By Olu Alemoru, Staff Writer
Although he’s not ready for this current magical comedy rollercoaster ride to end, Kevin Harts wants us to know that as a seasoned Hollywood guy he’d be alright if it did.
Hart, 33, who’s coming off a terrific couple of years; the hit movie “Think Like A Man,” the hit BET show that he stars in and co-created, “The House Husbands of Hollywood,” and currently in theatres “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain,” the concert movie of his global 2012 comedy tour, which generated over $32.7 million in ticket sales; surpassing the number one urban comedy tour of all time, The Kings of Comedy.
However, rewind a few years to when the North Philadelphia-born former shoe salesman, who was touted as the next big thing when he booked “Soul Plane” and then the ABC sitcom “The Big House,” saw his career implode. The former was a critical and financial flop — certainly not helped by it being one of the most pirated movies of all time — and the latter (a reverse “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”) was yanked after six episodes.
As he prepared to perform at last weekends BET Experience at L.A. Live and walk the red carpet for the BET Awards, Hart regaled local entertainment journalists on how he re-built his brand, became a stand-up force to be reckoned with and parlayed that into a resurrected film career that includes upcoming movies with Ice Cube, Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro.
How have you managed to get from “Soul Plane” to this?
Hart: I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. Back then, when I was young — 23, 24 years old — I was like holy cow I’m starting out and I’m on ‘Soul Plane’ and I’ve got my own show that I’m exec producing. At the end of the day that stuff didn’t work because I wasn’t mentally prepared for it at the time. [But] now I think I’m handling all this amazing success because I understand how fast it can go away.
I was set up for greatness back then and I was supposed to be the guy and it didn’t happen; I was left with nothing, no movies, and no auditions. I had to start from the bottom and make my way back up. So, now my work ethic speaks for itself.
How bad was it?
Hart: That was a rough stint in my career because I wasn’t really known [as far as being a stand-up comedian]. I wasn’t making money on the road. I was doing these colleges where I was probably making $500, $600, but it would cost me $300 to fly to the university. I would do seven comedy [club] shows on the weekend and make $900, but after paying for my flight and car rental that would get knocked down to $600. So stand up wasn’t really giving me a comfortable lifestyle; after ‘Soul Plane’ flopped and my show got canceled I was stuck literally sitting by the phone.
I’m talking to my managers everyday; did I get an audition, did they call back, did they like me? It was a sense of urgency and I hated the fact that I had no control. I was like, y’all gotta give me something; a magazine interview … something. I got mad at the world, but it wasn’t my managers’ fault; in their defense, they didn’t have anything to sell. The product they were working with was not a product that people wanted to see or talk about.
So, how did you turn it round?
Hart: I needed to get up off my [rear] and inspire myself. I said to myself, all right, forget Hollywood, it was all about stand-up comedy. I was on the road for the next five years, did the clubs and colleges; I was away from home weeks at a time. I got every email address of people who came to the shows and every time I’d go back I would email the people that came to the last show.
In year three, I’m selling out two of my seven shows. The next year I’m selling out four of the seven; in year five I’m selling out all of them. But I kept on doing the shows and then I started to get offered tours and theaters. I never stopped working and then I got some movie guest appearances. People are like, wow, they just put you on the Forbes list; but all that has prepared me for this and I’m taking it in my stride.
Does that include working with acting royalty like DeNiro?
Hart: Yeah, I just did ‘Grudge Match’ with DeNiro and Stallone. Robert was cool as hell; we just talked. It’s why I like and respect him. What I took away is that DeNiro is where he is not just because he’s talented, but because he’s a down to earth guy.
He’s not [a jerk] and I think those are the guys that stay around for a long time. They understand it’s a business and it could go away tomorrow. But if you stay grounded and true to who you are, you’ll be fine because people will always root for you and that’s where I’m at. I feel people are gonna root for me because I’m genuine.
Having a heart to heart with himself, Kevin Hart is looking to continue his success with his latest concert film, ‘Let Me Explain.’ Barry Wetcher/Codeblack Films