Retrospective: Kevin Hart And His Rise To Success

Some comedians become an overnight success and some comedians work a long, tough, and grueling road to reach the success they desire. For many, Philadelphia native Kevin Hart currently is either one of two things: one of the best comedians today or the most overrated unfunny comedian to see success in a while. Now, we all differing views on what's funny of course, so while that merely boils down to personal opinion on if you think he's funny or not, but one thing that can't be denied is financial growth, his work ethic and his ability to maintain a steady flow of projects. Today, we take a look at the rise of Kevin Hart and the good and bad of his current comedy domination.

I would say I don’t understand why people don’t like Kevin Hart, but the man is hilarious to me. I know we all appreciate different styles of comedy and that’s fair. But one thing that can’t be denied is his work ethic. In 2014, he had 5 major movie roles. FIVE! If that isn’t admirable, I can’t tell you what is.

He started as a stand-up comedian and essentially worked his way up. Hart had smaller roles early in his career such as a customer on “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and the cameraman on “Along Came Polly.” What makes him funny to me is he owns his style. He’s humble and he’s got a different approach to the scene.

Kevin first caught my attention on his stand-up “I’m a Grown Little Man.” He’s very animated, consistent with his work, and his short stature just makes things ten times funnier for me. As it stands, Kevin is in high demand and there’s just no denying that.

While many people feel he’s getting too much exposure, I contest that he’s just reaping the fruit of his labor. I get excited seeing him flourish. One of my favorite movies is “About Last Night” because of his energy in the movie. He’s successful and there’s not much anyone can do about it.

I never really knew the roots of Kevin Hart and his success. It just never really struck me as something that I needed to really research. Until now. My first time seeing Kevin Hart was in Paper Soldiers, the 2002 Roc-A-Fella film. However, the first actual TV or film role for Kevin was on the Judd Apatow show Undeclared. I was never a fan of the short lived series, but it seems that Apatow took a liking to Kevin and gave him his first shot. Before that, Kevin had been working the comedy circuit, starting with The Laff House in Philly. Kevin would bomb a lot of his stand up comedy routines early on, before eventually finding a rhythm through his personal story. Instead of "making jokes", Kevin would talk about his life and also himself in a self deprecating manner that invoked a ton of laughs. Standing only at 5'4, Kevin's ability to poke fun at himself seemed even funnier once you see the person telling the story or his animated movements. Kevin had found a formula that worked, and he would utilize that to garner more attention and roles, starting with the Roc-A-Fella films Paper Soldiers and Death of A Dynasty.

Kevin would have a small role in both the Scary Movie 3 and 4 films, and then he starred in the horrible 2004 movie Soul Plane. Now, I'm a fan of Kevin. However, this has to be discussed. Early on in his career, Kevin had not found his true business sense and did not make the best film choices, likely because he was just willing to take the roles that come along. However, for everyone involved in the making of Soul Plane, what in the world were they thinking? Where was the meeting when they sat down, came up with this concept and said "hey.... you know what? This will be a good idea", which leads me to wonder how Kevin read this script and idea and said to himself "yeah, this is the one right here". It was a huge misstep that didn't work, but luckily for Kevin, he was able to regroup and obtain short roles or cameos in successful films like Along Came Polly or The 40 Year Old Virgin. Now, when talking about his role in The 40 Year Old Virgin, it's honestly one of the crown jewels of his career. He and Romany Malco created one of the most funny scenes I've ever seen, and most of it was reportedly improv, which makes it even funnier. If you haven't seen this film or scene, you have missed out.

However, the years 2004-2008 are what we like to call the "dark years" in Kevin's career film wise. TV wise, he was a part of a series called The Big House, which debuted in 2004, and seemed to be a possible vehicle for Kevin to become a star, as he had the lead role. There was only one problem: the show was terrible. With a reverse premise of The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air storyline, The Big House ran 6 episodes, and would eventually get canceled. It just didn't work. Another failed moment for Kevin came in his stretch of roles in all the generic parody movies like Epic Movie, Superhero Movie, and Extreme Movie. Not to mention, his roles in two hilariously horrible films Drillbit Taylor and Meet Dave. Imagine getting the opportunity to work with Eddie Murphy, one of your comedic idols, you get the script and it's MEET DAVE as the project. I might actually be emotionally hurt to even take part in this. Where Kevin was not having much luck film and TV wise, he found solace in the place where he started his journey: stand up comedy.

After a stint hosting the reboot of Comic View on BET, Kevin would release his own special, "Kevin Hart: I'm A Grown Little Man", which released in 2009. It was right around this time that I began to see Kevin's name mentioned more, and it was all due to this stand up. I watched the stand up once and instantly shed tears of laughter, and it was at this moment that I felt he had something special. Kevin was confident on that stage, talking about his kids, his wife at the time, his experiences, and the jokes just flowed well. It didn't feel like he was doing a comedy act, it just felt like he was telling you the circumstances of his life, and it just happened to be laugh out loud funny. He would prove his first stand up special wasn't a fluke when he hit with the more successful stand up "Kevin Hart: Seriously Funny", and that's when everything TOOK OFF. His Seriously Funny special is his holy grail, his highest moment as far as comedic genius, as he tells the story of his Uncle Richard Jr., his father, his kids, the dynamic with his ex-wife, and created quotes that would be found all over social media and some screenshots from the special are current memes today in the social media lexicon. Kevin utilized social media in a way where he communicates with his fans regularly and he saw his popularity grow more as a result. It was all based around his stand up and social media presence, something that we hadn't seen in quite some time. Still, we didn't know whether or not, his stand up success and social media popularity could turn into actual box office or TV dollars.

In a genius move, Kevin tested this theory himself with a theatrical release for his newest stand up, Laugh At My Pain. He put 750,000 behind it, partnered up with a film brand and put it out in a limited release. The film would gross only 10 million in a very small amount of theatres, but considering that Kevin financed it all himself, it proved to be a viable move and put him in an even bigger light. His phone began ringing off the hook and it was this moment that his rise and true dominance would begin.

After a nice role in the film The Five Year Engagement, he would have a starring role in the film based on Steve Harvey's horrible book Think Like A Man. Despite the book being horrible and the film following the guidelines of it, Kevin and the cast still made the film an enjoyable watch and a huge box office success, instantly opening up more doors again for black films in Hollywood. It was this moment, as 2013 was beginning, that Kevin would see a level of success we didn't envision for him. Starting with his own TV show, the fake reality show Real Husbands of Hollywood on BET, Kevin would also begin to work on his new stand up film, this time even bigger than Laugh At My Pain. He would break records for a stand up comedian during his tour, racking up millions and millions, and as he finished up his Let Me Explain tour, he began to prepare for a more wide theatrical release. Financing it yet again himself with 2.5 million, Kevin watched Let Me Explain do 33 million at the box office, a huge success. He would then go into 2014 with a string of successful films and 2015 has proven to be successful as well. Kevin is currently about to release Ride Along 2, Central Intelligence with The Rock, and his final stand up film, Kevin Hart: What Now? in 2016.

The biggest question is has Kevin become stale? Has he lost his luster? Or did he simply never have it? That is his biggest criticism so far and it's one that is valid. While he is funny to me, his animated brand of comedy may not appeal to all. While comedians like Pryor, Eddie, and such eventually had a fall off, their brand of comedy spoke more to longevity. Kevin's brand of comedy may not inspire the long term decades of success that these other comedians have enjoyed, but Kevin is a go getter in the moment. He works hard, and that's what allows him to stay so successful. Are the critics valid in their opinion? Certainly to an extent.

No matter what your opinion of Kevin and whether he is funny to you or not, he has made a name for himself and what he does. Is he a genius? Overrated? Oversaturated? Somewhere in between? I say somewhere in between. What are your opinions on Kevin Hart? Post them below in the comments.



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