Fifteen minutes before the Bulls and Charlotte Bobcats faced off at the United Center Saturday, comedian Kevin Hart was on his phone, trying to get an extra ticket to the game for his friend.
Hart didn’t expect to make it to the game by tip-off. He first needed to take part in a Q & A session with fans during a promotional appearance in a downtown store. But Hart — who visited Chicago briefly Thursday to tape “The Rosie Show” only to fly back to the city Saturday from New York for this appearance — was optimistic he could catch at least part of the action. ”I’m hoping to get there by halftime,” Hart told me.
Hart’s schedule likely doesn’t allow for much these days. He is currently promoting the DVD and Blu-ray release of his stand-up comedy film, “Laugh at My Pain,” which touched on his divorce, his mother’s death and his once drug-addicted father. Soon he’ll begin his “Let Me Explain” tour, which he said will focus on mistakes he’s made.
The Philadelphia native is quick to make fun of himself any chance he gets, but his 15-year career has never been hotter. Hart has more Twitter followers than comedians Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Louis C.K. combined, and he can be seen in the movies “Think Like a Man” with Gabrielle Union opening March 9 and “The Five-Year Engagement” with Jason Segel opening April 27. Hart also now has a reccuring role on ABC’s “Modern Family.”
“Yes, I’ve gotten funnier,” said Hart, 31, when I asked why he is just now tasting this level of success. “My experiences in life are getting bigger and better. The more stuff I do, the more stuff I talk about — having kids, traveling, going through relationship problems, dealing with things in my own family. All that stuff builds character. It’s allowed me to separate myself from the pack. … At the end of the day, I want to be part of the same conversation as Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle, Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor.”
At the Q&A session with fans, Hart sported one of the many watches he has collected over the years.
The self-proclaimed “watch freak” admitted to the audience he once bought a $175,000 watch because he thought it would be a “game changer” and unsuccessfully tried to return it because no one noticed it.
Hart also addressed the less glamorous period in his stand-up career, when he was booed frequently. It got so bad that he claimed one heckler threw a half-eaten chicken wing at his face. Hart called out the heckler but backed down when he saw the size of the man. The feedback didn’t get much better when Hart starred in the controversial and critically panned 2004 comedy “Soul Plane.”
On Saturday one fan bluntly asked, “Did you think you would be here after ‘Soul Plane’?”
“It was supposed to be stupid,” said Hart, who defends the film because it gave him an opportunity to prove himself. “...The movie is about a purple plane.”
WGCI 107.5-FM radio host Connie, who moderated the Q&A, took the opportunity to ask Hart about his relationship status. The father of two stuttered a bit but acknowledged that he has “somewhat of a girlfriend — someone I’ve been seeing for a while.”
The questions got easier from there. Hart was asked about fame and then about his comedic influences. He listed Cosby, Pryor and Murphy before he was interrupted by a baby in the audience.
“Somebody shut that baby up,” Hart joked before apologizing. “That was really mean. I’m sorry.”