Comedian Kevin Hart Packs a Punch
By Shout Omaha Staff
Comedian and actor Kevin Hart is following in the footsteps of entertainers who write, produce, direct, star in, and own their material. He controls production, marketing, and distribution.
“When you own your product, your capital becomes so much greater and your access to other things becomes bigger,” Hart says, “I love stand-up comedy; I love movies. But I want to be respected as a businessman.”
As the breakout film star of the $96.1 million box office hit Think Like a Man (he will appear in the sequel Think Like A Man Too), he’s undoubtedly enjoying his seemingly meteoric rise to fame. But it didn’t happen by accident. While some might refer to Hart as an overnight Hollywood wonder, the 34-year-old actor and comedian has to disagree. After working for 18 years in the industry and filming three stand-up comedy specials, he believes it was just a matter of his hard work paying off. On the heels of his box-office hits and recent NAACP Image Award for Entertainer of the Year, it’s clear his comedic influences and reaching his fans through social media was a vital part of his success as he made his way up in the industry.
Hart was born on July 6, 1979 in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was raised by his single mother, Nancy, and has one older brother, Robert Hart. His father, Henry, a cocaine addict, was in and out of jail throughout most of his childhood. Hart used his natural ability to make people laugh as a coping mechanism to deal with his family struggles and to stay out of trouble. After attending George Washington High School in Northeast Philadelphia, he moved to New York City to attend community college, graduating two years later. He then moved to Brockton, Massachusetts, and found work as a shoe salesman. He began pursuing a career in stand-up comedy after performing at an amateur night at a club in Philadelphia.
Hart’s first gig was at The Laff House in Philadelphia under the name of Lil Kev, which did not go well. His career suffered a slow start, as he was booed off stage several times, once even having a piece of chicken thrown at him. After those initial unsuccessful shows, Hart began entering comedy competitions throughout Massachusetts, and his fortunes soon turned for the better.
It took time for Hart to cultivate his own comedic style. After an initial period of attempting to imitate comedians like Chris Tucker, he found his own rhythm by delving into his insecurities and life experiences.
Hart draws his inspiration from role models like fellow Philadelphian Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, and Dave Chappelle. He strives to combine the best qualities of all these men into his own act. “When you talk about your flaws, people gravitate towards you,” Hart said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. “I’m just not that manly man.” This humility may be somewhat attributed to his short stature, since he is only five feet, four inches tall.
Hart’s comedy tours began in 2009 with his act titled “I’m a Grown Little Man,” followed by “Seriously Funny” in 2010, “Laugh At My Pain” in 2011, and most recently, his TV special titled “Let Me Explain” in 2013. Hart grossed over $15 million from “Laugh At My Pain,” making it one of the year’s top-selling comedy tours. Hart also has a game available through iTunes called “Little Jumpman.” His Facebook page, Twitter account, and YouTube channel are all connected to and accessible through this app. Most overseas fans of Hart discovered him on YouTube, as well.
As far as movies go, his first real break came in 2000 when he was cast by Judd Apatow for a recurring role on the TV series Undeclared. The series lasted only one season, but he soon landed other roles in movies like Paper Soldiers (2002), Scary Movie 3 (2003), Soul Plane (2004), and Little Fockers (2010). His comedic reputation continued to expand with the release of his first stand-up album I’m a Grown Little Man (2008), and performances in the films Think Like a Man (2012), Grudge Match (2013), Ride Along (2014), and About Last Night (2014). He also released two more comedy albums, Seriously Funny in 2010 and Laugh at My Pain in 2011. He currently stars as himself in the lead role of Real Husbands of Hollywood. His upcoming movie, Wedding Ringer, hits theaters January 16, 2015. Hart makes a stop in Omaha on his current stand-up tour Friday, January 2 and Saturday, January 3.
Kevin Hart, January 2-3, at Orpheum Theatre, 409 S. 16th St., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. TIckets start at $45. Visit www.omahaperformingarts.org for more information.