For generations, Philadelphia has been an endless source of talent, and one of the latest entertainers to emerge from the City of Brotherly Love and make his mark is comedian Kevin Hart, whose hilarious 90-city “Laugh at My Pain” tour — which earned more than $15 million in ticket sales during its 2011 theatrical release — comes to DVD on January 17.
As the tour winds down, Hart is about to take the stage before 15,000 fans in Los Angeles. However, before he does so, he brings viewers back to Philly to show them some of the people and places that brought him to that moment. “Everybody here knows me!” he boasts as he walks down Ontario Street with his Hollywood crew, but when he shouts to random passersby in the neighborhood, all he hears is the sound of crickets.
Fortunately comedians Tu Rae Gordon and Keith Robinson, who met Hart when he was a young upstart performing regularly at the Laff House, were able to vouch for the hilarious homeboy. Hart credited Robinson, who once told him “You’re funny, but you’re not talkin’ about nothin’!” with passing on the words of wisdom that would ultimately change the course of his career.
While in Philly, Hart stops by his alma mater, George Washington High School, where the coach makes the shocking disclosure that the diminutive comic played four years of varsity basketball. He was also a member of the Philadelphia Department of Recreation’s outstanding swim team, and pays a visit to coach Jim Ellis, whom Terrence Howard portrayed in the feature film “Pride.” By the time he made it to Maxx’s Cheesesteaks at Broad and Erie, the citywide case of amnesia had dissipated and he was surrounded by adoring fans — especially when he announced that he would pick up the bill for everyone who already placed their order, and also leave a hefty tip.
Back in L.A., now in front of an audience that includes celebs such as Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson and NBA icon Shaquille O’Neal, Hart begins his aptly titled “Laugh at My Pain” routine. Heeding the advice that he received from Keith Robinson so many years ago, he makes light of the everyday aspects of life — including the most painful aspects of his own life. His favorite subject is his father, whose severe cocaine addiction caused Hart’s mother to throw his dad out of the house when Kevin was only a toddler. He also talks about his mother’s funeral, the failure of his marriage, his idiot cousin Al, his admitted sexual inadequacies and the perils of being a little guy, indeed encouraging everyone in the packed house to laugh at his pain.
Despite his gimmick of portraying himself as a martyr who is always on the verge of tears, Hart’s jokes have that hardcore Philadelphia edge that hit the mark and let you know that he’s definitely not a victim. Since his outrageous, uncensored routine is quite physical, Hart’s small stature works to his advantage, and his antics have the audience howling with laughter. As he makes a dramatic exit from the stage, he looks straight at the camera and proclaims, “I came, I saw, I rocked!” The “Laugh at My Pain” DVD also includes never-before-seen features that demonstrate why Kevin Hart is one of the brightest stars in comedy.
Contact Entertainment Reporter Kimberly C. Roberts at (215) 893-5753 or krobertsphillytrib.com.