Eric Rhone knows a thing or two about funny business—emphasis on business. The St. Louis-based entertainment mogul built his career working with his long-time friend Cedric Kyles, better known as Cedric the Entertainer. From booking gigs on HBO’s Comedy Def Jam to launching television series, Rhone turned managing fun into a successful career.
When did you decide to make the leap into entertainment?
That happened in 1994. I was working at Monsanto, and Cedric had just landed a job hosting BET’s ComicView. We knew it was time to decide if we would leave our corporate jobs and really commit to entertainment. I actually quit and immediately drove to Los Angeles.
What was it like getting a foothold in the industry?
There wasn’t the social media that people have now to build their careers and establish their brands. In 1994, you literally had to knock on people’s doors and introduce yourself to important people. Today, networking skills like that are still important, but they are supported by technology. You don’t always have to be in people’s faces.
Do you contribute to Cedric’s jokes?
Just through conversion. Most of Cedric’s material comes from experiences and observations that he’s able to craft into digestible jokes. It’s an incredible skill.
How do you deal with the fakeness of Hollywood?
There are fake people everywhere.
I think Hollywood gets a bad reputation because it attracts people from all over. You can reinvent yourself because no one knows you. I don’t think of Hollywood as particularly fake because I don’t surround myself with fake people. It’s about who you’re with, not where you are.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Giving opportunities to people. There are so many people who want to be a part of this business, whether it’s in front of or behind the camera. It’s very rewarding to help people pursue their dreams. However, it also can be the most difficult part of my job. Sometimes, people fumble their opportunity or don’t measure up to expectations. You have to be able to navigate that and manage disappointment.
Why do you continue to call St. Louis home?
I never intended to raise a family in Los Angeles. I saw it as an opportunity to establish a business, but St. Louis is my base. It’s a great city with great people. I like to say that each citizen is one degree of separation from each other—you can find ways to connect with everyone. St. Louis also offers benefits from a business standpoint. It’s in the middle of the country, so I can essentially get anywhere I need to be in three hours. Traveling from Los Angeles to New York takes a whole day.
You’re a golfer. Who’s the best golfer you’ve played with?
Ozzie Smith. Baseball players have that hand-eye coordination. They can hit a ball going 90 miles per hour, so just imagine what they can do with one that’s sitting on a tee.
Favorite place to travel for leisure.
Name a place that’s not likely to see Eric Rhone again.
Other than Cedric, who’s the funniest person you’ve seen?
Eddie Murphy—he’s the GOAT. There’s nobody funnier than him.