When he was only eight years of age, Drew's father died from a brain tumor. He played the cornet and trumpet in the marching band of James Ford Rhodes High School, from which he graduated in 1975. After graduating from High School, Carey continued on to college at Kent State University (KSU) but was expelled twice for poor academic performance. He left KSU after three years, but not before becoming a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. After growing tired of the college life, Drew left the university and enlisted into the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 1980 and served a six year stint. He relocated to Las Vegas for a few months in 1982, and for a short time worked as a bank teller and a waiter at Denny's.
After serving in the U.S. Marines and holding down small paying jobs to make a living, Drew found a new passion in life: Stand-Up Comedy. In 1985, he began his comedy career by following up on a suggestion by David Lawrence (a disc jockey friend who had been paying Drew to write jokes for David's radio show in Cleveland) to go to the library and borrow books on how to write jokes. The following year, after winning an open-microphone contest, he became Master of Ceremonies at the Cleveland Comedy Club. He performed at multiple comedy clubs over the next few years in both Cleveland and Los Angeles.
Carey first gained fame as a comedian when he competed on the talent show Star Search in 1987. Drew then worked as a stand-up comedian when he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in November 1991. Carson was impressed with Drew's comedic talents and invited him to sit on the couch next to his desk which was considered a rare honor for any comedian. Later that year, Drew joined the 14th Annual Young Comedians Special on HBO and made his first appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. In 1994, Carey wrote his own stand-up comedy special which aired on Showtime, entitled Drew Carey: Human Cartoon, for which he won a Cable-ACE Award for Best Writing.
Following on the success of his early stand-up career, Drew subsequently appeared in a number of supporting roles on television shows, during which he developed the character of a hapless middle-class bachelor. In 1993, Carey had a small role in the film Cone-heads as a taxi passenger. Turning his attention to television, in 1994, Carey co-starred with John Caponera in The Good Life, a short-lived sitcom that aired on NBC. After the show's cancellation, Carey joined up with writer Bruce Helford (who was also a writer for The Good Life), who gave Carey a job as a consultant for the television show Someone Like Me.
After their stint on Someone Like Me, Carey and Helford developed and produced the storyline for The Drew Carey Show. The sitcom revolved around a fictionalized version of Carey, as he took on the stresses of life and work with his group of childhood friends. Premiering on September 13, 1995 on ABC to positive reviews and powerhouse ratings. In his autobiography, Drew revealed his frustration with having to deal with censors and being unable to employ the off-color humor common in his stand-up routines. He initially earned $60,000 per episode in the first seasons, then renegotiated for $300,000. By the final season, he was earning $750,000 per episode. After its first few seasons, ratings for The Drew Carey Show began to decline, mostly because of increasing production costs (around $3 million per episode) precipitating its cancellation. The show had a total of 233 episodes over its nine-year run and Carey was one of four actors to appear in every episode (the other three being co-stars Kathy Kinney, Diedrich Bader, and Ryan Stiles).
While still starring in The Drew Carey Show, Drew then began to pull double duty as he began hosting the American version of the improvisational comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? beginning in 1998. Also onboard was his sitcom co-star Ryan Stiles, who served as the roast-master. Carey would announce the improv guests, direct the games, and then would usually involve himself in the final game of the episode. The show ran for a total of 220 episodes until the show's cancellation in 2006. Also In 1998, the New York Friars' Club made Carey the newest inductee of the group's Comedy Central Roast. Drew's income from Whose Line Is It Anyway? and The Drew Carey Show led to his inclusion on the Forbes list of highest-paid entertainers of 1998, at 24th with $45.5 million.
For the WB's 2004-2005 prime time schedule, Drew co-produced and starred in Drew Carey's Green Screen Show, a spin-off of Whose Line Is It Anyway?. The comedy sketch program was quickly canceled by the WB network but was picked up shortly afterward by Comedy Central. The show's premise relied on the use of a green screen for all of the actors' improv interactions. Animation on the screen was inserted during post-production.
Beginning in 2007, Carey added a new occupation to his long-standing resume: Game Show Host. He first beginning his Game Show hosting gig by hosting the CBS game show pilot Power of 10. The show received a positive response from TV critics and ran from August 7, 2007 to April 7, 2008 airing twice weekly during the late summer and early fall. Each game featured contestants predicting how a cross-section of Americans responded to questions covering a wide variety of topics in polls conducted by CBS.
After taping the pilot episode for Power of 10, Drew was then contacted by CBS about replacing the retiring Bob Barker on The Price is Right, Drew originally said no the opportunity. But after thinking it over, Drew was approached by CBS execs again and decided to give it a shot as he announced it on Late Show with David Letterman that he would succeed Barker as host of the program beginning in the fall of 2007.
Carey taped his very first episode of The Price is Right on August 15 and his first week of shows aired nationally on the week of October 15-19, 2007 (originally scheduled to air on October 30, October 15, November 6, October 26, and November 22, respectively). In response to replacing Barker as host of the game show, Carey stated "You can't replace Bob Barker. I don't compare myself to anybody... It's only about what you're doing and supposed to do, and I feel like I'm supposed to be doing this."
When Drew began hosting, the show went in for a major overhaul as the set and it's iconic theme music were updated but the one thing that didn't change was the old closing line about spaying and neutering the pets, originated with Barker, although Carey's version uses slightly different wording.
When Drew entered his second year as host of The Price is Right (2008-09, Season 37), he wanted to add his own special touch to the show. He began to write some showcase sketches which he called "Drew-cases". This change unfortunately did not sit well with the fans with the biggest reasoning being the show's then-current announcer Rich Fields was the frequent subject on the majority of the "Drew-cases" which made him look like either a complete jerk or a joke and as a result, the "Drew-cases" were quickly dropped.
In April 2011, Carey began hosting a new primetime improv show, called Drew Carey's Improv-A-Ganza which reunited him with Rich Fields (as the announcer) after being dumped from Price in 2010. The improv-sketch show was filmed at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada and aired on the Game Show Network beginning on April 11. The show took on the premise of Whose Line? and Drew Carey's Green Screen Show in that it features many of the same performers from both shows and they do improv based on audience-provided suggestions. Aside from being reunited with ex-Price announcer Rich Fields, Carey was also reunited with his Drew Carey Show co-stars Kathy Kinney and Ryan Stiles, both of whom appeared frequently. Also on board was Let's Make a Deal's Jonathan Magmum and comedians Jeff Davis and Brad Sherwood, both of whom appeared as intern announcers on The Price is Right. Drew Carey's Improv-A-Ganza was axed after one season due to poor ratings and the program quickly disappeared from the Game Show Network lineup.
Drew also competed in the 2014 season of ABC's Dancing With the Stars, he was eliminated during Week 6, ending the competition in 8th place.
Away from all the hosting and comedy gigs, Drew also settled in for a family life. He was previously engaged to be married to Nicole Jaracz, whom has a son named Connor from a previous relationship and Drew became a father figure to. Nicole and Drew have no children together. Nicole and her son have appeared alongside Carey on The Price is Right several times. Although he proposed to Jaracz in 2007, the pair never wed as the engagement was called off in January 2012.
On the April 1, 2013 episode of The Price is Right, Drew and announcer George Gray switched places with the show's models as they rotated between hosting and announcing duties while Drew and George modeled the prizes and each modeled their own showcase.
Today, Carey continues on with The Price is Right as he enters his 10th year as host as well as continuing to perform stand up comedy routines across the country.