TheGrio Awards, Comedy Icon: Kevin Hart

The actor, comedian, entrepreneur and businessman has the last laugh while reigning as king of his entertainment empire.

Kevin Hart’s commitment to delivering unforgettable, laugh-out-loud jokes has reshaped modern comedy, making him the blueprint for emerging comedians.

In 2009, all eyes were on Kevin Hart after his comedy special “I’m a Grown Little Man” was released, placing him higher on people’s radars. In 2010, “Seriously Funny” debuted and garnered Hart more exposure as he continued to climb the comedic ladder. He delivered a legendary performance that left viewers with meme-worthy bits such as “Say it with your chest” and “It’s about to go down.” 

“Laugh At My Pain” followed soon in 2011 and marked a career milestone for Hart as it was his first theatrical released project, which is considered a sign of reaching superstardom.

Using his personal life as the setting of his jokes, he charmed audiences with his natural wittiness and realness onstage, coining the infamous line “alright alright alright.” His other specials, “Let Me Explain,” “Irresponsible,” “Zero F**ks Given” and “What Now?” dominated the comedy scene and continued to make him unstoppable.

Vanity Fair Oscars Party, 95th Annual Academy Awards, Oscars 2023, red carpet, celebrity style,
Kevin Hart and Eniko Hart attend the 2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 12, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

As one of the most recognizable names in the entertainment industry, the media giant captivated the souls of audiences worldwide with an array of movies, and was the leading actor in many of them. Motion pictures such as “Night School,” “Ride Along,” and “The Upside Down” grossed millions of dollars in ticket sales, achieving No. 1 box office status after their initial debut. Hart’s most successful film adaptation, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” nearly reached the $1 billion mark at the box offices as he co-starred alongside heavy-hitting peers Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Nick Jonas and Karen Gillan.

Stand-up comedy and acting are not the only two talents that the powerhouse possesses. Hart has infiltrated the media landscape, diversifying his portfolio and solidifying his presence in Hollywood.

The entertainer penned eight books within the last five years, adding the title of author to his lengthy résumé. From children to audiobooks, Hart’s most famous composition was his best-selling 2017 memoir, “I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons.” Hart surprised fans with his vulnerability as he revealed tough confessions and provided a glimpse into his tumultuous childhood. Readers were left with takeaways about success, failure, relationships, and other insights through the lens of Hart’s upbringing and unique life experiences. His memoir climbed to the No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list and kept a place on the list of Top 10 nonfiction hardcover bestsellers for 10 weeks straight.

His most recent audiobook, “Monsters and How To Tame Them: Taking Charge of the Voices in Your Head,” was released last year on Audible. The creator’s storytelling abilities extended to this self-motivating project that identifies common mental health struggles (i.e., control issues, social comparison, external validation) and methods for combating them. In 2020, Hart debuted his first audiobook, “The Decision,” which was nominated for an Audie award for best original audiobook in 2021.

Hart’s status as a businessman and media mogul continues to gain prominence. In his climb to wealth and success, he has never forgotten his stomping grounds across comedy circuits that started his journey filled with twists and turns.

Hart relies on lived experiences as a source for storytelling in his stand-up comedy sets. Whether he indulges previous scandals that made headlines or exposes the harsh realities of his youth, Hart’s jokes remain authentic at the forefront.

“People get to see the comedic persona, but there’s more to me,” Hart told Variety in an interview. “This is a story that can be told, and I chose to tell it. It’s funny, but there are serious components to it.”

Hart’s transparency about his childhood and early days as a stand-up comedian is what makes supporters relate to him.

Hart grew up in one of Philadelphia’s roughest areas, raised by a single mother. He shared that his father was absent most of his youth due to his history of incarceration and drug addiction. Hart uses his father’s shortcomings as the basis of some of his stand-up routines. Despite the complex father-son relationship, the pair have reconciled their differences.

Hart, however, credits his mother for his hustler mentality. It was his mother who supported his comedy aspirations early on. The performer revealed that she paid his rent for a year as he worked to get his name noticed in the comedy world. He would frequently travel from Philadelphia to perform in New York comedy clubs.

Audiences were delighted as they watched the amateur comedian spew hysterical stories and reacted with uproarious laughter. Although Hart knew his unlimited potential, it took Hollywood longer to catch on to the comedian’s momentum.

Hart’s career setbacks include a 2001 “North Hollywood” pilot episode about a collective of emerging actors sharing a home, which failed to get the green light from higher-ups. Several other failed pilots followed the entertainer as he tried to get his big Hollywood break. 

In 2004, Hart inched closer when his ABC comedy “The Big House” hit television screens. It was short-lived; the network canceled the show because of low ratings. 

Those setbacks did not deter Hart from accomplishing what he set out to do: become a household name and Hollywood sensation.

In 2012, Hart starred in “Think Like A Man,” a romantic comedy inspired by Steve Harvey’s 2009 book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” In its opening weekend, the film accumulated $33 million, shocking Hollywood executives with its success and diverting their attention toward the emerging entertainer. 

After “Think Like a Man,” Hart continued to lead the box offices, grossing millions of dollars in ticket sales for his movies. “Think Like a Man Too,” “Central Intelligence,” and “The Secret Life of Pets” are just a few of the movies Hart played a role in that have contributed to his booming fame.

Kevin Hart comedy, kevin hart comedy movies, kevin hart books, theGrio Awards,
Kevin Hart attends Morehouse College REAL TALK on September 11, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.(Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Universal Pictures)

His endeavors surpass acting and joke-telling and encompass his newer undertaking: serial entrepreneur.

The businessman’s extensive list of partnerships comprises a variety of brands like Sam’s Club and DraftKings. His Hartbeat Productions, founded in 2009, has developed various film projects and made deals with streaming services such as Netflix, Peacock and others.

Hart has stretched his business pursuits and launched the Fabletics Men activewear line in 2020. He created a premium tequila, Gran Cormino, and in August 2022, he opened a plant-based restaurant called Hart House in Los Angeles. Also last year, he started Hartbeat Ventures, a venture capital firm through which he has invested in over a dozen companies, including SavageX, Go Puff, Magic Spoon and others

On social media, Hart constantly announces a new business venture or promotes another brand partnership to his 179 million followers. Most recently, he wrapped up the last portion of his Reality Check comedy tour in July 2023, which began in 2022 with 199 dates on the calendar.

Now, Hart’s primary focus is continuing to develop his media and production company, Hartbeat. In 2022, he merged his businesses Hartbeat Productions and Laugh Out Loud as a singular entertainment provider with a focus on comedy and culture. As the face of the company, Hart prides himself on being present.

“You just don’t want to be the guy who shows up and says the speech before a film gets screened,” Hart told Business Insider. “I don’t do things to just throw my name on it, I don’t believe in that. If I’m involved, I’m present. My impact is felt, and I think that goes a long way because when people that do the work for you see that you put in the work too, it makes it feel like they are part of something special.” 

Just last year, Hart’s media entity received a $100 million minority investment, allowing him to expand his company with offices in Hollywood, Atlanta, and New York. Hartbeat released 16 projects in 2023 and has more than 70 projects slated for distribution in the near future

It is evident from Hart’s successful career that he continues to be a dominating force in the entertainment industry despite the professional and personal setbacks he has endured over the years. With many professions aligning with his passions, being authentic is one gig Hart has never strayed away from. 

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!