Internet Famous

Comedian Kevin Hart fills arenas and is a TV and movie star. Meet him

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Summit Pictures

Kevin Hart's fourth filmed stand-up, which he helped finance, is being released in 750 theaters.

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But his main goal is always to satisfy, with the energy of an old-school entertainer. Comedian J.B. Smoove, a regular on Real Husbands of Hollywood, first met Hart when he was playing Philadelphia's Laff House and Hart was in the audience, eager to hang out with the comics afterward. "You could tell how hungry he was by the knowledge he wanted," says Smoove, who was impressed by the vulnerability Hart showed onstage. When Apatow saw Hart perform in 2000, he wrote a TV pilot for him and Amy Poehler about unemployed actors. "Nobody works harder than Kevin," says Apatow. "He is a force." In 2004, ABC gave him a short-lived sitcom, The Big House, in which he played a reverse Fresh Prince, a rich kid in Malibu who moves in with working-class relatives.

Since then, Hart has mostly played some version of Kevin Hart. His act got stronger two years ago when he talked about his divorce, his mother's funeral and his father's cocaine addiction. The morning after he was pulled over for a DUI this spring, he made jokes about it both on Twitter and to the crew on the Real Husbands of Hollywood set and then used it as part of his routine at Seth Rogen's charity event, Hilarity for Charity, saying he handled it better than Reese Witherspoon. Hart is so open about his life that he's constantly able to use it as material. When he tells me he's engaged and I ask him when he's getting married, he tells me it's not happening anytime soon. "A ring just says, 'I like you.' It gives me 10 more years. That's just something you hold her off with." After a divorce three years ago, he says he's learned that marriage is serious. "Engagements, you can do that 30 times."

Hart's plan seems to be to do as many things as many times as he can until he gets it right--a strategy that all but guarantees not everything is going to succeed. Which Hart is O.K. with, since he has a Nietzschean belief that his troubles and failures make him stronger. A few years ago, thinking he was Chris Rock famous, he blew through nearly all his money. When I ask him what he bought, what his Mike Tyson tiger moment was, he says, "When you buy something you can look at, that's not dumb--it's still there. I bought a tiger! It's right there. The things that are dumber are things you don't remember. When you look up and say, 'I thought I had a million dollars. I bought some shirts. I had a belt. My dad, I got him a hat.' You're just adding stuff up. A hat? That's like $60. So I must have bought a lot of those." If there's a better metaphor than too many hats to describe an entertainer hoping to act, write and produce, then Hart will use that in his routine too. He's got a lot of content to fill.

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