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Kevin Hart chokes while accepting Twain Prize for humor

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Actor Kevin Hart has everything – movie stardom, millions and millions of dollars – except maybe one thing.

“The triumph tonight is that we found something that Kevin Hart doesn’t yet have: the Mark Twain Prize,” Jerry Seinfeld joked Sunday at the 25th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Hart accepted the award in the Kennedy Center’s 2,465-seat concert hall, capping a raucous two-and-a-half-hour evening filmed by Netflix.

In an emotional speech, Hart, 44, thanked God, his mother, his wife, his children, his publicist, his agent, his financial advisors, his security team, the CEO of one of his companies, his “partnerships and investments”. his friends and colleagues, the evening’s presenters – and just about everyone else around him.

“Take my mother away and I have no idea what I want or who I want to be,” Hart said. Later, he spoke to his children, visibly choked up: “I breathe for you. I live for you.”

He reflected on his journey from dabbling in comedy to becoming a global superstar.

“Sometimes a bet is the best way to define who you will be or ultimately become the best version of yourself,” Hart said. And over the years, as he perfected his comedy, he said, “I found new ways to amplify it and become bigger and better.” »

The award, named in honor of author Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain), is given to someone whose humor “has had an impact on American society,” according to the Kennedy Center. With this, Hart joins the ranks of 20th century legends Richard Pryor, Carol Burnett and George Carlin and more recent honorees such as Tina Fey, Dave Chappelle, Jon Stewart and last year’s recipient, Adam Sandler.

Hart’s friends, colleagues and mentors toasted and roasted him throughout the evening. Among them were TV host Nick Cannon, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star JB Smoove, rapper Nelly, singer Robin Thicke and “Night School” co-star Tiffany Haddish – all of whom appeared in “ Real Husbands of Hollywood”, the reality TV parody. Television that Hart co-created.

Other speakers included Jimmy Fallon, Chelsea Handler, Regina Hall, Keith Robinson, a veteran stand-up comedian who mentored Hart early in his career, and Chris Rock, whose stand-up tour with Hart was captured in the 2023 documentary “Kevin Hart & Chris Rock: Headliners Only.”

Thicke and Nelly kicked off the show with a rousing performance of the rapper’s 2002 hit “Hot in Here” as canisters shot six columns of flame behind them — a reference to Hart’s “Let Me Explain” special which included similar pyrotechnics.

Although Hart is best known for his comedy, in recent years he has created a business empire in hopes of creating generational wealth. He owns fast-casual restaurants, a tequila brand, a protein drink line, a production company and an investment company.

He said he hoped to become a billionaire by the time he turns 45 in July.

That ambition wasn’t lost in the comics Sunday night.

Rock said his favorite Hart movie was “The Upside” because “he had to act like he had less money than Bryan Cranston.” Smoove, puffing on a cigar, said Hart had changed “the business of comedy.” Seinfeld remembers seeing Hart speak to a room of billionaires at a financial summit.

“Do you know how many tickets you sold? » asked Chappelle. He said he’d done research: half a billion.

“Kevin really cares about the quality of the check,” said Hall, who appeared in eight films with Hart. “Not the project.”

At one point, attendants handed out small red cups containing Hart’s tequila shots.

The evening’s standout performer — and recipient of a rare standing ovation — was Hart’s mentor, Keith Robinson, who had two hits.

“My New Year’s resolution: no more strokes,” he joked. “Chris Rock calls me Strokey Robinson. He’s an asshole, man.

Two more standing O’s: when Kennedy Center President David Rubenstein spoke about his upcoming retirement, making this his final Twain Prize, and when the sound filled the room announcing Eddie Murphy as a surprise guest. It was a mistake. Nick Cannon came out instead, laughing at the prank as the audience sat back down.

Hart smiled throughout the show, watching from the dress circle with her family, her young children crawling into her lap. He seemed particularly tickled by the Jimmy Fallon song.

Unlike the other comedians, Fallon did not speak. Donning a black cowboy hat, he sang a country tune, with a vibrant Southern accent, about Hart’s waistline — with lyrics such as “He buys his clothes at Build-a-Bear” and “We’d have the heart broken if he got carried away. by an eagle” and:

We all love this famous Kevin,

He’s the boss in any room,

But from the back, he looks like he’s 7 years old.

Hart was born in North Philadelphia in 1979 to a strict mother and a largely absent father. He began stand-up comedy after dropping out of Community College of Philadelphia before the end of the first semester.

“If Survivor had a mascot, it would be him,” Chappelle said Sunday night. “It sounds like ‘Stayin’ Alive.’ A little guy who grew up in North Philadelphia. Strong, but he probably can’t fight.

Despite numerous controversies — including Hart’s cheating on his pregnant wife in 2017 and his resignation as Oscars host after old homophobic tweets and stand-up clips resurfaced — three of his stand-up specials -up are among the 10 biggest hits of all time. , and his films have grossed more than $4 billion at the worldwide box office.

“I really wish you would have come when I won this award,” said Chappelle, who received the Twain Prize in 2019. Then he moved on to sincerity: “My God, Kevin Hart. You are a very powerful dreamer.

The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor ceremony will be broadcast on Netflix on May 11.

correction

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the year Dave Chappelle won the Mark Twain Prize. He received the award in 2019, not 2009. The article has been corrected.

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