Pop Culture, Race & Politics

Kevin Hart, Revolutionary?

(The Champ’s latest The Root argues that Kevin Hart’s style of humor satirizes the idea of how Black men are “supposed” to be.)

Admittedly, it’s not difficult to see why Kevin Hart’s particular style of comedy may be off-putting and why his popularity may be puzzling. He’s not a cerebral comic in the same way a Chris Rock or Louie CK might be. He’s definitely not as intentionally iconoclastic as a Richard Pryor, George Carlin or even Paul Mooney. He doesn’t make you laugh at things you’re kind of ashamed to be laughing at the way Patrice O’Neal did and Bill Burr currently does. And while Hart is a good storyteller and impressionist, Eddie Murphy was/is much better at both.

Often, Hart seems to get his laughs in the cheapest way possible — by being the loudest, shortest and most obnoxious person in the room. Basically, it’s as if he’s made a career out of being a professional court jester, a well-paid perpetual foil, and I can understand why people wouldn’t be too happy about paying money to watch the guy who reminds you of the guy in sixth-grade French who never had a pencil (and would spend the entire class asking you and everyone else for one).

Assessing Hart’s career in this superficial manner, though, dismisses certain qualities that make Hart’s humor quite a bit smarter than it initially appears. Although I don’t know Hart personally, there’s a level of self-awareness to his act-persona that allows his shtick to work. He knows exactly who he is, and much of his humor comes from him placing himself in situations or telling stories where both he and the audience know he’s in over his head.

Read more at The Root

Filed Under: , ,
Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • T.Q. Fuego

    U know, I noticed that about Hart, but I didn’t know he was the first black comedian to do this. I thought Richard Pryor did the too just in a different way. The best part about when Pryor did it was that he wasn’t a one trick pony like Kevin hart is for the most part. It’s definitely refreshing to see a black man admit things like that about himself and be able to laugh about it tho. I agree with u there 4 sure. That’s what the best class clowns from high school do anyway.

    What’s interesting is that I hear aggressive Katt Williams hate more than Kevin Hart hate. It’s puzzling to me cause their level of talent/content are equal (un)funny to me. They’re both funny sometimes. I might go as high as 40% of the time.

  • DWilson87

    This sums up basically how I feel about Hart. He is funny to me especially in movies and tv shows. His stand up is ok and I can relate to certain things like
    “my mom turned my dad into a step dad” he is a good storyteller, not the best. I prefer Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, O’Neal or Earthquake over him hell even D.L. I’m in my mid 20’s and a lot of my friends and ppl I know think Hart is the funniest man in the world and I tell them once I watch is stand up once or twice I’m good its not making me think of something in a messed up way or making me feel bad for laughing. But the whole class clown thing is working for him really well.

  • Never

    I’m not sure why I’ve developed unconquerable aversions to Kevin Hart, Steve Harvey, and D.L. Hughley. I’m less familiar with Hart – because I’ve purposely tuned him out – but Steve and D.L. always seemed to continue roughshod on whatever current tangent they’re developing *until* you laugh. Like perpetually tickling someone who isn’t ticklish; I’ll. Do. This. Until. I. Get. A. Reaction. Forced. Or. Otherwise. HAW HAW HAW!

    And I’ve, perhaps unfairly, casually categorized Hart with those two, because, after a perfunctory glance, his brand of comedy seemed…similar. Loud. Skin teeth. Typical subject matter. And the HAW HAW HAW and inevitably accompanies the delivery of the punchline. Out of curiosity, will revisit though, because I’m fair, and have zero problem admitting an error on my behalf.

    The article did mention cerebral comedy, and Chris Rock. I’m a tad surprised I didn’t see Dave Chappelle mentioned, because he quickly turned into my favorite comedian because of both the delivery and the subject matter. I mean…a homeless dude holding everyone hostage on the bus via…ahm, how to avoid the censor? “Skeet shoot” threats? A blind, black white supremacist? That “man rapist” bit he did in San Francisco? HAW HAW HAW! But as of right now, Kevin Hart = Tracy Morgan (to me) in the funny department. Just….not very.

    • T.Q. Fuego

      Agreed on Chappelle, very cerebral and creative

  • Tx10inch

    You’ve got to admit, the lastest “Husbands of Hollywood” ep with Shane Mosley was HILARIOUS!

  • Youahater

    One word: HATER

  • Loe

    True. It’s shtick and he is also self-aware of the shtick. And he does bring me back to kid-dom with his humor. He can be silly, which can be fun. But he can be loud and obnoxious, which often overpowers what’s good about his humor. He did a good job when hosting Chelsea Lately and had Michael Ealy on. His timing is impeccable with his jokes…and Michael Ealy does kinda look like Lionel Richie, although it took Kevin’s pointing it out for me to notice…and on a side-not, Lionel Richie’s daughter looks like Topanga from “Boy Meets World”.

    I like Chris Rock, although I don’t like when he’s loud; he definitely makes you think while you’re laughing. and Louis C.K. is great too. I don’t know much of Paul Mooney’s comedy, but I loved it when he commented about “The Mexican” starring Brad Pitt and “The Last Samurai” starring Tom Cruise. I don’t remember the joke, but it was really funny.

More Like This