FRESH AIR: For about 48 hours in December, Kevin Hart was slated to host the 2019 Academy Awards. Then Hart was called out for homophobic jokes and tweets he made in 2010, and the Academy asked him to apologize. Hart insisted that he already had apologized. Finally, after some back and forth, Hart stepped down from hosting, saying he didn’t want to be a distraction.
Now, barely a month later, Hart says he’s “over” the Oscars controversy. Nevertheless, he sat down for a long conversation with Fresh Air in which he reflected on the whirlwind of the past few weeks in the larger context of his comedy career. Hart notes that the jokes in question were made nearly a decade ago and that, at the time, they seemed in line with the risqué comedy he had grown up watching. But he adds he has a different perspective now. “The bad part about being a comedian is that sometimes you just aren’t funny,” he says. “Sometimes to grow as a comedian, you got to go through the stupid part.”
“Ultimately,” Hart says, “I have 10 years of separation in between the time that was brought back up and now, and I think those 10 years acted as a great example of change. And in order for people to evolve, you have to accept their change.” Hart’s new film, The Upside, represents a further evolution of his career. In it he plays Dell, a man who, trying to get his life back on track after serving prison time, gets a job as a caretaker for a wealthy quadriplegic man, played by Bryan Cranston. Hart describes his role as “something a little more serious.”
“You’ve seen me high-energy. You’ve seen me be the guy who’s responsible for the funny,” he says. “In this particular case, it was a little different. It was about me embracing the life of somebody that’s real, and making sure that I gave a performance that made people invest in the relationship between the two characters.” MORE