Welcome to Kevin Hart’s moment. Following 2012’s Think Like a Man and 2013’s massively successful stand-up concert film Let Me Explain, Hart is in the middle of a full-on breakthrough. Last month’s Ride Along was 2014’s first hit, grossing over $100 million and counting. And his next movie, this weekend’s About Last Night remake, seems poised to do well against some heavy competition. (He will also star in this summer’s Think Like a Man Too.) We spoke with Hart about getting Hollywood to notice him, not quitting stand-up, and laughing at himself.
The chemistry between you and Regina Hall is incredible. Did it feel like something special?
Oh man, our chemistry was amazing. I don’t think there’s a funnier female on this planet. Very talented. This is actually our sixth movie together, but we never had the opportunity to work opposite each other and actually interact and feed off of it.
Was there one thing that you remember totally cracking you up?
The scene at the end of the movie where she tells me she’s going to sew my balls together and treat it like a punching bag, and then she goes [screams] “Ahhh!” It killed me. That’s a genuine laugh at the end of the movie.
You guys have a few sex scenes together and they’re all super funny. Do you have a secret on how to make a sex scene — which is often very serious — funny?
Personality! You gotta personality it up, man. When you add the silliness in those sexual moments, it breaks it up. And I think when you do that, you make it real.
There’s a theme in your work I noticed — it’s in About Last Night, it’s in your stand-up: You like to mock the idea of bravado or male confidence. Do you think there’s something inherently funny about male toughness?
It’s just funny. It’s funny because it’s real! There’s that guy who’s like this all the time. [Laughs.]
Unlike a lot of big comedians, you seem more willing to play the fool or play the idiot, both in your stand-up and movies. Do you prefer playing the dumb character or do you feel you’re better at it?
Nah, right now I think it’s just worked out that way. But self-deprecation is one of the best forms of comedy in my eyes, because when you address things before people do, you take away their ammunition. When you do that, people have nothing to say because you’ve said it all. You now have people’s attention because people are already laughing. They’re laughing at the picture you painted of yourself, and on top of laughing, they’re relating. So that’s why I tend to take those particular parts.
I wanted to ask you about one bit from your last special that completely destroyed me. The whole bum-bump thing. You could barely get the joke out, you were laughing so hard. What did you find so funny about it, especially in that moment?
Believe it or not, I make myself laugh. Sometimes when I have thoughts or say some things that are funny, it just makes me laugh and I don’t mind laughing at it before you guys do. I just love to laugh, that’s what I’m telling you, and I was telling the audience. I had their attention and I was like, “A bum-bump!” That just makes me laugh, the title, the name of it, how it happens, the visual I painted. It’s just so funny to me.
Do you ever feel bad about laughing at your stuff? I know some comedians think it’s bad.
No, it’s not at all.
If you find it funny, you’re gonna laugh.
Yup! I’m going to goddamn enjoy myself. I love my job. I love making people laugh. And I love laughing.
It seems very likely that when About Last Night comes out, you’ll have two films in the box-office top ten, if not the top five. Do you feel like having two hits so quickly in 2014 sends a message to Hollywood?
I think the message has already been sent to Hollywood, which is that this kid’s a hard worker, he’s talented, and people are coming out to see him. And when you have box-office results, Hollywood treats you different. Hollywood stands up. Once you get to the point where Hollywood sees that you create results, then the demand for you becomes higher.
I think that right now I’m achieving so much and accomplishing so much that I’m creating my own lane. And this way, I don’t get compared to the Eddie Murphys and the other people that’ve achieved blah blah blah — your Chappelles, your Chris Rocks, your Kings of Comedy. I mean, there’s so goddamned many guys who’ve done so many amazing things, but I can’t redo “them.” They’re all excellent and great for a reason. All I can do is try to create my own brand and have people appreciate me for that.
You’re reaching a very rare level of stand-up success. And you look at Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin, they both quit stand-up when they were on top. Could you ever stop?
I’m never gonna step away from stand-up. I can’t. That’s what got me where I am and that’s also my muse. That’s how I stay level-headed. That’s what keeps me going.
What consistently makes you laugh and what consistently makes you cry?
I would say my kids for both answers. The reason being is they’re younger versions of me, you know? For crying, my daughter just because I see her turning into such a beautiful young lady in front of my eyes, and my son because he’s turning into a mature young man right before my eyes. I took my daughter to the father-daughter dance and I cried like a little baby. She’s 11 years old, so seeing her get dressed up and pretty made me cry.