Saturday 21 July 2018

'I almost killed a kid' - Kevin Hart tells Independent.ie about a short lived career before comedy success

Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

He has established himself as one of the world’s A-list celebrities, but Kevin Hart told Independent.ie that the start of working life came close to ending in disaster.

Hart has become a superstar as he sells out vast arenas with his hilarious stand-up comedy act and he has also triumphed in a flourishing acting career, with his role alongside Jack Black and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in the smash hit movie Jumanji confirming his rise to the top.

Yet as Hart told us in an exclusive interview at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, his first venture into the jobs market so nearly ended in tragedy when he was just 17, as he didn’t take long to discover he was not cut out to work as a lifeguard.

“I almost killed a kid,” begins Hart. “This kid was drowning in front of me and I thought he was playing. I was letting him play in my mind and the lifeguard jumped in.

“They gave him mouth-to-mouth, a little bit of water came out and I hear [the boss say]; Hart…What happened here? Who plays like that?

“The other lifeguards were looking at me very disappointed and I had to come back the next day for what was it called…fired! That lifeguard shirt was worn about five times, but it was never worn again.”

Becoming the next real-life David Hasselhoff was never likely to become a long-term career move for Hart, who has used his charm and comedic genius to become one of the world’s most adored entertainers and yet an interview with this 38-year-old is not as restrictive as you might expect.

As he strides towards us with his entourage of body guards and publicity staff, the first thing that stands out is his lack of stature, with his diminutive frame complimented by a booming voice that fills the room as our chat kicked-off.

Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart

With so many people in the room, there may have been a temptation to tone down questions in a bid to avoid the wrath of Hart’s PR representatives, but it quickly became clear that not such rules needed to be adhered to.

“I’m an open book man,” he begins, wearing his shades indoors and somehow making the look seem credible. “The more authentic and real you are, the more people can appreciate that and support you. When you show the pros and cons and show that you have vulnerability, it’s not a bad thing at all.

“People love to know that other people are human. Just because I’m in front of the cameras and in the spotlight, it doesn’t mean I cannot show people that I am still a regular guy. The more that I can show that the better.”

A father of two from his first marriage to Torrie, Hart became a dad once again when he and his wife Eniko Parrish welcomed little Kenzo Kash into their world last November.

The celebrity life Kenzo will experience could not be more in contrast to the upbringing Kevin lived through, but he looks back on his childhood with some affection.

Hart’s honesty was highlighted during his appearance on an ITV chat show last year, as he offered up a graphic view of his youth growing up on the tough streets of Philadelphia.

“I appreciate what I have now, of course I do, but I never complain about my childhood because that was just normal for me then and I didn’t realise it was too bad,” he reflected.

“I was raised by a single mother (Nancy), with my dad (Henry Witherspoon) coming in and out of jail and hooked on drugs. Now I realise we were not in a great position, but I just got on with life. I’m black man…we just shrug our shoulders and accept things are not always going to be great.

“What my success has done is allowed me to get out of that situation. When I had enough money, I paid for my Dad to go into an institution where my dad got sober.

“The way I see it is my Dad took drugs and did what he did to show me precisely what I shouldn’t do. In the end, things have worked out for me.”

Now he plans to take his next comedy tour to Ireland, with his proven ability to sell-out vast arenas all over the world evidence of his wide appeal.

“Am I surprised my career has got as big as it has? Not really,” he adds. “I’m the kind of guy who gives my all to everything and I expect it to be successful. You want to achieve whatever level of greatness you can and as you check goals off, you set new ones.

“You want to be universal and ensure that your comedy travels. I like being around the Irish and British people because getting a different perspective on the world from your side of the pond allows you to have a little more understanding of what works in different places.

“I like Ireland. Great people, wonderful humour and you like to have fun. That’s why I go there. I drink Guinness in my hotel room and slobber on my pillow. That’s about it.”

Hart is planning to be back in the Bahamas next January to take part in the all new PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship where over 300 lucky players will have won a $30,000 ticket to attend the event.

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