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Wayne Brady balances financial, artistic freedom

Wayne BradyWayne Brady is fast on his way to becoming the hardest-working man in show business.

A paid entertainer since 16, Brady currently has three shows on network television -- a figure even Regis would find intimidating.

Brady, now 29, grew up in Orlando, Fla., where he did plays and trained in improv with the Sak Theater Company. Eventually, Brady began performing in musical and dramatic theater in Las Vegas and even on cruise ships, which was great training for dealing with audiences in an impromptu manner. He often was called upon to stall when acts were running late, or to pacify and entertain audiences when the shows just flat out stunk.

Brady moved to Los Angeles in 1996, doing theater and landing guest spots on TV shows such as "I'll Fly Away," "Home Court," and "In the Heat of the Night."

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This led to hosting gigs on shows such as VH1's "Vinyl Justice," KABC's "Countdown to the American Music Awards," and "Safe Night." In 1997, Brady was cast in the British version of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" and in 1998 he joined the American, Drew Carey-hosted version. His profile greatly increased, his career took off immediately. He quickly became a show favorite, even garnering a 2001 Emmy nomination.

Whose Line led to Wayne getting his own show on ABC.

"The Wayne Brady Show" is a full blown, old fashioned variety show. Wayne and crew do comedic skits, musical numbers and improv with the participation of both the audience and celebrity guests.

The success of that show has led to Wayne getting his third show. His new endeavor, as yet untitled, is a daytime talk/variety show set to premiere in August 2002, and which Brady says will combine celebrity chat with the same type of raucous entertainment audiences have come to appreciate on his current show -- which is also set to continue.

Bankrate spoke to Brady about the finances of his career in show business.

BANKRATE.COM: Was doing the kind of shows you are now doing always a goal of yours? Or are these just opportunities that presented themselves?

WAYNE BRADY: They are opportunities that came up, and I said yes because I looked at the marketplace. When I first started doing (the American) Whose Line in 1998, I got offered a development deal. But I started to get a fan base because of Whose Line, and people liked me not because of a character that I play, a wacky neighbor, but because they want Wayne. So for me to have accepted a sitcom role, and taken on a character that may have turned people off because it wasn't me, that didn't make any sense. What did make sense was a personality-driven vehicle. So that's what I tried to develop.

Bankrate: So you turned down numerous offers for sitcoms, then?

Brady: Yes, sir.

Bankrate: Was that a scary turndown?

Brady: When someone sticks a huge amount of money in your face, of course it's a frightening proposition, but you have to make a choice. I took the long term over the short term. If you get a bunch of money one day but don't have a superior product, then that money will run out, and your reputation will be tarnished. Your work won't be respected, and you won't generate any more money. So I said, "What do I need to do to stick around?"

Bankrate: How much money did you turn away?

Brady: I can't tell you that. C'mon. But I'd like to think it has come back to me and more.

Bankrate: So many performers go through a starving artist phase at the beginning of their career. Did you?

Brady: I've been doing this since I was 16. Doing cruise ships and road shows was waiting tables for me. Did I have bad gigs? Did I have to eat macaroni and cheese? Oh yeah. But I've been very fortunate in that I've always worked in the profession that I wanted to work in. I never waited tables, and never had to take a day job.

Bankrate: When did things begin to turn around for you financially?

Brady: The beginning of Whose Line -- locking into a good network gig. But even to that point ... am I well off? Yeah. Am I rich? No. You still have to work and hope you reach a point where you have financial freedom. So I'm well off, and I enjoy it, and I'm going to keep on busting my butt because no matter how well you think you're doing and everything is great, everyone hits a rough spot. I would like to be prepared for the rough spot, so I don't rest.

Bankrate: Are you the investing type?

Brady: Yes.

Bankrate: Do you follow the market?

Brady: I don't follow the market; my business manager does. He checks in with me. I've become a little more involved because I know the state of the market right now. So we have talked, and have a financial plan. I told him the first time I met with him a few years ago, "I just want to get to a place where I can take care of my family. I know that the way to do that is through investments, so help me make those investments." And he's done a really good job of steering and navigating his way through the financial muck that is the market right now.

Bankrate: Did you take a hit like everyone else?

Brady: I took a hit, but I don't think I took an incredibly huge one. We pulled out of certain stocks and transferred into two other funds and kind of protected me.

Bankrate: So you got out of certain stocks just in time.

Brady: Very much so.

Bankrate: What stocks did you get out of?

Brady: I can't tell you the specific ones. All I know is that when things looked like they were heading south, we had an emergency meeting and said OK, I know we're going to have to bail out of certain ones, and I know I'm going to take a hit, but let's minimize the damage to the ship, as it were.

Bankrate: Have you been partial to any particular sector?

Brady: I was partial to techs only because I'm a big video game fan and a big electronics geek, so I love anything dealing with the electronic sector. So some of my first investments were SONY and Nintendo. But I think the ones that really did well for me were pharmaceuticals and the health market.

Bankrate: Is that where you're concentrating on now?

Brady: Yes.

-- Posted: April 1, 2002

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