Why Drew Carey Initially Turned Down “The Price Is Right ”Hosting Gig — and What Eventually Changed His Mind (Exclusive)

The comedian explains to PEOPLE why he ultimately succeeded Bob Barker on the iconic game show

<p>Sonja Flemming/CBS</p> Drew Carey on

Sonja Flemming/CBS

Drew Carey on 'The Price is Right.'

When Drew Carey was approached to host The Price Is Right in 2007, he was semi-retired and less than enthusiastic about returning to full-time after nine seasons starring on The Drew Carey Show.

“I said, f--- no,” the comedian tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I just wanted to be able to do things that were fun and interesting instead of having a 'job-job' or something I had to do every day, because I just had, after being on The Drew Carey Show and everything, I was done with the idea of just being on a show forever.”

But the comedian, 65, was eager to buy a Major League Soccer team — or at least become part-owner of one.

“I knew how much money it was going to take for that to happen,” he explains. “Then one of the show’s producers asked me what my favorite thing to do was. I go, ‘I love leaving big tips when I go to restaurants.’ ‘Well, if you work on The Price Is Right, you’ll be able to do that all the time for a living,’ they said. ‘Just give out things.’ That was the light bulb that went off in my head.”

Related: The Price Is Right's Drew Carey Reveals How Bob Barker's Calm 'Demeanor' Inspired His Approach to Hosting

<p>Michael Yarish/CBS</p> Drew Carey on 'The Price is Right.'

Michael Yarish/CBS

Drew Carey on 'The Price is Right.'

“I could just make a living giving prizes to people and being around happy people all day,” Carey continues. “I met [my agent] at a steakhouse. … And I go, 'I think I want to be the host of The Price is Right.' He shook my hand and goes, ‘Well, there’s your soccer money.’”

Since succeeding Bob Barker as the show’s emcee, the comedian has gotten what he asked for: part ownership in soccer’s Seattle Sounders FC — and the ability to make people happy by giving away exotic trips, sports cars and other lavish prizes.

He also eventually gave The Price Is Right his own twist: a new set, logo and theme music. But he still ends every episode by reminding viewers to get their pets spayed or neutered — a tribute to Barker, who wrapped each episode with the same line.

To Carey, Barker was a superstar. “When you’re at an animal rights event and Bob Barker showed up, you might as well not even have been there, because Bob’s the king of the room,” he says. “He walked in, and it was almost like he was walking out onstage.”

Related: Drew Carey Will Perform a Mass Wedding on Friday's 'The Price is Right'

<p>Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty</p> Drew Carey with Bob Barker on 'The Price is Right' in 2013.

Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty

Drew Carey with Bob Barker on 'The Price is Right' in 2013.

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Now, Carey understands hosting the iconic game show means he’ll be closely identified with it for the rest of his career.

"My lawyer told me, ‘You know, once you do this, that’s going to be it for the rest of your life. This is what you’re going to be known for,’" Carey recalls, adding, “I’m cool with that."

For more on Drew Carey, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here

The Price Is Right airs weekdays at 11 a.m. ET on CBS. 

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