Kevin Hart endured some early days of getting booed off of stages in Philadelphia comedy clubs.
That's all pretty funny now.
The little (5-foot-4) king of comedy, who has starred in such films as "Soul Plane," "Scary Movie 4" and "Think Like a Man," has made the gradual jump from clubs to theaters and now arenas like Consol Energy Center, where he will be Friday night.
Mr. Hart released his first comedy special, "I'm a Grown Little Man," in 2009, followed that a year later with "Seriously Funny" and last year released "Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain." A running theme in his work is the many joys of family, from his father's struggles with drugs, to his divorce last year after eight years of marriage.
The actor/comedian has two kids, daughter Heaven Leigh and son Hendrix, who surely will be a topic of discussion when he performs this weekend. On Wednesday, he talked with us from his home in LA.
You've recently gone from clubs to arenas. Have you had to change anything about how you perform?
No. The performance is what it is. You don't have to change. People know who they're coming to see, and they know who they spend their money on. One of the great things about being a good comedian is there are no adjustments. For me, the bigger the stage, the more people get to see what I do and what I like to call a great performance. I don't raise the level of energy because of more people. I give a hundred percent whether there's 30 people, 5,000 people or 20,000 people.
What are some of the subjects you're hitting on on this tour?
I'm basically explaining things that people have talked about and ask questions about. I'm asked questions on a consistent basis, and rather than giving answers over and over, I use the stage as my platform for giving people what they want, which is answers: whether it's why I got divorced or how it is being a single father; what's going on with my life; have I changed and has money changed me ... all those questions and the hypotheticals that come up, this is my way to address them.
You mention Richard Pryor and Chris Rock as influences. Both delved into political humor. I saw you tweet your candidate recently. Do you steer clear of that in your show?
Yes. I don't go into political humor because I'm not as well versed as I should be, or as one would want to be to discuss it on a platform, especially when you get so much attention, like I do. So I don't go political at all.
Like many comedians, you had a rough start in clubs. At what point did you find your voice and figure out you could do this?
After several bumps along the road, you eventually get a breakthrough where you find your voice. You realize you can be yourself and entertain, whereas at one point I was attempting to be a character, or a fraction of who I was, but I was doing what I thought people wanted me to do: have a high voice, fall all over the ground, do characters, and talk about the same things people talk about. I had no identity on stage. Once I discovered my identify and who I was, that's when things changed for me.
Are there any bits you get a hard time for?
No. I don't do anything that is controversial or things that require a level of attention that you're going to get flak for making people laugh. I kind of steer clear of that.
The story of your childhood and your father is well-documented. Was your comedy a way of dealing with that?
Yeah, it's somewhat of a therapy. Me telling my stories on stage, painting a picture for an audience to see my life through a comedic form helps me deal with whatever stress or pain I was dealing with. Talking about my dad doing drugs, my mother passing away, dealing with such dark topics, but having the ability to make people laugh at those topics, that takes a talent to do. But at the same time for me it was more than just a talent, it was getting it off my chest and actually talking about it.
I saw a clip of you on "The Wendy Williams Show" and you must have spent the first 10 minutes talking about your height. Do you get tired of talking about that?
No, that's what makes me an individual. I have no complaints or worries about talking about my height, and how big I am, and why I'm the size I am. I love it.
In Pittsburgh, we have a rivalry with Philadelphia. Obviously, you're a fan of Philly sports. How would you characterize the fans?
Uh, well, we're dangerous, to sum it up. We root hard, we love hard. For us, it's bigger than the sport, it's about our territory, and we try to protect our territory to the best of our ability. It comes from a good place, but sometimes it ends up going to an ugly place, which is why we have a jail in our stadium, but at the end of the day, I love it, I wouldn't change it for the world.
What projects do you have coming up?
Got a movie I'm working on called "About Last Night" [a remake of the 1986 romcom]. I got a TV show coming out called "Real Husbands of Hollywood" [on BET]. I'm about to start production on another movie called "Ride Along" [an action comedy] with Ice Cube, then another movie after that called "Grudge Match," with Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone [as geriatric boxers]. Then we're doing "Think Like a Man 2," so I'm quite busy these days.theater
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg.