(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.