In 2005, while hosting the Academy Awards, comedian Chris Rock said this when speaking of the great and yet overexposed (at the time) thespian Jude Law:
“Who is Jude Law? Why is he in every movie I have seen for the last four years? He’s in everything…Even the movies he’s not in, if you look at the credits he made cupcakes or something.”
That’s how I feel about Kevin Hart right now.
He is certainly the “it” man at the moment, but is Kevin Hart overexposed? According to IMDb, Hart starred in three Hollywood films last year including This Is the End, Grudge Match and his own stand-up film, Let Me Explain. This year, Hart will be in Ride Along, About Last Night, Think Like a Man Too, School Dance, The Wedding Ringer and an untitled animated pet movie that has been greenlit, which is slated for 2016. Oh, and let’s not forget about the Real Husbands of Hollywood, which he both stars in and produces, as well as the various award shows he pops up at and hosts from time to time.
And according to Shadow & Act, Hart will be producing a pilot comedy series for ABC. The yet to be named show about a divorced couple will be based on Hart’s own stand-up material. Shadow & Act reports:
“The comedy will give audiences a candid look at the life of a couple after their divorce, as they try to rebuild their relationship as friends, for the sake of their children.The project hails from the writers and producers of Community and Scrubs, Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan, and will be based on Kevin Hart’s own stand-up material. However, Hart isn’t expected to star in the series. Instead, he’ll likely take a recurring role (assuming the series is picked up after the pilot is made).”
Well thanks goodness for small miracles.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Kevin Hart. I loved him through the borderline coonery and buffoonery of some of his early work like Soul Plane. I love him even though he talks slick towards black women in ways, which he even admits he is fearful to do to other demographics. And I love him despite the fact that he literally only stands about chin level on my 5’7″ and a half frame. In spite of all his personal quirks, I really do enjoy his comedy. He has a particularly folksy way of telling funny stories – and by “folksy,” I mean if your folk happened to live in the ‘hood. But as a fellow Philadelphian, the jokes he shares about his friends and family are all too familiar to me and I imagine many others. So I definitely get his appeal and I’m happy he is able to make a living from that.
But the timing of his films and other on-screen work is giving us way too much Kevin Hart at one time. Are there any other black comedic actors looking for work in Hollywood who could benefit from a film role or a production deal with a major network and/or studio? What about Mike Epps? He has been hustling hard through Facebook and WorldStarHipHop with his self-produced parody videos. How about Anthony Anderson or Craig Robinson? Both can act and are funny. Or maybe even one of the recently discovered Wayans siblings? Why must it be so much Kevin Hart?
If you are going to go by this fairly recent article in the LA Times entitled Does Hollywood Discriminate Against Young Black Actors?, the answer might have something to do with black comedic actors being more valuable real estate in Hollywood than the more dramatic black actors. And this likely has to do with the recent success of black comedies like Think Like A Man and The Best Man Holiday, which will undoubtedly spur the rise of similar romantic comedies for the next few years. In this respect, Hart’s rise in Hollywood makes sense.
However, his rise is also symptomatic of larger issues in Hollywood, particularly its lack of diversity. Basically, it gets into these creative bubbles, where it doesn’t deviant beyond what it believes is certain to make some money. And as a result, new voices and faces as well as new ideas never get a platform. This is especially problematic for black Hollywood considering the roles available to them are already sparse. Likewise, we the viewers are only left with the limited choices between an actual Kevin Hart-production or a Kevin Hart-like production.
Based on the trajectory of his films, it certainly looks like they are trying to make Hart a black version of Ben Stiller. His films are becoming less comedic and more dramatic. As a fan of his comedy, I look forward to seeing how he evolves in that respect. But like real evolution, let’s space it out some. Or else, it is just too much Hart.