More importantly — and, for those who still don’t get Hart’s appeal, pay attention — Hart’s humor is, dare I say it, revolutionary. Not in the traditional sense — his humor is too friendly and apolitical for that — but in the sense that what he’s doing is legitimately subversive.
Hart is a black man. An American black man from Philadelphia, undoubtedly aware of and influenced by American culture in general and African-American culture in particular. Those who are subject to these influences know that within black culture is a certain hyper-heterosexual ideal that black men are “supposed to” embody. And, when one is supposed to be hyper-hetero, “self-deprecating” and “unfailingly uncool” are two of the traits he’s not supposed to possess.
He’s not shy about the fact that he does, though, as he revolves entire sets around a few things to which it’s still somewhat taboo for heterosexual black men to publicly admit and/or bring attention:
Basically, not just being a “punk,” but a self-aware punk strangely secure enough in his insecurity to invite others to laugh at him.
There’s no doubt much of Hart’s act is hyperbolic. He is rich, very successful and extremely popular, and I have trouble believing he’s as uncool in real life as the character he portrays both onstage and in shows such as BET’s The Real Husbands of Hollywood. And, if he’s been beaten up as many times as he says he has in his acts, I doubt he’d even be able to stand onstage without a cane.
But, although the exaggeration may seem unnecessary (and even dishonest), sometimes you may need to be over the top in order to drive home a point. Hart’s act does this — ultimately satirizing that hyper-hetero, super-cool ideal that all black men are supposed to live up to — and his humor reminds the audience that while stereotypical black men are one way, neither he, nor many who relate to his humor, are that way at all.
Damon Young, contributing editor at Ebony.com, is the co-founder of VerySmartBrothas.com and co-author of Your Degrees Won’t Keep You Warm at Night: The Very Smart Brothas Guide to Dating, Mating, and Fighting Crime. Follow him on Twitter.