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Kevin Hart: Legend on the rise

ON THE RISE: Kevin Hart

UPON THE cinematic release of Kevin Hart’s latest stand-up show Let Me Explain, one of the most notable aspects of the promotional campaign was the film’s tagline: ‘Witness the rise of a legend’.

So when invited to have a chat with the famed funnyman, it seemed fitting to ask him if he felt he had reached legendary status.

“No, I don’t think I’m a legend,” laughed the US comic as we chatted in his London hotel. “It’s funny, when the posters came out and I saw [the tagline], I was like, ‘who put ‘legend’ on there?’ It wasn’t my choice of words at all [laughs]. But it was too late, the posters were already printed up!

“But I do like the word ‘rise’ because I feel like I’m a work in progress and therefore, I don’t wanna be compared to the Richard Pryors and the Eddie Murphys and the Bill Cosbys – the legends before me. I don’t think that’s fair to those guys because they’re sitting on pedestals of their own.”

Famed for his performances in films including Think Like A Man and Soul Plane; his role in the hit reality series Real Husbands of Hollywood, which he created; and his comedy catchphrase ‘alright, alright, alright!’, Hart is equally well-known by his fans for his fearlessness in commenting on – and laughing at – his own life in his stand-up routines.

Let Me Explain saw the 34-year-old tackling extremely personal issues including his divorce in 2011 from his wife Torrei Hart, and his childhood growing up with his father, who was then a drug addict.

Hart says it’s “therapeutic” tackling his life through comedy.

“When you’re in the public eye, people often comment on your life; what you’re doing, whether you’re doing it right, all of that. Being a comedian, rather than have people form opinions and run with those opinions, I decided to put my life out there myself and be an open book. That’s where the title came from, Let Me Explain – and I just explain.

“I talk about my divorce, why [it happened], insecurities, me lying, why I lied – I just put it all out there and it’s actually quite therapeutic.

He adds: “I’m not a character, I’m a real person that others should be able to relate to. I’ve got problems just like everybody else, and at the end of the day, I can laugh at my problems – it’s really not that serious. Life is too short to wallow in negativity.”

Did his ex-wife take issue with him putting their business out there for comedy effect?

“My comedy isn’t malicious,” says Hart, who has an eight-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son. “It’s all self-deprication really; I don’t put anybody else down. I don’t put my ex-wife down or make her look bad. I always make it clear, she’s the mother of my kids – I would never make her look bad. This is about me; what I did, so no-one has the room to get an attitude about anything I say.”

Now in a relationship with Eniko Parrish who he’s been dating for four years, would Hart consider marrying again?

“My first one didn’t end well, but that doesn’t mean marriage is a bad thing. I was married young; I got married at 22 or 23. I was very young and didn’t understand the true definition of marriage or what I was really getting into. So if I were to take that step again, I would approach it differently.”

Having racked up a plethora of film roles, as well as his own stand-up shows including I'm a Grown Little Man, Seriously Funny and Laugh At My Pain, Hart has gone on to become one of contemporary America’s most well-known comedians.

FAMILY GUY: Hart with his children

Though the Philadelphia-born star is still working towards the ‘legend’ title, he says he’s noted his career progression with interest.

“I’d say my big break was probably when I did Shaq’s [Shaquille O’ Neal’s] All Star Comedy Jam, because I headlined that. I’m A Grown Little Man [Hart’s 2009 stand-up show] didn’t really launch me; it just made me a conversation sometimes. It made me what I call the ‘snap finger’ guy.

Hart proceeded to snap his fingers.

“People would be like: ‘That’s that um... you know, that um... ah, what’s his name again?’

But after All Star Comedy Jam, it was like, ‘That’s Kevin um... the comedian right?’ But the snap went away! “Now it’s the ‘oh s***’ effect. ‘Oh s***, that’s Kevin Hart!’ I’ve seen the progression and it makes me laugh.”

A gifted comedian on-stage, does Hart feel pressure to be funny whenever he meets new people?

“No, not at all. I’m naturally funny, but in real life, I’m never performing. So it’s weird to me when people just want me to make them laugh! People come up to me and be like, ‘My mama’s on the phone. She loves you! She wants to talk to you – talk to my mama!’”

Surely that’s a sign of endearment; a sweet act from appreciative fans?

“No it’s not,” Hart laughs. “Would you do that to people you don’t know? It’s weird!

“I’ve agreed to it a couple of times and when I’ve got on the phone, I’ve said, ‘Hi, it’s Kevin’ and the person at the other end was like, ‘No it’s not!’ So I’ve said to the person whose phone it is, ‘She doesn’t believe it’s me’ and they grabbed the phone and said, ‘It’s him girl, it’s really him!’

“Then they’ll turn to me and be like, ‘Say su’m so she knows it’s really you!’ At that point, I’m like, ‘This is weird – goodbye!’

“I appreciate that I get that because I’m real. People see that I’m approachable and that’s fine. But I don’t like it when it gets too weird – like when I get crazy long stories!”

Recalling such a story, Hart says: “I was in a situation where a guy told me: ‘Man, I was in the hospital visiting my brother – he got shot in the arm and his elbow was dislocated in three different places. We ate Chinese food for two hours and I told him... Kevin Hart is a funny guy!’

“Or, I had a guy tell me: ‘I was in the mall and I was looking at these pants. After I tried on the pants, the lady in the shop told me: ‘alright, alright alright!’ Man, I had to tell you that – you can use it in your material if you want to!’
Laughing, Hart added: “Those are the type of conversations I’ve had!”

Considering his hopes for the future, Hart says:

“There’s so much I wanna do. More movies and working on my company HartBeat Productions, where I’ll be writing, producing and starring in my own projects. I’m working on becoming a self-made man. I’m setting the bar high for myself and that’s the biggest challenge for me. In order to do that, you’ve gotta surround yourself with creative people; people who are constantly evolving.

“Jay Z is a good friend of mine and watching him and what he’s done is amazing. He’s still putting out amazing albums, still touring and his business ventures just get bigger and better. He’s always evolving. Kanye [West], Justin Timberlake; these are also people I’m around and when you have those examples, it encourages you to keep going.

He adds: “You don’t wanna be the guy who’s left behind! You don’t wanna be the guy that has people saying, ‘What happened? What made you fall off?’ You don’t wanna be that guy!”

Real Husbands of Hollywood saeson 2 is on every Wednesday at 10pm on BET (Sky 187, Virgin 194, Freesat 140)

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