Story by A.R. Shaw
Images by Louis Cuthbert for Steed Media Service
Weeks had passed since the last time Kevin Hart was able to get any good sleep. The day rolling out interviewed Hart at a private location in Los Angeles, Hart had been up since 5 a.m. after closing his eyes for about three hours the night before. From the time he woke up, Hart was in go-mode doing a countless number of interviews with press to promote his new film, The Wedding Ringer.
One week prior, Hart intentionally cut his holiday break short. While other celebrities posted photos of themselves at the beach and other cool destinations, Hart traveled to small towns for a mini-tour one day after Christmas. He performed two shows each night in cities such as Omaha, Nebraska; Huntsville, Alabama; and Savannah, Georgia.
Indeed, it takes sacrifice to become the funniest man in America.
“I don’t wanna take time off,” Hart said during our interview. “Right now, I gotta make sure I’m putting blood, sweat and tears and to make sure that people are aware of this project because I’m proud of it. I think it’s my best representation of myself to date. I’ve never been like this in a movie. I’ve never been able to just cut loose and be that version of myself from stand-up. This is a different type of funny. More importantly, the emotional ride that it takes you on. It’s a dope ride. For men, women, anybody, all races. This is that multicultural project that could possibly take me to that international success, which is what I’m looking for.”
For the past two years, Hart has ruled within the realm of comedy. Already noted as an accomplished stand-up comedian, Hart proved to be a viable box-office draw in Hollywood. Last year, Ride Along became a blockbuster hit by grossing $153 million worldwide; Think Like a Man Too grossed $70 million; and About Last Night grossed $48 million on a $12 million budget. The Wedding Ringer, a comedy with Josh Gad, has a good chance of becoming another box office hit for Hart. Hart and Gad’s on-screen chemistry makes for a good time while providing non-stop laughter from beginning to end.
“My first impression was that the script was funny,” Hart said. “But when I met with [Josh], we didn’t talk about the script. We didn’t talk about the business, and we just had a conversation. It’s very rare that you find people that you can do that with in this business. We sat and we talked about each other’s family, our kids, relationships, and our upbringing. We got to know one another. That conversation is what propelled us into knowing that we had something special on paper and we could go and do this movie.”
But while The Wedding Ringer should keep Hart’s winning streak at the box office alive, he doesn’t appear to be stepping away from stand-up comedy anytime soon. After finishing the two-week promotional tour for The Wedding Ringer, Hart will head back out on the road to perform more stand-up dates until February.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for stand-up comedy,” Hart said. “You have to stay true to what got you to where you are. I think the minute that you turn your back on that and walk away is the minute that you are losing sight of reality. No matter how big I may get in that theatrical world, this is my fan base. These are the people that ride with me and support me. I love telling jokes. I love writing and coming up with concepts. I love finding new premises and taking the premise and molding it into a five-minute joke or a five-minute story. Funny thoughts that become huge moments. That’s what I get off on. That’s my drug. Those live performances mean the world. So I can’t stop. I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.”
Within the next year, Hart will likely appear in three more films and produce a standup comedy special. When it comes to business, he doesn’t have time to slow his pace.
But on the personal front, Hart is a man who is prepared to settle down. In April of 2014, Hart proposed to his girlfriend of five years, Eniko Parrish. Parrish has become his backbone and the person who makes him realize what’s important as he navigates this hectic business.
“It’s about finding a good woman,” Hart admits. “You wanna stay committed, you gotta find you a good woman and stay true to her. That’s the toughest thing for men. But once you’re at an age where you’ve done it and experienced it, it’s not that hard at all. I’ve done it, so it’s time to lock this thing up man and call it quits. I’m off these streets now. I’m hanging it up, man, I’m done.”
Hart has made the correct decision when it comes to the woman who will be a part of his future, but there was a time when things just didn’t work out. There is an art to breaking off a relationship and Hart has the perfect method to ending a bad situation.
“The best way to get out of a relationship is to always fake a fight,” Hart says jokingly. “Find something annoying with the person and don’t let her get an answer in. Or, you can do something crazy like start dressing dumb. She’ll leave you. Start wearing dumb stuff like half shirts. No woman is going to be with a man who wears half shirts. My boy John wore a half shirt one time to Las Vegas. We were like, ‘why do you have your belly button out’ and he was like, ‘why not’? We didn’t talk to him for the rest of the trip. He was by himself.”
At this point in his career, Hart doesn’t have to worry about being alone because the world is paying attention to every joke and comedic outburst. But there have always been comedians who sparked interest for a few years only to crumble to the pressures of a demanding industry.
In order to be mentioned with the greats such as Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Eddie Murphy, and Chris Rock, Hart must perform at a high level for the next decade.
Greatness doesn’t come by being well-rested, constantly on vacation, and posting cool Instagram photos from exotic locations. It only comes with proper planning and a sheer desire to dedicate time to your craft.
So when Hart doesn’t find time to get sleep, he’s totally fine with that. He’s looking at the bigger picture.
“I just want to be respected for the work that I’ve done,” Hart says. “At the end of the day, that’s why you put your blood, sweat and tears into anything. You want to be acknowledged for what you have accomplished. When it’s all said and done, you want people to go, ‘Oh, my God, he did this and he did that.’ That’s what it’s about. Hopefully, what that does is inspire somebody else to do the same, but go down a different path and go above and beyond whatever levels I got to. You can never be better than [Richard] Pryor or [Eddie] Murphy. But you can aspire to do what they did and do more. It’s not about being better. They showed you a blueprint. They showed you a road to go down. You can go down that road, but you can walk a little further because our times are different. So, hopefully, others will do the same.”