“I say this humbly—but I’m as talented as fuck,” Kevin Hart recently told the Times of London. “I’m really good at what I do.”
Very few would disagree, though as the comedian himself admits, out of more than 60 films to date, “I’ve only had two good movie reviews,” a ratio he says “doesn’t bother me. I’m no stranger to negative feedback.” In fact, Hart claims to have grown in recent years—specifically, since the resurfacing of the years-old homophobic tweets that ultimately compelled him to step down from hosting the 2019 Oscars. But some of his further comments in Sunday’s interview caused some on social media to wonder exactly how much he has grown, especially in light of comments in recent years by fellow comedians Eddie Murphy and Katt Williams.
“If you want to offend somebody, nobody took those words away from you,” Williams said in an early June interview with The Joe Budden Podcast: “Look, if these are the confines that keep you from doing the craft God put you to, then it probably ain’t for you.”
But Hart counters that so-called “cancel culture” has changed the culture of comedy—and not for the better.
“You’re thinking that things you say will come back and bite you on the ass. I can’t be the comic today that I was when I got into this.”
“It’s not necessarily about cancel culture,” he also maintains. “It’s backlash. It’s about the intent behind what you say—there’s an assumption it’s always bad and, somehow, we forgot comedians are going for the laugh. You’re not saying something to make people angry. That’s not why I’m on stage. I’m trying to make you laugh and if I did not make you laugh I failed. That’s my consequence.”
Still, Hart concedes that the issue runs a bit deeper—for both the offended and the transgressor.
“I mean, I personally don’t give a shit about [cancel culture],” he tells the Times—while gesturing, in their words, “dismissively” via Zoom. “If somebody has done something truly damaging then, absolutely, a consequence should be attached. But when you just talk about … nonsense?”
He later added:
“When did we get to a point where life was supposed to be perfect? Where people were supposed to operate perfectly all the time?...I don’t understand. I don’t expect perfection from my kids. I don’t expect it from my wife, friends, employees. Because, last I checked, the only way you grow up is from fucking up. I don’t know a kid who hasn’t fucked up or done some dumb shit.”
“I’ve been canceled, what, three or four times? Never bothered. If you allow it to have an effect on you, it will. Personally? That’s not how I operate...I understand people are human. Everyone can change. It’s like jail. People get locked up so they can be taught a lesson. When they get out, they are supposed to be better. But if they come out and people go, ‘I’m not giving you a job because you were in jail’—then what the fuck did I go to jail for? That was my punishment — how do you not give those people a shot? They’re saying that all life should be over because of a mistake? Your life should end and there should be no opportunity to change? What are you talking about?”...And who are you to make that decision?”
Well alright, then. Points were made—and perhaps, some far less so. (Are we really comparing homophobic tweets made by a man the Times reports is worth $200 million to being incarcerated and subsequently unemployable after paying one’s debt to society?) However, many on social media were less than amused by the comedian’s stance, considering it an indication that Hart had perhaps not grown much, after all.
Still, growth seems to be Hart’s motif these days, even if his messaging seems a bit...mixed. “If people want to pull up stuff, go back to the same tweets of old, go ahead. There is nothing I can do,” he tells the Times. “You’re looking at a younger version of myself. A comedian trying to be funny and, at that attempt, failing. Apologies were made. I understand now how it comes off. I look back and cringe. So it’s growth. It’s about growth.”
“If there’s a message to take from anything I’ve said...it’s OK to not like what someone did and to say that person wasn’t for me,” he later adds. “We are so caught up in everybody feeling like they have to be right and their way is the only way.”
“It’s a divide...But I’m not about to divide. I don’t support the divide!” he concludes. “I put everybody in the fucking building...We all come into this building Kevin Hart is in and we all laugh. I bring people together—like it or not.”
But it’s still OK not to like it, right?