For a ‘grown little man,’ Kevin Hart keeps getting bigger.
The 32-year-old comedian’s career exploded this year with a hit TV series, five movies in production, and a sold-out international tour that had him stopping two nights at Madison Square Garden, a gig offered to few comics.
At this point, Hart’s elaborate facial experiences, stunted arm flails, and frantic shrieks are so ingrained, he doesn’t need to say a word and people automatically laugh.
Such ubiquity reflects the work Hart has put in over the years to refine his routine and establish a trademark.
He documents this new stage of his life in the upcoming concert film, Let Me Explain, and tells theGrio that, beyond movies or television, he attributes his success to social media.
“When you get these people who follow you on Twitter, and Facebook, and Instagram, you have a choice to interact with them and make them feel like they’re a part of what you’re doing, or you can ignore them,” Hart explains. “I chose to make them all a part of my journey.”
From actively engaging with tweets and posting videos on YouTube, Hart says he was able to sell out venues worldwide on his tour, making him a global name.
“Because of [social media], my growth and my commitment to my craft has changed as well,” Hart remarks. “I’m very serious about creating content and making sure that my fans see my hard work and effort.”
‘A rough stint’ leads to greatness
Hart’s rise hasn’t exactly been a steady slope, he concedes.
Early momentum in his mid-20s led to movie flops like Soul Plane and Fool’s Gold, and a cancelled TV series The Big House, which was axed after five episodes.
Suddenly, the young ingénue riding his way up the peak hit a decline.
“I probably wasn’t prepared for it mentally at that time,” Hart comments. “I was set up for greatness back then, and I was supposed to be the guy that was going to be the guy that was above the guy that was next to the guy. When it didn’t happen I was left with nothing, and no movies and no auditions. I had to start from the bottom and work my way back up.”
That meant hitting countless comedy clubs and college campuses, playing seven shows a weekend and coming out with only $600 in profits. He found himself sitting by the phone, waiting for his manager or publicist to call with good news and blaming them when they didn’t.
It was a “rough stint” in his promising career.
“You’re constantly calling these people and reaching out, but in their defense, they can’t do nothing [sic] for you because you’re not really doing nothing [sic] for yourself,” Hart recalls. “They don’t have anything to sell. The product that they’re working with is not a product that people want to see or talk about, but it’s very hard to see at a young age.”
Instead of dwelling further on a bad hand, Hart decided to bypass the Hollywood playground and focus only on stand-up.
“You don’t need anybody to get up off your ass and figure something out,” he points out.
Hart “slaved” the road for five years doing shows, surviving on the bare minimum, and accruing email lists for every city, which he blasted when he came to town.
By the end, he was selling out clubs, adding dates, and ready to start booking theaters.
Following Chris Rock’s advice
What Hart wouldn’t do, however, was join group tours, rejecting offers for larger collaborations based on the guidance of none other than Chris Rock.
“The one piece of advice I got from Chris Rock was be your own brand,” Hart remembers. “It may take you a long time, but be Kevin Hart. Don’t put yourself on mad shows with everybody else because you get lost. Nobody’s going to walk away knowing who you are. He said, ‘Focus on you.’”
Thus, it was another year on the road solo for Hart, but the recommendation paid off.
Now with three successful comedy specials, hit movies like Think Like a Man and This is the End, and a successful TV series, The Real Husbands of Hollywood, Hart’s platform has expanded to indefinite proportions.
“My work ethic speaks for itself because I know how fast things can go away,” he notes.