Friday August 30th 2013 saw the UK premiere of American comedian Kevin Hart’s film, Let Me Explain. The film follows Hart on his hit stand-up tour taking in locations including London’s cavernous O2 Arena, making Hart only the second US comedian to sell out the venue.
We headed down to the O2 to catch a word with the amiable Hart about the film and exactly why he thinks his brand of comedy resonates with a UK audience.
You’re one of the few comedians releasing concert films theatrically. What do you think is behind that?
I think that I put a lot of time and effort into growing a loyal fan base and I have to take my hat off to social media; to Twitter, to Facebook, to Instagram, to all these things that allow you to be reachable to a younger generation. Older comedians from other decades didn’t have these opportunities to basically be as in touch with their fans as we do, so it’s something that I’ve really embraced and I think over the years of doing these shows and getting a bigger audience and doing arenas, staying in contact with them and showing that you appreciate them and make them feel like they’re part of your career to some degree. They feel like, ‘Hey I’ve grown with this guy and I’ve watched his success.’ So when I decided to take the risk of putting a movie out theatrically, rather than going through a studio I did it myself. I said, ‘You know what? If anybody’s gonna do it, I’m gonna gamble on me because I’m gonna work the hardest to succeed for myself.’
I feel like I know what my fans like and what they want and what they don’t want. So with my direct connection to them I told them about my filming and what I was doing and got the support that I thought I would get. It just got bigger and bigger.
A lot of American comedians find it difficult to find an audience in the UK - you are only the second comedian to sell out at the O2 Arena - what do you think is the appeal that you have over here?
I think it’s all about being universal. I don’t try to have a certain voice for the States and come over here and have a completely different voice for the UK. I feel like the one thing that everyone shares in the world is laughter, everyone loves to laugh. I feel like if you can be relatable and not put yourself in a position where some people know what you’re talking about and some people don’t, if what you’re talking about is so general and so universal then you’ll be fine. And that’s what I pride myself on. I’ve never come over to the UK and tried to be different, change my voice or slow it up or say this joke instead of this joke. I do the same thing everywhere I go. The things I talk about are about me and I’m self-deprecating and I’m smart enough to talk about my problems whether they’re good or bad. Everybody has problems, the difference is everybody doesn’t put themselves in a position to laugh at their problems and I do. So I take the humility away and say, ‘Hey this is me. This is who I am and I’m real.’ I think my fans relate to that and appreciate that.
You’ve appeared in a few big movies, can you see a time where films take precedent over stand-up for you?
I definitely do not see myself ever walking away from stand-up comedy. I don’t feel like you can turn your back on what gave you these large opportunities in life. Right now my movie career has definitely gotten bigger, I’ve got about five movies coming out next year, but I don’t have a movie career if I don’t do stand-up. That’s what catapulted me into films. That would be me turning my back on my fans that helped me get there and I don’t see that happening. The only thing that could happen is that the time it takes me to get material would be longer. I probably can’t go out on tour again for another two years now. I have to continue to top what I did, I can’t go down I can only go up. So I’m going to be very hard on myself about what I am talking about, making sure it’s right before the next time I do go out.
You were in Judd Apatow’s show Undeclared and he tends to work with the same people. Have you anything planned with him in the future?
Here’s the thing about Judd; he is responsible for so many people’s careers, literally. He calls it, ‘The Wheel of Talent.’ He has a group of guys from Jason Segal to James Franco, Seth Rogan, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill to myself – are all people who came up from Judd Apatow and have now blossomed into whatever we are. So as far as me and Judd we’re going to work [together] at some point, we’re going to do something together and we both know it, it’s just when that right piece of material comes the we’ll do it so we’re waiting for the right thing. You don’t want to force the issue, that’s the one thing about Judd, all his stuff is real characters. The characters that have developed are real people in case you hadn’t noticed so I think we’re waiting for the person I can play, a small black guy [laughs].
Let Me Explain is in selected cinemas from 31st August 2013 courtesy of Lionsgate.