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 mic contest, he became Master of Ceremonies at the Cleveland Comedy Club. He performed at comedy clubs over the next few years in Cleveland and Los Angeles. He first came to the national eye as a comedian when he competed in the 1988 Star Search. Carey was working as a stand-up comedian when he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in November 1991. His performance that night impressed Carson, who invited Carey to the couch next to his desk; this was considered a rare honor for any comedian. In that same year, Carey 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, Drew Carey: Human Cartoon, which aired on Showtime and won a CableACE Award for Best Writing.