LIVING THE AMERICAN DREAM
WHILE SEINFELD, LOUIS C.K. AND LARRY DAVID LAUGH ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK, THE NOT-SO-NEW GUY, KEVIN HART, IS CASHING IN ON COLORLESS COMEDY. WHY IS RACE NO JOKE TO THE FUNNIEST BROTHER ON THE PLANET?
By Shanel Odum
KEVIN HART is on some other stand-up shit. And nobody’s laughing.
In his tricked-out trailer deep inside Paramount Pictures’ palm-studded lot, the 34-year-old comedian is on the phone rapping with his boy—and hip-hop royalty—T.I.. The Atlanta-based lyricist is in LA for the weekend and made plans to get up with his homie that night, but Hart has another date. Tonight, T.I.P. is being stood up for another pint-sized pair of VIPs. Hart’s idea of the perfect nightcap is reviewing vocab with his 8-year-old daughter, Heaven, and rocking out with Hendrix, his 6-year-old son.
Not typical comedic rockstar behavior—but then Hart isn’t your average Black cutup. In fact, Hart has proven to be remarkably drama and drug-free. While his peers are in strip clubs prompting precipitation, he’s at home tucking in his tots. He’s more likely to run lines than inhale them; there are no accounts of streaking in the streets, tranny trolling, South African sojourns or mental breakdowns. Not only is he playing with a full deck, he refuses to pull the race card. Unlike many of his black comedic peers and predecessors, Hart steers clear of stereotypes. Instead, he cracks up his crowds by focusing on family, friends and universally frustrating anecdotes. And it’s working for him.
This new year is looking to be a titanic one for Forbes’ sixth top-earning comedian. Not only does the hyper-hyphenated performer continue adding more titles to his repertoire—comedian, actor, writer, producer, executive—he’s hijacking Hollywood with a gang of family friendly flicks. He plays a desperate boxing promoter alongside Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro in holiday heart-warmer, Grudge Match; gets his Beverly Hills Cop on in Ride Along with Ice Cube at the top of the year; stars in summer rom-com remake, About Last Night with Michael Ealy, Joy Bryant, Regina Hall and Paula Patton; and returns for the eagerly-awaited encore, Think Like A Man Too. And of course, there’s the third season of his BET reality-satire, Real Husbands of Hollywood, which he’s shooting today with his band of brothas—Nick Cannon, Boris Kodjoe, Duane Martin, Nelly and JB Smoove.
At the core of it all, his entertainment company, HartBeat Productions, continues to pump out impossibly hilarious hits (including his top-grossing stand-up specials I’m a Grown Little Man, Laugh At My Pain and Let Me Explain). With every win, he’s proving that his funny franchise has outgrown the comedy club circuit, and even the small screen—Hart is at a unique vantage point, hustling his humor both on-screen and behind-the-scenes. And that means this stooge is stacking some serious funny money.
VIBE: You don’t make race the nucleus of your routine. Why?
KEVIN HART: No, I don’t need to. I get that racism exists, but it’s not a catalyst for my content. I don’t need to talk about race to have material. My style of comedy is more self-deprecating. I think that makes me more relatable. When you deal with “topics”—race, white versus black—you’re not separating from the pack. You’re doing what everybody else is doing. It’s easy to take those subjects and make them personal. You show more depth when that’s not your shtick.
Talk about raising kids in this post-racial society.
My kids are coming up in a different time then me. Interracial couples are of the norm. With me, it’s about making sure my kids understand the importance of education and having opportunities that I didn’t. My goal as a parent is to make sure they don’t take what they have for granted. You definitely want your kids to understand their heritage, but I don’t want my kids to just focus on being black. They are people. I don’t want them to judge other people or to be judged. I want them to be good people, so good people will treat them accordingly. I preach that to my kids and everything else falls into place.
Have they ever come to you with a question about race or about their experience with their classmates or teachers?
I had one incident where my daughter said that a girl asked if she was a brown person. I said, “We’re black. You have black people, white people, Chinese people, Hispanic people; we’re all brought up differently.” You have to give kids a lot more credit. Sometime we cheat our kids of certain levels of intelligence, because of what we assume they won’t understand. When you know your child’s intelligence level, you treat them according. My daughter gets things like that. [Snaps finger] “I should always be nice to people so in return they be nice to me?” If they don’t, they’re doing something wrong and then you punch them in the face.
2014 is looking to be huge for you…
I got a chance to work with Stallone and De Niro—pretty much sums it up for me. You can tell where you’re going in your career by the company you keep. I’m Stallone and De Niro’s co-star— you’re looking at two pioneers, two legends. At an early age I got to work with Eddie Murphy, Philip Seymour Hoffman. It’s continuing to grow, which is a great feeling. There are big movies—these are Kevin Hart vehicles. I laugh all the time because I can’t believe where I am in my career. The fact that I have yet to really acknowledge and embrace it is what keeps me motivated to do so much more.
What did you learn working with Stallone and De Niro?
You learn different approaches to the craft. These guys are very professional—from the way that they wake up, to the way they go over their material, to them knowing the business inside and out, knowing where the camera should be, knowing how things should be lit, the shooting order. It’s not just about coming in, knowing your lines. Sylvester Stallone makes movies—from writing to producing—that’s his world.
A lot of critics are blown away by Ride Along. It feels like a Beverly Hills Cop moment for you.
Ride Along can catapult me into a different level of stardom. First and foremost, Ice Cube is amazing in the movie. Our chemistry is amazing. It’s a great movie for the both of us. Tim Story, Will Packer. Universal had a concept and allowed us come in and bring what we felt we should. I’m excited about it; January can’t get here soon enough. I think this movie is going to exceed expectations. I’m trying to get what the Will Smiths and Eddie Murphys of the world got. I want to do it to a point where I understand the business. I want to be in a position where I own my material. This is a movie that can put me in a place to accomplish a lot of things.
Do you have any experiences with everyday racism?
CONTINUE READING ON PAGE 2