Interview: Kevin Hart talks to Laughspin about his concert film “Laugh At My Pain”

Kevin Hart is incredibly well known among comedy fans for his Comedy Central specials and albums I’m a Grown Little Man and Seriously Funny, as well as for his roles in the Scary Movie franchise, Death at a Funeral, and Little Fockers. Hart is combining his work in stand-up and feature films for a big screen release of his latest comedy special Laugh At My Pain, set to be released exclusively at AMC theaters Sept. 9. I called Kevin to get the details on the big screen flick as well as to hear about his early days in comedy and where he drew his material from for Laugh at My Pain.

How is having your special released in theaters different than having it released on television?
It’s just putting a different stature on it. It becomes an event. Releasing it on television is good and your traction is good. I’ve had success in my earlier years [with TV specials], but now because of the fan base that I’ve built, the attention that I’ve been getting, we decided to go theatrical. And going theatrical, it kind of just says, ‘Hey I’m much bigger and better than what I was before. You loved the last one, look at the stage I’m setting up for this one.'”

What are the technical differences between shooting a special for theaters as opposed to television?
For me there’s no difference. You don’t put pressure on yourself because of what you’re doing. You make sure you’re comfortable with the way it’s being set up, so it’s set up for you to win. And doing the live performance and recording it is the best way to do it, because you’re getting the immediate reaction.

How long is it?
Ninety minutes.

I interviewed Jim Norton a few months ago. He told me something you, him, and Patrice Oneal would do to each other in New York is watch each other’s sets then take one another to “Hack Court.” Can you tell us a little about that?
Funny as hell. Funny as hell. We would go and just basically watch each other’s acts and when that person was done we would go sit at a round table and just give each other shit. “Who all votes on the first joke, that is was awful? Can we get a raise of hands for who thinks that joke should be thrown out immediately?” “Yes.” “Yes.” “Yes.” “Yes.” It was just basically a way to give each other shit, but it was good. It was really good.

Do you remember any examples of people’s jokes that got brought to “Hack Court?”
I remember mine. They trashed one of mine. I had a joke about a midget, a cross-eyed midget. And while I was doing the joke onstage, they were all in the back just moaning, “Ahhhhhh. God. Ahhhhh. Awwww Nah. Ahhhh, that’s horrible.”

What club was that at?
The Cellar. We were at the Comedy Cellar.

A few months ago, there was this video clip that was all over television. At a P Diddy party some girl’s hair caught on fire (watch below) and as soon as it does, you’re in front of the camera, cracking up. Can you tell us what happened?
At that party it was an event for Puffy. And we were hosting it and having a good time, and me, Trey Songz, and Fabolous are in the bathroom sitting down, and out of nowhere, this girl’s hair catches on fire. And when we say “fire,” we’re talking fire! “Put you head under the water!” “Put it out!” I was laughing hysterically, I wanted to make sure we had it on tape. That’s all I cared about.

What’s it been like hanging out with Puffy?
He’s a good dude, that’s my man.

Who were your comedic influences?
I would have to say: Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy of course, Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, and the Kings of Comedy.

You got your start in comedy in Philadelphia. Was it a good experience?
I started in Philadelphia doing amateur nights there. That’s where I fell in love with it stand-up. I won a couple of amateur night competitions back to back, and that’s when I said, ‘You know what? This is what I want to do with my life. This is what I’m going to make a career.’ After all the relationships that I made, I decided to go to New York and pursue comedy further and after doing that, I found out that I fell in love with it even more, and that’s when I decided to go to Los Angeles.

What kind of material do you cover in Laugh at my Pain?
Basically, I’m talking about things that affected me the most. I’m talking about my dad being on drugs, I’m talking about my mom passing away, I’m talking about me going through a divorce– topics that people won’t normally laugh at, but I decided to do that material anyway. So I challenged myself to go darker and it actually worked out for me. I think this is the best representation of stand-up comedy that I’ve done thus far.

Did it take you a long time in your career to get to that point where you can go that deep in your own life for material?
Yes. Lot of growing as an entertainer, as a comic. There was a lot of maturing and figuring out the best way to do it.

Kevin Hart’s Laugh At My Pain debuts Sept. 9 at AMC theaters nationwide. You can buy your tickets here.

Scott King

A Chicago-based writer and comedian, Scott King also contributes to As a comic he's appeared on the WGN Morning News and is a two-time finalist of Comedy Central's Open Mic Challenge.

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