AHEAD of his Johannesburg show tomorrow evening, we caught up with the hilarious comedian.
By: El Broide
HE’S one of the funniest comedians in the world right now. He has appeared in many films and his stand-up comedy is hilarious. After months of waiting, Kevin Hart has finally landed in South Africa as he gets ready to perform in Johannesburg tomorrow night. The show is completely sold out proving that South African’s can’t wait to see the man do what he does best. We caught up with him ahead of his show and spoke to him about South Africa, his career and the What Now world tour.
You recently said that you didn’t expect South Africa to look the way it does.
No. That’s the power of the media. You never know what you’re walking into. The beauty of travelling is that you realise that there are similarities in every place that you go. You have good parts and you have bad parts. Coming to South Africa, I didn’t know what to expect and there is both good and bad and I’ve seen both sides of it and I can relate to both sides. All it did is make me see that South Africa is on my list to visit yearly and treat it the same way I treat my fans domestically. If I want to be the international success that I want to be I need to be seen on an international level and South Africa is on that list so you will see me a lot from now.
You came with three American supporting acts. Was there never an opportunity for you to look into the local comedy scene and find out if there is someone suited for the opening act or is that your format?
I believe that if something isn’t broke, don’t fix it. What people should know about me is that I’m loyal and I’m big on family. The people who are with me are now family. We’ve been together for over 10 years and those comedians that open for me are not just comedians but they’re part of my company. There are so many outlets that come out from my company and they’re driven by these personalities. Those guys have literally continued to motivate me to continue accomplishing the things I’ve accomplished. I work hard because those guys work hard. When you have guys under you that want your spot, it keeps you on your toes and there’s not a single person that opens up for me that doesn’t want to be where I’m at. As far as the comedians here in South Africa, I’m not as well-informed of them as much as I should be. I know some of them but there is a rhythm to my show and these guys put that rhythm in place.
You go to so many different countries with the same set. How do you prepare for South Africans to relate to your material especially since you say you didn’t know what to expect?
This is the beauty of Kevin Hart. I don’t change. What you see is what you get. When I say I don’t know what to expect from South Africa, I’m not talking about the cities but I’m talking about how I’m going to be received. You don’t know if things are uncomfortable and dangerous or if things are calm. I’ve been to places where we went to a mall and they had to shut the mall down because of people who were banging on the glass because they were excited. Other places people don’t really care about you. As far as my set, nothing changes. You know what you’re going to get – that’s why people bought tickets to the show. This is my new hour and I’ve been all over the world with this hour and I’m not going to short-change you and give you something less than what was given to other countries. I’m going to do what I do best and that’s being myself.
You have strict rules regarding video, photography and audio at your shows. Why?
The reason why is because comedy isn’t music. You can hear a song over and over again. You can sing a song over and over again. A joke is different. You heard a joke once, it’s funny. You hear it for the second time and you chuckle a bit and the third time you get it. Social media, as much as I love it and embrace it, is the killer of our culture because people can’t sit and watch something without it being recorded or shared. If I allow the audience to be on their phones or record, there would be no element of surprise. The people who are going to the show tomorrow would then have seen the show 13 times virally. Even music artists have lost that element of surprise because everyone shares it on Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter. You don’t see anything about my shows because I make them special. If I don’t do that, I feel like I do the audience a disservice. Also, my performance is released theatrically. I have no movie if everyone is seen it. Those select people who watch the show leave with a wow factor and when the movie does come out, they help spread the word of not only was it an amazing show but that they can’t wait to see how the movie turned out. I’m playing chess. I’m making moves before the moves should be made. I’m 12 steps ahead.
You were the first guest on Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show. We’re super proud of him. Tell us about the conversation you had with him moments before the show went live.
Firstly, you should all be above-and-beyond proud of Trevor. I say this because he’s a comedian who came over to the States who didn’t try become what the States wanted him to be. He’s proud of his heritage and where he comes from and he makes it known. That’s a beautiful thing. That’s what you want as a representative of your country. Our conversation backstage was simply that he is in an amazing position because all eyes are on him. As a comedian, you work hard but you never know what that big moment is. His big moment was one of the toughest big moments because everyone wanted to see the guy who was replacing Jon Stewart fail. Nobody watched that to say that this is going to be amazing, they watched that to say that he probably wasn’t going to be that good. He stood in those shoes and was incredibly proud. His monologue was efficient, every word was pronounced correctly, he didn’t stutter, he didn’t fumble and he got laughs. Now, people love him. The ratings are consistent, he’s done an amazing job, he’s still touring, he told me he’s in South Africa at the moment and that he’s going to try and make it to the show. I’m a fan of success. I’m a fan of people who make history and Trevor is a man who is making history in his own right. I applaud him probably louder than you guys do because I know what he put in to make it to this moment and I hope that he goes above and beyond.
We’ve taken a look at your rider. So many celebrities want scented candles in the room. What do scented candles do for you?
This is what scented candles do. When you’re in a green room or your dressing room, that room gets very crowded after a show. When it gets crowded, it gets hot. When it gets hot, people sweat. When people sweat it starts to stink. Scented candles take that stink out the room. That’s it. It’s not about calming myself or anything like that. I don’t like stink so I would rather a scented candle be in there. Sometimes, that smell could be me. I just got off stage performing and I was sweating so this is to take that away when I’m meeting people. I wish it was more excited but I’m just a normal, down to earth guy. I just want a tray of buffalo wings and some scented candles and that’s it.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I show up. That’s about it. I literally get to the show about 15 minutes before I have to be on stage – that’s about it. I’m here, I take off my jacket and then I get on stage.
Will we see your Move With Hart campaign here in South Africa?
After coming here now, I know that I can bring that to South Africa. I didn’t know how I would be received here out of the show and now knowing that it would be cool to come and do other events here and that’s what I mean when I say I will need to frequent these parts more. I would love to do a Move With Hart event here. Physical fitness is something that I believe brings people together and everything I do in my career is about bringing people of all races, shapes and sizes together. I would love to run these streets out here and show you how amazing my legs look in the South African sun.
When you’re shooting your films, how much of it is scripted and how much is improve?
You can’t choose a role without a great foundation. The script always needs to be in place first and I think the beauty of hiring someone like myself is that you get an added bonus. I will always give you what you have on paper but I always go above to find some stuff that you may not have known was there and that’s what improvisation is about. I worked with one of the best, Will Ferrell, and in that movie we had a script but there was so much improv and other stuff that happened which acts as your toppings. You get ice cream which is good but then you get your sprinkles and your berries and it gets that much better.
What has been the best and strangest moment of your comedy career?
The best part is that I’m doing stadia and arenas that are huge and I look around and no one is the same. That’s the best part. It means that I’m relating to everyone and that my jokes are translating all over the globe and that’s what you want as a comedian. I want everyone to go ‘I relate to him’. The strangest? Back in the day I got hit in the face with a buffalo wing. A guy was so upset with my comedy that he threw a buffalo wing at me and it hit me in the face. That was back in the day. I was only 19 years old when that happened. It’s all been overwhelming though and I thank God every day and try and get better at it all the time.