how he was perceived by the press. An Esquire profile, for example, was titled "Fat Guy From Cleveland Walks Into a Bar ..." Carey's weight also was a frequent punchline on "Whose Line is it Anyway?" In a 2010 interview with Parade, however — bluntly titled "Drew Carey: No More Mr. Fat Guy" — the comedian revealed he was on a weight loss journey.

Carey told the outlet that he had started to experience negative side effects of his weight, so he looked to make a change. "You can only wear fat clothes, you don't feel good, your sex life gets damaged, you don't have energy for anything," he recounted.

Instead, he focused on changing his relationship to food and alcohol. He told Success that he focused on eating healthy rather than just "consuming calories," and as a result, he not only lost weight but gained energy. "I went to Africa and hiked around and never got tired," Carey said. The change in his lifestyle also helped at work, where he was able to get through a whole day of taping on his feet. Nevertheless, Carey revealed that he wasn't too hard on himself. "I was at a wedding on Saturday, and I ate cake," he said. "I'm not a maniac about it."

Drew Carey competed on Dancing with the Stars

In 2014, Drew Carey joined the cast of the 18th season of "Dancing With the Stars," paired with Cheryl Burke as his dance pro. Carey had been focusing on his health in recent years, and he found the overall level of exercise required for the show to be less intense than he expected. He told The Washington Post, "Physically, it's not as demanding as I thought; like, I haven't lost any weight. I was already good aerobic-wise." 

Still, Carey admitted that he struggled with learning the correct moves. "Being able to hold my hands exactly right; my posture's pretty bad as far as keeping the frame; memorizing all the steps. That's really difficult to do every week," he confessed. 

A dance to Rick James' "Super Freak" proved to be Carey's undoing, and he was eliminated. Carey seemed moved by the connections he'd made with other contestants. "Everybody's so nice. There's a really good spirit here and a really good friendship and community," he said after his elimination (via The Daily Mail). 

Carey told TODAY that he had one major regret. While he was training for "Dancing With the Stars," Carey continued hosting "The Price is Right" at the same time. "It killed me. If I were to do it all over again, I would have asked for a hiatus from 'Price Is Right,'" he said. "I think I did pretty good for a guy who's never danced before."

The tragic murder of Drew Carey's ex-fiancée Amie Harwick

Though he's been in a number of long-term relationships, Drew Carey has never been married. In early 2012, he called off an engagement to Nicole Jaracz; they were engaged in 2007. "He and Nicole still have a great deal of love and affection for one another," a representative told People at the time.

His next major relationship was with writer and therapist Dr. Amie Harwick, author of "The New Sex Bible For Women." They got engaged in January 2018, according to People. However, Us Weekly reported later that year that they'd gone their separate ways.

In early 2020, Harwick was murdered. An ex-boyfriend named Gareth Pursehouse was charged and ultimately convicted of killing her. Carey opened up about his loss in an interview with "48 Hours" (via USA Today), emphasizing that he was heartbroken over her death. "I feel like a widower, you know, in a lot of ways, because I wanted to marry her, and then we had this horrible breakup," he said.

Thankfully, they briefly spoke over text messages shortly before her death. "'Hey, I know we haven't talked in a while, but I've been doing a lot of thinking about, you know, forgiveness, and I would love to get together with you and talk,'" Harwick wrote. "And I said, 'Yeah, I would love to do that. I love you,'" Carey recalled. The in-person conversation would never happen; she would be killed two days later.

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During the writers strike, Drew Carey supported the union

After the COVID-19 pandemic, Drew Carey debuted a new look: a beard and longer hair. He also did a very good deed.

In 2023, the Writers Guild of America went on strike, hoping to pressure Hollywood studios into supporting a more fair payment deal than they had previously been working under. In order to support the union, Drew Carey sent out a message on Twitter, alerting his fellow writers that he had their backs. Shouting out two restaurants in Los Angeles — Swingers Diner and Bob's Big Boy — Carey wrote, "Your meal is free. For the duration of the strike. Dine-in only, Tip included."

The initial message wasn't clear, but what Carey meant was that he was the one who had volunteered to pick up the tab. Any card-carrying WGA union member had their meal paid for, including tip, by the former "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" host. The strike ended in October, after 146 days of picketing. According to the marketing manager at Bob's Big Boy, as reported by Strikegeist, Carey ended up shelling out somewhere between $400,000 and $600,000 at that one restaurant. His Swingers total was unclear.

News spread online about Carey's generosity, and many striking union members were grateful for the funnyman's help during hard times. "If you ever see Drew Carey in a restaurant, sneak his server your credit card," the Twitter account for Beyond Fest, a Los Angeles film festival, advised. "He should never pay for another meal in his life."