Comedian Kevin Hart is everywhere, all the time. At least it seems that way. If he’s not in a movie, he’s on a TV series. If he’s not hosting an award show, he’s presenting at one. If he’s not hitting the late-night talk show circuit, he’s hosting the Justin Bieber Comedy Central roast. Not to mention his “Saturday Night Live” appearances, comedy tours and attempts to go viral online.
How did this happen, seemingly overnight? As Hart is back in the spotlight now with “Get Hard,” his new movie starring Will Ferrell, We count the Kevin Hart Explosion in five steps:
1) September 2011: Hart starts to make waves with his stand-up tour film, “Laugh at My Pain,” which debuts in the Top 10 at the box office.
By this point, Hart had been working steadily in stand-up comedy with hugely successful tours, along with Comedy Central specials and small roles in films like “Scary Movie” and “The 40 Year Old Virgin.” But it wasn’t until he made a movie out his national stand-up tour, “Laugh at My Pain,” that the industry started to notice he had a gigantic fanbase. The film surprised everyone when it raked in $2 million at the box office, even though it cost less than half of that to make — and wound up earning $7 million total. That number would be a flop for any major film, but for one that had a minimal budget and no promotion, it qualified as a hit. “We said, ‘Hey, we know that we’re going to do alright.’ But we didn’t know the magnitude of success that we were dealing with,” Hart told Entertainment Weekly.
2) April 2012: “Think Like a Man”
Hart lands a starring gig in the wildly successful “Think Like a Man,” based on Steve Harvey’s best-selling books. Like many movies marketed toward an under-served or minority audience, the movie is dubbed a “surprise hit” and gets lots of attention, which solidifies his movie actor chops. He wins a BET Award for best actor for his role, and also nabs the spot as host of the MTV Video Music Awards later that summer.
3) January 2013: BET’s “Real Husbands of Hollywood”
Hart conquers TV when he creates, executive produces and stars in BET’s “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” a parody of Bravo-type shows. Co-starring Nick Cannon, J.B. Smoove and Robin Thicke, the premiere lands 4 million viewers and is almost immediately renewed for another season, becoming one of the network’s biggest breakout hits.
4) July 2013: The “Let Me Explain” stand-up tour film is a box office sensation, and everyone freaks out.
If critics were surprised that “Laugh at My Pain” did well, it was nothing compared to the $17.5 million his second stand-up film brought in over July 4 weekend, crushing Johnny Depp’s “The Lone Ranger” in terms of theater average. The movie, a filmed stand-up special at Madison Square Garden, grossed $32 million overall.
5) January 2014: Hart is officially a movie star.
Hart started 2014 with “Ride Along” starring Ice Cube — and finally, a movie aimed at an African American audience is not labeled a “surprise hit” when it tops the box office. (Though critics were still surprised to see it make as much money as it did.) That kickstarts a massive year for Hart, leading to “Think Like a Man Too,” “About Last Night,” “The Wedding Ringer” and “Top Five.” And now, in early 2015, “Get Hard,” which could go either way at the box office thanks to its controversial topics.
Then, on Monday, Hart gets a first-row seat to the hottest ticket in town: Host of the Justin Bieber roast on Comedy Central. Transformation complete.