In his rise to the very top of the comedy world, Kevin Hart has done everything from delivering hit specials to selling out a football stadium to starring in box office smashes like “Jumanji.”
On Wednesday, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts recognized that versatility and announced that it would award its 25th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor to Hart at a ceremony on March 24. The center cited his “iconic characters, inimitable physical comedy, and relatable narratives,” as well as his achievements as a comedian, actor, writer and producer.
In a statement, Hart, 44, noted that he had been performing stand-up since at least the inception of the award. “To be honored in this commemorative year feels surreal,” he added. “Comedy is my outlet for social commentary and observations on life — I am grateful to the Kennedy Center for recognizing my voice and impact on culture. I can’t wait to celebrate!”
He got his start in Philadelphia at a comedy club amateur night and built up a career that included major tours like “Laugh at My Pain” (2011), one of several shows that were turned into concert films. That includes his 2015 performance before 53,000 fans at the Philadelphia Eagles stadium. In addition to appearing in TV series like “Real Husbands of Hollywood” and “Modern Family,” he found big-screen success as a foil for Dwayne Johnson (the “Jumanji” movies, “Central Intelligence”), Ice Cube (the “Ride Along” franchise) and Mark Wahlberg (“Me Time).
There have been controversies along the way. Hart was to host the Oscars in 2019, but a backlash over old tweets and jokes that were considered homophobic led him to withdraw, saying, “I sincerely apologize to the L.G.B.T.Q. community for my insensitive words from my past.”