Photos by Michael Letterlough, Jr.
Kevin Hart didn’t have the dream of one day becoming a great comedian. He didn’t sit back and watch Comic videos and say “Hey, that’s gonna be me one day.” Actually, He had no ambition of being a comedian at all. On the contrary, he fell into comedy by “just being the asshole”. While working as a shoe salesman in Philadelphia, Kevin was just himself, always laughing and making people laugh. It wasn’t that he was telling his co-workers and customers jokes, he was just a quick-witted, personable, and funny guy with great stories. So his co-workers convinced him to enter into an amateur contest at ‘The Laff House’ on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. renowned for the comedy shows. Not only did he win 7 times in a row, but he also fell in love with the art and the comedic giant was awakened.
“I did well but I wasn’t necessarily telling jokes I was entertaining,” Kevin says. “I fell in love with the fact that I was able to make people laugh by going on stage and telling what I thought were jokes were at the time. After meeting some really good comedians who explained to me the style of comedy and what comedy is and the art of telling jokes, then it got to the point where I could be a little more serious and have a little more structure to what I was doing.”
Regardless of how funny you think he may be, he not just on stage winging it. The structure that Kevin developed takes about seven months at a time. Within that timeframe, he daily spends his “work hours” in his home office coming up with new material that was funnier than the last. After gathering everything, he takes it to the road for weeks to find out what works and what doesn’t. With having one of his biggest fears, the fans finishing his jokes, Kevin, unlike some other comedians, tries to revamp his style to make it new and exciting. The procedure also keeps him out of the comedic beefing. All it takes is one comedian to say that the dude on stage just used their joke.
“If you’re talking about something that somebody else starts talking about, it’s either what you’re talking about isn’t as original as what you thought it I was or you need to start talking about something else,” Kevin laughs. “I don’t get into that. I don’t get into the petty back and forth of I got this and you got that. If I’m talking about something and somebody tells me it’s the same thing. I won’t talk about it anymore. I take that energy and come up with something different.”
Like all of us, there is one area that he knows will always be his own…his family. With Kevin, there are no lines that he can’t cross. Granted, he’s not poking fun or making fun, HE is talking about HIS life, his experiences growing up with his family, and how his family affected him. You can’t get mad when a person is telling the truth and make you laugh at the truth. To Kevin, the things that happened weren’t positive or negative. Yet, there was always something funny in it. It’s just a matter of finding what that funny is and that’s an area where he blossoms.
“They’re bad situations that possibly at one point and time made me cry, but now looking back at those situations I laugh because I can find humor in it,” Kevin explains. “My kids, my dad being on drugs, relationships wounds, making mistakes as a parent and not realizing that the mistakes were made until they were made, my mom passing away, which wasn’t funny but, the actual funeral and the things that happened at the funeral, now looking back, was crazy. It was mayhem. I’m in a comfort zone where I can talk about those things now because time heals all wounds. And now that those wounds are healed I’m able to find the funny. There are tons of things to talk about, it’s just being smart enough to talk about them in a way that they’re universal and people can relate to them and laugh at them without judging you at the same time.”
Being a relatable guy is something that Kevin has always been. He takes pride in being the same person on and off the stage. Loving to see people smile and keeping them happy has been an aspect of his personality his entire life. He always wanted the people around him joyful, even through the hard times before the money, when he was at his lowest, he was still the smile for someone else. It’s what makes him continue to push. Well, that and his kids, or as he says, “my babies”.
When it’s not showcasing his comedy, working, or occasionally whooping ass at a high stakes poker table, Kevin is focused on giving his five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son the life that he didn’t have. You’ll see Kevin on Twitter posting pictures of him and his son doing something crazy or even the new dollhouse that he built for his daughter which he jokes, if things go south, he could probably live in. You can see the proud father moments and know that he is sincerely doing what a dad does…loving his children. He’s making sure that he opens up doors that will be endless for them.
“I’m trying to take the last name Hart and make it a brand to a point that they’ll be fine into adulthood to do whatever it is that they want to do and they shouldn’t have a problem doing it,” Kevin explains. “My daughter is a brilliant kid. She knows who her dad is, what her dad does, why people love her dad, and she’s proud of her dad. She’s smart. My baby has a great understanding but it’s because of the way that I communicate with her on a regular basis. She understands that my job is to make people laugh and I travel all of the time and that I’m doing this to make a better life for her.”
With his current success and ability to show that his name alone will sell, Kevin has come a long way since playing Nashawn in the 2004 movie “Soul Plane”. Like a few other great comedians, Kevin has decided to push his creativity and love for entertainment into a production company where he will eventually produce, write, star, and direct his own projects. The plan is for his company to gain the same success and notoriety as Adam Sandler’s ‘Happy Madison’, Ice Cube’s ‘Cube Vision’, and Eddie Murphy’s ‘Eddie Murphy Productions’ who as of late, Kevin has been highly compared to being called “The Next Eddie Murphy”.
In his modesty, Kevin tries not to think of the success and the contrasts. First, he doesn’t want to become content with his current success instead of pursuing and pushing higher. With comedic greats such as Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Redd Fox, Dave Chappell, Steve Harvey, and Eddie Murphy achieving unbelievable success, Kevin notes that they were not only successful, the opened doors and broke barriers for comedians like himself. Secondly, while he is honored by the comment and always thanks the person making the comparison, he doesn’t think it is possible to duplicate what Eddie has done.
“He’s (Eddie) gone from the best comedian in the world to one of the highest-paid actors in the world to doing films just for his kids to thinking about touring again,” Kevin says in a tone of amazement. “These guys are in conversations of their own. All of those guys (great comedians) are individually great because of something. And the crazy thing for me is that now I KNOW those guys. I can talk to them. I have relationships with them. I’ve had conversations with them. I’ve been given advice from them. It’s huge for me to be in their company.”
Comedians serve an amazing purpose in the lives of everyday people. A joke, a funny story, or even a comedic movie allows us to let go of our lives for a moment and enjoy a heartfelt laugh. Through the pains and the hurt that we may have in our lives, for that second or for that hour, we are able to sit back, enjoy ourselves and bring that joy back that helps us push forward a little bit longer. For us, it’s a quick fix to a long-term problem. Nonetheless, it’s a fix. For the comedian, It’s the same. While filming ‘Death At A Funeral’, Kevin was able to sit and talk with the comedic powers of Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, and Tracey Morgan during the quiet time. Even though we would like to be a fly on the wall because it sounds like a hilarious place to be, everything isn’t always funny.
“We have a good time but the conversations can get deep,” Kevin says seriously. “A lot of these best comics come from dark places. That’s where the comedy comes from. We all have been through some stuff so when you sit down and you hear the advice that’s given and the stories that they tell. You just sit back and listen. They are sharing the experiences with you and they are shedding some type of light on what to expect, what to do, and what not to do because of the mistakes that they made and what mistakes they haven’t made. I’m like a sponge I sit back and just soak it up. I couldn’t say it to them but I grew up on them. I watched them on ‘Def Comedy Jam’, and their specials. I know that if I’m there, it’s showing me that I’m doing something right.”