ATLANTA — Kevin Hart remembered when he took the stage early in his career and told a joke so bad an audience member tossed a Buffalo-style chicken wing at him, slapping him on the cheek.
"It hit me right here, with the sauce dripping from my face," said the comedian, poking his cheek before pointing to the floor. "It was the worst. I wanted to step to the guy who threw it, but he was too big. You know, I'm a little guy. So, I wiped the chicken sauce off and tried to finish."
An embarrassing moment such as this might have forced any other amateur comedian into an early retirement. But Hart has found a way to craft his comedy act around his most shameful situations, turning them into laughable ones.
For Hart, it's therapy.
"That's my drug, to go on stage and show people what I'm going through," said Hart, whose first standup comedy movie "Laugh at My Pain" will premiere in 100 AMC theaters in the United States and in East and West Africa on Thursday.
Hart's "therapy" has made him one of the most in-demand comedians in the business right now. He's coming off a well-received appearance on the MTV Video Music Awards, where he delivered the opening monologue and starred in humorous vignettes during the show; he also hosted this year's BET Awards. Hart's profile has also risen thanks to a string of standup TV specials, including "Seriously Funny" in 2010, as well as a Ford Explorer commercial along with a couple of Air Jordan commercials alongside Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade.
With his new movie, Hart will become the first black comedian to have his standup performance showcased in movie theaters since Martin Lawrence's 2002 concert film, "Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat." Hart will join an elite list of black comedians who have had their standup act shown on the big screen, including Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Lawrence and the four comedians of the 2000 standup film, "The Original Kings of Comedy."
Some consider the 33-year-old Hart today's king of comedy.
"He is willing to share his life and experiences from his past," said Steve Harvey, one of the "Original Kings" who has given Hart advice through his career. Hart has appeared as a co-host on Harvey's nationally-syndicated radio program, "The Steve Harvey Morning Show" and will be in the upcoming film "Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man," which is based on Harvey's best-selling book.
"Kevin is open about his relationship, his parenting skills and his childhood," he continues. "That's how you get an audience to identify. He's probably doing it better than anyone else right now. That's what I like about him."
In "Laugh at My Pain," Hart openly talks about at his father's drug addiction, pokes fun at how his family coped with the death of his mother, takes a jab at his 5-foot-5 height and discusses his legal separation from his wife Torre Hart, who is also a comedian. The movie also includes a touching moment when Hart visits his hometown in Philadelphia: He holds a family gathering and tears up while giving thanks to his aunt and others for supporting him after his mother died from cancer in 2007.
The film, co-directed by Hart, was filmed during his 90-city tour earlier this year. The tour grossed more than $15 million.
"I talk about the things people normally wouldn't laugh at," he said. "Those moments were tough. But you got to take your lumps. You don't have a success story without them."
Hart has used the Internet and social media to his advantage, occasionally responding to many of his 2 million-plus followers on Twitter, along with interactions on Facebook and live chat through the Web site Ustream. He also posted a few videos of his personal life that went viral — hanging out with Jermaine Durpi and Diddy, and playing a pickup basketball game against NBA player Shannon Brown.
"Visual media is huge," he said. "The Internet has taken such a hold on our society today. For our youth, that's how they operate. Television is going to get to the point where it's going to go through the Internet. So, I'm just trying to get my hand on it early."
Ultimately, Hart wants to build his brand beyond comedy. He's appeared in lead and cameo roles in more than 20 movies since 2002 with a resume that includes "Soul Plane," ''Fools Gold," ''Little Fockers" and "Death at a Funeral." Most have not received good reviews, but he looks at each role as an opportunity to enhance his likeability.
Hart isn't shy about letting people know he's made plenty of money during his career. But he also wants his career to be more than making the big bucks, looking to own his projects as a writer and producer like his idol Chris Rock.
"I'm a millionaire, but it's not enough," Hart said. "It's about owning. It's not about making the money. It's about what you do with the money once you have it. Chris Rock directs, writes, produces and stars in his projects. He creates because he wants to keep his brand going."
Hart has already made an impression as a business-minded entertainer. He met with AMC Theaters executives to help close the deal on his debut standup movie.
"You know the term showbiz? Well, Kevin knows how to go back and forth from the show and biz," said Jeff Clanagan, the CEO of Codeblack Entertainment, which produced and distributed "Laugh at My Pain." ''He's talented. We all know that. But he can also put on the CEO hat. There are not many people who can do the show and the business."
Outside of his comedy and acting endeavors, he is filming a documentary to explore the preparation of his comedy act, and has recently launched own mobile application, "Little Jumpman," a game that shows a character with the likeness of Hart jumping as high as he can to earn points. The comedian's YouTube video channel, Twitter and Facebook updates can also be accessed through the application.
"It's all about my long term goals," he said. "How do I become a mogul? The only way to do that is to constantly reinvent myself and invest in myself." -- (AP)
He made his mark writing for comics like Richard Pryor. He also wrote for “Good Times” and “Sanford and Son” in the ’70s. In the early 1980s, he developed signature characters for “In Living Color” including Homey the Clown.
His words are known by many. Still comedian, writer, social critic, television and film actor Paul Mooney has not become a household name himself.
But that makes no difference to Mooney, set to take the stage at the Helium Comedy Club on Sansom Street, May 2-5.
“I love what I do and I always knew I would end up doing it. And that’s all I really care about,” he said.
Born in Shreveport, La., and moving to Oakland, Calif., several years later, Mooney first became a ringmaster with the Gatti-Charles Circus. During his stint as ringmaster, he always found himself writing comedy and telling jokes, which later helped him land his first professional work as a writer for Pryor.
Mooney wrote some of Pryor’s routines for his appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” co-wrote his material for the “Live on the Sunset Strip, Bicentennial Nigger,” “Is It Something I Said” albums, as well as the film “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling.”
Mooney says writing for Pryor — as well as many other young comics including Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard, Eddie Murphy, Marsha Warfield and others — was easy once he got to know them.
“Once I got to know them, really know them, once I could really get into their heart and soul, it was easy to write for them because at that point I knew the essence of the person. And once that happens, I can write for people. Otherwise, I can’t,” he explains.
Among his other writing accomplishments, Mooney wrote for Redd Foxx’s “Sanford and Son,” acted in several cult classics including Which Way Is Up?,” “Bustin’ Loose,” “Hollywood Shuffle” and more.
He has appeared in sketches including Negrodamus, an African-American version of Nostradamus. As Negrodamus, Mooney once ad-libbed the “answers to life’s most unsolvable mysteries such as ‘Why do white people love Wayne Brady?’ (Answer: ‘Because Wayne Brady makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X.’). Mooney had planned to reprise his role as Negrodamus in the third season of the “Chappelle’s Show” before it was cancelled.
Much of Mooney’s material is based on the subject of racism in the United States. which disturbs some audience members. But controversy has always accompanied Mooney and his comic material, and he doesn’t shy away from that fact.
“I do a lot of racial stuff because we live in America and my comedy is a reflection of my environment,” he said. “I think we’re blessed to live in a country with freedom of speech so I can speak my mind. We’re blessed to live in a place where I can make fun of things I see and not be taken out and shot.”
Long considered a living legend, Mooney explains that he can’t think of any of today’s young comics he would pay to see. He says, “I’ve worked with all the great minds from Richard Pryor to Flip Wilson to Redd Foxx to Moms Mabley. The only people left are Bill Cosby and Dick Gregory. After they go, it’s all over with. I’m truly the last of my kind.”
And his followers hope he’ll be around for a long, long time to come. As does the man of comedy himself. “I’ll never retire,” he said. “I’ll be performing as long as I can. I feel most alive when I’m on stage.”
For times and ticket information call (215) 496-9001.
LOS ANGELES — However riotous the Eddie Murphy stories from Arsenio Hall, Tracy Morgan, Adam Sandler and Russell Brand, the highlight of Spike TV's tribute to Murphy was the comedian's duet with Stevie Wonder.
Murphy joined the subject of one of his most classic impressions for a rousing rendition of Wonder's 1973 hit "Higher Ground" during the taping of the Spike TV special "Eddie Murphy: One Night Only," which is set to air Nov. 14. The Roots served as the house band.
Jamie Foxx, Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock and Keenan Ivory Wayans were also among those paying tribute to Murphy Saturday at the Saban Theater.
Accompanied by a pretty blonde, Murphy beamed throughout the two-hour program, saying he was touched by the tribute.
"I am a very, very bitter man," he said with a beguiling smile. "I don't get touched easily, and I am really touched."
Morgan called Murphy "my comic hero" and came onstage wearing a replica of Murphy's red leather suit from his standup show "Delirious."
"He set the tone for the whole industry a long time ago," Morgan said before taking the stage. "He inspired me in a fearless way."
Sandler was still in high school when he first saw "Delirious," which he described as "one of the most legendary standup specials of all time."
"Everybody on the planet wanted to be Eddie," he said. "He funnier than us. He's cooler than any of us."
Samuel L. Jackson said Murphy "changed the course of American film history" by giving Jackson his first speaking role on the big screen, in 1988's "Coming to America."
"If it weren't for Eddie, we might not have all the wonderful films that I've made," Jackson quipped.
"He is a true movie star," Jackson continued, lauding Murphy's performance in "48 Hours" and "Beverly Hills Cop." ''You became an inspiration for all young African-American actors."
The program featured clips of Murphy's standup shows, his film appearances in "Shrek" and "Nutty Professor" and his work on "Saturday Night Live."
Murphy insisted before the tribute that he is retired from performing.
"I'm just a retired old song and dance man," he said, adding that he only makes rare appearances these days. "That's what you do when you're retired: You come out every now and then and talk about the old days."
The 51-year-old entertainer took the stage at the conclusion of the tribute to say he was moved by the honor.
"This is really a touching moving thing, and I really appreciate it," he said. "You know what it's like when you have something like this? You know when they sing happy birthday to you? It's like that for, like, two hours... and I am Eddied out." – (AP)
LOS ANGELES — Eddie Murphy is hosting the Oscars.
The actor and comedian will host the 84th annual Academy Awards, producers Brett Ratner and Don Mischer said Tuesday.
Ratner called the 50-year-old entertainer "a comedic genius; one of the greatest and most influential live performers ever."
"With his love of movies, history of crafting unforgettable characters and his iconic performances — especially on stage — I know he will bring excitement, spontaneity and tremendous heart to the show Don and I want to produce in February," Ratner said.
Mischer called Murphy "a truly groundbreaking performer" whose "quick wit and charisma will serve him very well as Oscar host."
This will be Murphy's first time hosting the Academy Awards. He said in a statement Tuesday that he is "enormously honored" to join the ranks of past Academy Awards hosts such as Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg.
Murphy started his career as a standup comic when he was 15 and has gone on to amass dozens of film credits as a writer, actor and producer. He was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in 2006's "Dreamgirls."
His stint as Oscar host marks a return to the single-host format the show has employed most often since the mid-1980s. Pairs of actors hosted the two most recent Oscar shows: Anne Hathaway and James Franco helmed the 2011 telecast, and Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin hosted last year.
The 84th annual Academy Awards will be held Feb. 26, 2012 at the Kodak Theatre. -- (AP)