An everyman comic who shot to stardom thanks to a series of guest appearances on friend and fellow funnyman Ray Romano's popular sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, Kevin James wasn't exactly the class clown fans might assume during his formative years. Though his healthy sense of humor did help the Mineola, Long Island native to make plenty of friends while growing up, it wasn't until he took a public speaking class in college that James truly discovered the power of laughter. The son of an insurance agent and a devoted housewife who only worked off-jobs when necessary to support the family, James majored in sports management at State University of New York at Cortland before dropping out to hone his talents as an entertainer in community theater and various improvisational groups.
Subsequently following his older brother to the standup stage, James made his debut at Manhattan's East Side Comedy Club in 1989 to surprising, if not predictable, results. Though James made a killing his first night, a disheartening appearance the following night with the very same material and a whole new crowd would teach the aspiring comic an important lesson in failure. Undaunted by his death on-stage and determined to roll with the punches, James quickly learned that the unpredictable world of standup comedy was filled with as many ups as it was downs. His survival instinct ended up serving him well; a fateful set at the 1996 Montreal Comedy Festival became the defining performance of his early career. James was soon signed to appear on Romano's fledgling sitcom in addition to receiving his very own development deal. In 1998, The King of Queens debuted to healthy ratings. A blue-collar sitcom that countless viewers could relate to, The King of Queens detailed the life of a hapless postal carrier who shares his Queens, NY home his wife, Carrie (Leah Remini), and her eccentric father, Arthur (Jerry Stiller). With success on the small screen soon prompting James to try his talent in feature films, a supporting role in 50 First Dates and a co-starring role opposite Will Smith in Hitch found the television favorite's amiable humor translating well to the big screen. A team effort with longtime friend Romano would result in the straight-to-video comedy Grilled in 2006, with subsequent voice work in the animated family comedies Monster House and Barnyard arriving in theaters later that same year.
James would maintain his position as a go-to guy for family friendly comedy over the coming years, appearing in films like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Grown Ups, and Zookeeper and providing a voice in Hotel Transylvania. James then reprised his roles in Grown Ups 2, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 and Hotel Transylvania 2, while also appearing in Pixels, opposite his frequent co-star Adam Sandler.