Kevin Hart is one busy man. So busy that in the first 15 seconds of our conversation, the actor and comedian is already making us feel impossibly lazy by comparison. “I woke up before the sun this morning, put in a tough training session at 5am, then had about ten meetings and another dozen interviews, and now I’m about to have dinner with my kids. It’s been a regular day,” he says, nonchalantly. It’s a jam-packed schedule for any Hollywood star, but it’s just another day for one of the most wanted men in the business right now.
The 36-year-old has a lot going on, but the most immediate is his debut stand-up show at the du Arena here in Abu Dhabi on Friday April 1. “The What Now? tour has been around the world, but I felt like it needed some love from the Middle East,” Hart tells Time Out. “The last time I visited the UAE, people treated me so well that I said to my team, ‘the UAE needs to be a home away from home’.”
Hart’s What Now? tour initially began as an 80-city marathon in North America, but, as the seats started filling up, this comedy extravaganza became a worldwide campaign. Aside from making a stop in Europe and Australia earlier this year, Hart is also heading to South Africa after the UAE. What Now? is on its way to becoming the highest-grossing stand-up tour in history, and Hart insists that he’s not changing the script for his appearance here. It’s going to have the same explosive entrances, staged fight scenes and plenty of not-fit-for-the-dinner-table narration, he says. “The greatest thing about me is, I don’t change. Regardless of the country, I’m always me. And that’s where the authenticity comes from, you know? Because if I had to adapt to something else, I wouldn’t be myself. I want to give you guys who I am in real life.”
He might be the funnyman of Hollywood, but Hart is also a motivational speaker who is determined to change the mindset of the “social media-obsessed” generation.
“I practise what I preach, and that’s a very rare thing in Hollywood,” he says. “If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re living a lie. I am short, everybody knows that, but I am taller than anyone else in my spirit and in personality. When I was shooting the H&M commercial with David Beckham, I told him 13 times, ‘David I look better than you, you deal with it, bro!’ And he’s one good looking fella.”
You ought to feel more handsome than Beckham when your workout regime involves a thousand sit-ups a day and bench-pressing 300 kilos. While Hart brags about this pre-dawn regimen to his Snapchat followers on a daily basis, he is currently in the midst of starting a fitness revolution. “When my career started to grow and I was working six days a week with crazy 14- to 15-hour days, I was putting a toll on my body,” he says. “I used to look in the mirror and say people are paying money to see you and I need to not lie to them. So I decided, no excuses, no days off.” Hart isn’t all that vain though, as his goal is to push his social media followers to be the best versions of themselves. “When people say on Twitter ‘Oh Kevin Hart’s Snapchat made me go to the gym today’, I gloat.”
Like many aspiring comedians, the Ride Along star gave Saturday Night Live a go in 2013, which he today remembers as “the worst audition” of his life. “I did an impression of a person who nobody knew. Do you know Avery Johnson? He’s a sports analyst with the NBA now. It was the worst audition of my life.” In fact he was instantly asked to leave the room. But, evidently, that one failure didn’t hold him back. He has appeared on the show twice since, and this year sees the release of his action comedy film Central Intelligence, which he stars in alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He’s also voicing the character of a white rabbit in kids’ comedy The Secret Life of Pets and is heading into season five of the fake reality show Real Husbands of Hollywood. Oh, and he’s getting married somewhere in between all of that. “August 8, the date is set. Sorry ladies,” he says, laughing hesitantly. “My fiancé is taking care of it all, I’m not going to do anything. I’m just there to sign the cheque.”
As Hart sits outside a restaurant in The Valley in Los Angeles, his kids, Hendrix and Heaven, patiently wait for their dad to wrap up so they can eat dinner. Hart pauses and mumbles, “two more minutes,” before returning to the phone. Would he want them following him into the spotlight? “The kids are enjoying school and I want them to be kids and not talk business with anyone right now. No child actors in my family, thanks!”
Hart last visited the UAE in November 2015, when he fed a lion and petted a cheetah, so what’s left for him to do this time around? We suggest dune bashing, to which he interrupts and politely says, “I really want to try that, but if I get hurt, I’m blaming it on you. No jokes.”
From Dhs395. Fri April 1, 7.30pm. du Arena, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. www.ticketmaster.ae.