Actor Kevin Hart On Comedy, 'Central Intelligence' And Lessons From His Mom Hart has drawn enormous crowds to his stand-up shows and comedy films. The actor/comic says he owes a lot to his mom. "She never let me start something without finishing it."
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Actor Kevin Hart On Comedy, 'Central Intelligence' And Lessons From His Mom

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Actor Kevin Hart On Comedy, 'Central Intelligence' And Lessons From His Mom

Actor Kevin Hart On Comedy, 'Central Intelligence' And Lessons From His Mom

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If you follow comedy at all, then you already know that Kevin Hart is one of the biggest names in the game right now. Over the past decade, he's worked his way to the center of the action by drawing enormous crowds to his stand-up shows, a dedicated following to his comedy films and starring in a string of big-name buddy comedies like "Get Hard" with co-star Will Ferrell and the "Ride Along" series with Ice Cube. His demanding schedule was even the subject of a joke from Academy Awards host Chris rock at this year's Oscars.

(SOUNDBITE OF ACADEMY AWARDS CEREMONY)

CHRIS ROCK: I thought about quitting. I thought about it real hard, but I realized they're going to have the Oscars anyway. They're not going to cancel the Oscars because I quit, you know? And the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

ROCK: I don't need that. Kev right there - Kev make movies fast.

(LAUGHTER)

ROCK: Every month - porno stars don't make movies that fast.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Well, we don't know how fast they made it, but Kevin Hart's latest film "Central Intelligence" is the latest in the buddy-comedy genre. In it, Hart plays an unhappy accountant who finds himself drawn into a web of international espionage, thanks to an old high school acquaintance turned CIA agent played by Dwayne the Rock Johnson.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE")

KEVIN HART: (As Calvin Joyner) I am blown away right now. Dude, you used to be fat Robbie. This is like a total transformation. You look like Hercules or somebody. What did you do? Come on, man. Give it to me. What'd you do?

DWAYNE JOHNSON: (As Bob Stone) No, I didn't do much really.

HART: (As Calvin Joyner) Stop it.

JOHNSON: (As Bob Stone) All right. Well, I just did one thing.

HART: (As Calvin Joyner) Come on. I need to know.

JOHNSON: (As Bob Stone) I worked out six hours a day every day for the last 20 years straight. I mean, anybody can do it right?

HART: (As Calvin Joyner) Yeah, yeah. You know, I've gotten into hot yoga.

MARTIN: To talk about all that and more, we're joined by Kevin Hart from our studios in New York. Kevin Hart, thank you so much for joining us.

HART: Well, thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So how did this project come together between you and Dwayne Johnson?

HART: Between me and DJ? Well, Dwayne and I have been fans and have admired each other from afar for quite some time. And, you know, we both love the work ethic that we see in each other's careers, so we talked. We had conversations about doing something together, and "Central Intelligence" came up. And we read the script. We liked the script.

And we said, you know, let's work on it. Let's make it to where it's something that can be a little different because in this day and age it's very hard to do a movie idea that hasn't already been touched on or done. So I said what if we did a little role reversal? What if you acted as the comedy relief and I acted as somewhat of the straight man? And he jumped at it. I jumped at it, and that's how the characters were born and got to where they are.

MARTIN: Well, OK. So you skipped ahead a little bit to where I was going to go, but let's just go right there. In the film that you play - an accountant named Calvin Joyner who's kind of in a midlife funk, dissatisfied with where his life has led. He's worried that he's peak - I want to ask a little bit about that later. But you are kind of the straight man to Dwayne Johnson.

HART: Yeah.

MARTIN: He plays a guy who was bullied in high school for being not just to mention a little overweight, but a little different, a little different. Let's play another clip. This is from a scene in which your characters are reliving the glories of high school.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE")

JOHNSON: (As Bob Stone) Yo, you remember those backflips you used to do? The crowd would go crazy. I was there, too. I'm like, what? How does he do that? How did you do that?

HART: (As Calvin Joyner) I don't know. I just did it, man.

JOHNSON: (As Bob Stone) Exactly. So do it now.

HART: (As Calvin Joyner) No, no, no, you're crazy. No, no.

JOHNSON: (As Bob Stone) What's that?

HART: (As Calvin Joyner) What are you talking about? What's what?

JOHNSON: (As Bob Stone) Golden Jet.

HART: (As Calvin Joyner) No, stop it.

JOHNSON: (As Bob Stone) Golden Jet.

HART: (As Calvin Joyner) OK. Stop it.

JOHNSON: (As Bob Stone) Golden Jet.

HART: (As Calvin Joyner) All right.

JOHNSON: (As Bob Stone) Golden Jet. I'm not going to stop until you do the Golden Jet flip.

HART: (As Calvin Joyner) OK.

JOHNSON: (As Bob Stone) Golden Jet.

HART: (As Calvin Joyner) All right. Everybody settle down, settle down. The crowd wants the Golden Jet flip. And it's going to get a Golden Jet flip.

JOHNSON: (As Bob Stone) You go, girl.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Oh, no.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE")

HART: (As Calvin Joyner) Oh, God.

JOHNSON: (As Bob Stone) That was so close, Jet.

MARTIN: (Laughter) OK. I don't want to give everything away, but you land flat on your face.

HART: Yeah.

MARTIN: So yeah...

HART: One-hundred percent I hit hard. That's...

MARTIN: First of all, can I just say Dwayne Johnson has the most perfect teeth of any man I've ever seen in my life? I mean, oh, my God.

JOHNSON: He really does.

MARTIN: I mean, he - is there - are his teeth really that amazing in real life?

HART: Yeah. Yeah, they bug me.

MARTIN: I know right.

HART: It bugs me that they're that amazing.

MARTIN: It just seems so unfair.

HART: It makes me mad.

MARTIN: But tell me about that whole thing. Like the film has all these different kinds of comedy in it. There's like the physical stuff like you just fall on your face. There's like gore, which is funny. There's a lot of wordplay. I don't want to give all the good lines away. But, you know, he - at one point he calls you a fun-sized Denzel Washington. He calls you black Google.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: What are your favorite kind of jokes?

HART: I mean, listen, I like comedy that can be grounded, you know. As crazy as we go on this film, as big as we go, you believe it. They are things that are far-fetched, so within the characters that we both play, we teetered that line with funny. Like my funny comes in in not really understanding where Dwayne is coming from and his level of aggression with just affection - he's an affectionate man.

And that's where a lot of the comedy comes from. It comes from my backpedaling from his aggression. And vice versa on his side, his jokes are all jokes of a grown man that still has a child-like mentality, but at same time is a trained killer which is pretty unique, you know, that's...

MARTIN: It is kind of unique. It is kind of unique. I don't know. At one point he's wearing a T-shirt with a unicorn on it which is kind of different.

HART: Yeah. He's into corns. He's into corns.

MARTIN: Into corns.

HART: That's what he says throughout the whole movie.

MARTIN: But, you know, the movie also makes some points about bullying, and I do wonder - there are times when comedy can come off like bullying. And I wonder is there a line for you that you won't cross?

HART: Of course, of course, you know, I don't really mess with the political side of humor. You know, I think I kind of stay away from the gay community and joking and referencing or slandering in any way shape or form. You know, I keep it to where it's self-deprecation. Everything that I love to talk about and make fun of is me. It's personal.

MARTIN: Your modest stature, for example.

HART: There you go. That's what I love the most. If I was any taller, I wouldn't be successful.

MARTIN: Really?

HART: Yeah, man. This...

MARTIN: How come?

HART: This size - it's all a part of the packet. If you start taking away from my stature and my calf sizes or my elbows, then you mess with my sense of humor.

MARTIN: I read a lot of interviews with you, and you do seem kind of, in your own mind, bulletproof and 10-foot tall. Are you really that self-assured? Are you really that there is no obstacle, there's nothing in my path that I can't overcome? Is - are you really that?

HART: I am 110 percent so secure in who I am and what I have to offer and my self-worth. The one thing that my mother did such a good job of...

MARTIN: I've got to ask you. Where did that come from?

HART: It comes from my mom. My mom does such an amazing job in making me understand how great of a man I could be if I chose to be one. She never let me start something without finishing it. When you have that around you 24/7, there's no room for error, you know? And my mom - rest in peace - isn't here anymore, but that spirit is with me on a day-to-day basis, you know. I got lucky.

MARTIN: Where do you think your comedy comes from?

HART: That's a good question because my mom wasn't funny. I never like gut-laughed at my mom, you know. My dad is not funny on purpose, and he's very crude (laughter). My dad is the say-anything-out-your-mouth-and-not-understand-what-I-said-type of individual.

I think it was just my surroundings. It was laughing and smiling at what some people would look at as negative finding humor in it. Somehow I got the ability to find a positive in any negative. And that's the quality that I'm so blessed and fortunate to have because I don't care how the bad the situation - and there has been bad situations - I find a positive in it.

MARTIN: Kevin Hart is an actor and comedian. His new film "Central intelligence" opened yesterday, and he was kind enough to join us from our studios in New York. Kevin Hart, thank you so much for joining us.

HART: Thank you so much.

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