The King of Queens
Comedian and Emmy nominated actor Kevin James is familiar among TV viewers as Doug Heffernan, a delivery man and truck driver, on the long-running CBS sitcom “The King of Queens” (1998-2007). Starting out in the stand-up circuit before getting parts on shows like “Everybody Loves Raymond,” James later transitioned into films and has starred in the comedy films “Hitch” (2005), “Grilled” (2006) and “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” (2007). He also lent his voice to the computer-animated films “Monster House” (2006) and “Barnyard” (2006).
The successful stand-up comedian who was discovered at the 1996 Montreal Comedy Festival and was inspired by comedic idols such as Robert Klein and Jerry Seinfeld, starred in "Sweat the Small Stuff," a one-hour special for Comedy Central in 2001. He was one of Comedy Central's “The 100 Greatest Standups of All Time” and Entertainment Weekly's “The 100 Most Creative People in Entertainment” (2001).
On a more personal note, the 5' 10” funnyman who lost over 40 pounds in the summer of 2003, has been married to model Steffiana De La Cruz since 2004 and has two daughters with her.
Childhood and Family:
Born in Mineola, New York, on April 26, 1965, Kevin George Knipfing was raised in Stony Brook, New York. His father, Joseph Valentine Knipfing, was an insurance broker and his mother, Janet Knipfing, is a devoted housewife who only worked occasionally in a chiropractor's office when necessary to support the family. The 2005-2006 season finale of “The King of Queens” was dedicated to the memory of Kevin's father, who died in 2006.
The middle child of the family, Kevin has one older brother, Gary Joseph Knipfing (aka. Gary Valentine, comedian; born on November 22, 1961) and one younger sister, Leslie Knipfing (born in 1967). Leslie works for Kevin and Gary and raises money through charity events for retinitis pigmentosa, with which she is afflicted.
Kevin graduated from Ward Melville High School, in Long Island, New York, in 1983. He then studied sports management at State University of New York at Cortland where he played fullback on the football team and was a member of the Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity. Kevin later dropped out to work in community theater and with various improvisational groups.
On June 19, 2004, Kevin married his long-time girlfriend, model Steffiana De La Cruz. The couple, who first met on a blind date arranged by his interior decorator, has two daughters, Sienna-Marie James (born on September 30, 2005) and Shea Joelle James (born on June 14, 2007). Kevin named his second daughter after Shea Stadium saying, “I honestly, honestly did. I have been a Mets fan my whole life and have such good memories of going to Shea Stadium.”
He introduced Shea on the morning talk show program “Live! With Regis and Kelly” on July 20, 2007. Kevin's wife Steffiana De La Cruz has also appeared in small roles in 4 episodes of his sitcom "The King of Queens."
Kevin trains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and one of his wrestling teammates at Ward Melville High School was future WWE star and author Mick Foley (Mankind). He also attended Cortland University with Mick Foley. Kevin is also a corner man for mixed martial arts legend Bas Ruten.
An avid fan of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and an avid golfer, Kevin is also a New York Jets and a New York Mets fan. He currently resides in Los Angeles.
Sweat the Small Stuff
After dropping out from State University of New York at Cortland, Kevin James went to sharpen his talents as an entertainer in community theater and with various improvisational groups. He began going to clubs with his brother Gary before eventually making his own stand-up debut at Manhattan's East Side Comedy Club in 1989. After performing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” James' big break came in 1996 when he won at the Just for Laughs Montreal Comedy Festival.
Following his victory at the festival, James was signed to appear on Ray Romano's fledgling sitcom on CBS, "Everybody Loves Raymond," from 1996 to 1999. Meanwhile, he was also spotted as a guest in an episode of CBS’ Emmy-winning sitcom "Cosby," CBS’ crime/action series "Martial Law," and CBS’ sitcom "Becker." James, a regular performer on the long-running TV series “Candid Camera,” also hosted The All-American Thanksgiving Parade in 1998 as well as served as a presenter at the 1999 People's Choice Awards and The 42nd Annual Grammy Awards (all on CBS).
In 1998, James received his own sitcom, "The King of Queens," in which he starred as Doug Heffernan, a delivery man and a truck driver, a character which he also played on episodes of "Everybody Loves Raymond." Other cast members include Leah Remini as his sharp-tongued wife Carrie and Jerry Stiller as Carrie's semi-psychotic father who lives in the Heffernans' basement.
James' performance was awarded an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 2006. Debuting on CBS on September 21, 1998, "The King of Queens" had its final episode aired on May 14, 2007, which made the blue-collar sitcom one of the longest-running sitcoms of the 1990s.
Being asked about the hardest thing when "The King of Queens" was over after nine seasons, James revealed, “Saying goodbye to my family there who I keep in my life still and will see from time to time, but it’s not on a daily basis. These are the people that really, really become your family, along with your real family. You actually see them more. It’s tough to not work with somebody or see them every day after you’ve seen them constantly and hanged out with them all the time.”
During his hefty nine-year stint on "The King of Queens," James hosted the Florida Sports Awards, the official sports award show for the state of Florida, which raises funds for the Otis F. Smith Foundation, in June 1999 and 2000. In 2001, he did his own stand-up comedy special called “Kevin James: Sweat the Small Stuff” for Comedy Central.
James later tried his talent in feature films. He played a small part as a factory worker in Peter Segal's romantic comedy “50 First Dates” (2004; starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore), before landing a co-starring role as Albert, a nerdy financial consultant and Will Smith's clumsy client who is smitten with a wealthy and powerful celebrity (played by Amber Valletta), in another romantic comedy film, “Hitch” (2005), directed by Andy Tennant. “Hitch” earned James two nominations at the Teen Choice Awards, which he shared with co-star Will Smith.
James recalled, "It [Hitch] was fun because after shooting, Will [Smith] and I would eat a jar of pickles and tell each other secrets. It was so much fun!"
In 2006, James' voice could be heard in Gil Kenan's Academy Award nominated computer animated suspense film "Monster House," as Officer Landers, and in Steve Oedekerk's computer animated film "Barnyard," in which he lent his voice to the lead character Otis the Cow. He also co-starred with Ray Romano as door-to-door meat salesmen in the direct-to-video released comedy film "Grilled."
Moviegoers recently saw James co-star with Adam Sandler in Dennis Dugan's comedy film "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" (2007). In the film, he played Larry, a single father trying to raise a daughter and an effeminate son who had to “marry” his best friend Chuck (played by Sandler) to save his life.
Next, James is expected to co-write (with Nick Bakay), produce and star in the Sony comedy film titled "Mall Cop," which will focus on a mall security guard whose life gets an unexpected dose of action when a band of thieves tries to hijack the mall.