Actor Kevin Hart On Comedy, 'Central Intelligence' And Lessons From His Mom
Over the past decade, comic Kevin Hart has drawn enormous crowds to his stand-up shows and comedy films. He's starred in a string of big-name buddy comedies, including Get Hard with Will Ferrell and the Ride Along films with Ice Cube; and his demanding schedule was even the subject of a joke from Academy Awards host Chris Rock at this year's Oscars.
Central Intelligence is Hart's latest film in the buddy comedy genre. In it, Hart plays Calvin Joyner, an unhappy accountant who finds himself drawn into a web of international espionage thanks to an old high school acquaintance-turned-CIA agent, played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Johnson's character, Bob Stone, has a lot of love for Calvin because Calvin stood up for Bob against high school bullies. Hart tells NPR's Michel Martin that that affection is at the center of the film's comedy.
"My funny comes in not really understanding where Dwayne is coming from and his level of aggression with just affection — he's an affectionate man," Hart says. "And that's where a lot of the comedy comes from — it comes from my back-pedaling from his aggression, and vice versa on his side."
On what brought him and Johnson together for this project
Dwayne and I have admired each other from afar for quite some time and, you know, we both love the work ethic that we see in each other's careers. So we talked, we had conversations about doing something together, and Central Intelligence came up. And we read the script, we liked the script and we said, you know, let's work on it. Let's make it to where it's something that can be a little different. ... So I said, "What if we did a little role reversal? What if you acted as the comedy relief and I acted as somewhat the straight man?" And he jumped at it; I jumped at it. And that's how the characters were born and got to where they are.
On the topics he won't joke about
I don't really mess with the political side of humor, you know. I kind of stay away from the gay community and joking and referencing, or slandering in any way, shape or form — just because I realize why it's become a sensitive area to play with and I have nothing but respect and admiration for that community. ... I keep it to where it's self-deprecation. Everything that I love to talk about or make fun of is me, is personal.
On where he gets his self-confidence
I am 110 percent so secure in who I am, in what I have to offer and my self-worth. ... It comes from my mom. My mom did such an amazing job in making me understand how great of a man I could be if I chose to be one. She never let me start something without finishing it. When you have that around you 24/7, there's no room for error, you know? And my mom, rest in peace, isn't here anymore, but that spirit is with me on a day-to-day basis. You know, I got lucky.
On where his comedy comes from
That's a good question because my mom wasn't funny. I never like gut-laughed at my mom, you know. My dad is not funny on purpose, and he's very crude. ... I think it was just my surroundings. It was laughing and smiling at what some people would look at as negative — finding humor in it. Somehow I got the ability to find a positive in any negative and that's a quality that I'm so blessed and fortunate to have. Because I don't care how bad the situation — and there has been bad situations — I find a positive in it.
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