Interview with comedian Kevin Hart: ‘Laughter heals all wounds and that’s one thing that everybody shares’
In his native America, comedian Kevin Hart is famous for his loud, animated, outrageously fun, and uncensored style. A former shoe salesman, Hart quit his job at age 18, to pursue his dream as a stand-up comic. It was a huge risk but fortunately for him it paid off. He is happy to share his problems with the world through his stand-up routines, but he doesn’t want any sympathy, or even compassion.
Instead, Hart wants to provide laughter, and there are plenty of laughs in his aptly titled new movie, Let Me Explain. The subjects he focuses on are weighty — he simplifies his view on the world in gut-busting detail—but he’s never had anyone walk out of his show. “I don’t talk about politics or homosexuality. I just stay in a lane where I can’t offend people,” the 34-year-old explains.
I caught up with Hart to talk more about his comedy, the power of social media, and why Justin Bieber is misunderstood.
Why do you think it’s so important to laugh?
Laughter heals all wounds and that’s one thing that everybody shares. No matter what you’re going through, it makes you forget about your problems. I think the world should keep laughing.
Are you conscious of this gift that you have?
Yeah. I am an angel. I was sent here from god to heal. That’s my job [laughs]. I understand that being able to appeal to the public and having an amazing sense of humour is not something that comes easy. It’s definitely a gift and for which I’m thankful.
I read in a previous interview that you had a successful career as a shoe salesman. How do the worlds of being a salesman and comedy compare?
It is two completely different worlds. I had a great time being a salesman because of the pitches that I gave when I was selling shoes. However, I don’t think I’m as well versed in shoes as I am in comedy. Being a salesman was all about being a people person and I enjoy being around people. I also love talking to people – which is why I think I did so well.
What would Kevin the salesman think of Kevin the comic now?
He would probably say, “Kevin is a cool dude, who is almost a genius just like he is.” [laughs] The reason why I say that is because Kevin the comic is still Kevin the salesman. The only thing that has changed is the fact that I’m on television and I make a little bit more money than before.
Do you realise that when you Google your name, the first thing that comes up is “Kevin Hart height”?
That’s pretty hilarious [laughs]. I think my height is a mystery, and I’m pretty confident that people want me to be taller. I think that’s why they keep searching, but it’s not going to happen. I’m a whopping 5 foot 4 inches tall. I’m not going to get any taller.
How did you make the transition from the stand-up circuit, to now making movies to starring in your own reality show?
I don’t really think it was a transition. It was more about putting in a lot of hard work and making my dream a reality. I think when you work hard and do what you set out to do – the most fulfilling feeling is the reward of achieving your goals. For me, it’s all about setting goals, working towards those goals and accomplishing them.
Where do you see yourself in the hierarchy of comedy?
I don’t think it’s up to me to put myself in a particular position. That’s something for other people to do. I respect those who came and paved the way before me. I’m thankful and humbled to be in the position that I’m in, but at the same time I wouldn’t be here without Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Bill Cosby or Chris Rock. I cannot even compare myself to those people, because it would not make sense as they are already in the history books.
You mentioned that Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor were a big influence on you. What specifically drew you to their brand of stand up?
These are two comedians who weren’t afraid to be themselves. They both put their lives out there and talked about experiences and for that, people worshiped them. In some ways, they will forever be loved because they were never scared of being honest on stage.
As far as your new film Let Me Explain goes, it is adored not only by the people around the world, but also by your comedy peers, who can be a tough crowd to please. How do you think you’ve managed to successfully achieve this?
Having other comedians complimenting my work is the biggest accolade that I can get. To know that these people are enjoying the hard work that I’m contributing is flattering. It just makes me want to continue to do what I’m doing and to raise the bar even higher for other comics. I don’t think comedy will ever die.
The subject of relationships seems to be an important issue to you.
Speaking about what I’ve done wrong and the mistakes that I’ve made is important because that’s how my fans know that I’m real. When you’re real, people can relate to you. I’m just like everybody else. I have the same problems, the same heartaches and hardships that everyone goes through. I think putting those things out there brings people in the position to connect with me even more.
You’re one of the few comics who is always pushing the envelope, but has there ever been a point when you thought, “I shouldn’t have done that”?
No, because the things that I talk about are all personal endeavours. I’m self-deprecating when I’m on stage. I talk about me and the things I go through. I don’t talk about politics or homosexuality. I just stay in a lane where I can’t offend people, because that way if I’m honest, the only person I can really offend is myself.
You were recently seen with both Jay-Z and Justin Bieber. What do you make of tabloid rumours that Bieber is a “spoiled brat”?
I think he is a good kid. He is a teenager and he’s doing what teenagers do, but unfortunately for him, he is in the spotlight. Everybody is going to judge whatever he does, but at the end of the day I think he is harmless. We can’t expect him to be a kid free of all mistakes and reckless behaviour. If I was him, I would not change a thing because as a teenager, you have to make mistakes before learning from them.
Has social media liberated you as a comedian or has it made life more difficult?
I mean, it puts me in a position where I have a direct connection with my fan base. I’ve built a brand that is almost 20 million strong through social media, so literally being able to talk back and forth with my fans is a powerful thing in this day and age.
Let Me Explain is out in cinemas now.Tagged in: Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Justin Bieber, Kevin Hart, Let Me Explain, Martin Lawrence, Richard Pryor
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