Kevin Kwan/The Kennedy Center
Comedian, actor, author and entrepreneur Kevin Hart is the winner of the 25th Mark Twain Award for American Humor. Considered the highest honor in the comedy business, previous recipients include Tina Fey, Bob Newhart, David Letterman and Jon Stewart.
Hart began telling jokes during amateur night at a local comedy club in his native Philadelphia. Today, his standup fills stadiums, dating, marital discord, his daughter’s first abuse, trying to play tough while standing over 5 feet tall, his fear of roller coasters, his drug-addicted father who was in and enthrall the audience with stories about. Out of Jail… No conversation or incident seems small enough for Hart’s often partisan behavior. Those performances have been turned into specials.
The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor honors individuals who have influenced American society in a manner similar to the award’s namesake, the satirist and social commentator who was born Samuel Clemens. The first recipient was Richard Pryor in 1998.
“I’ve been doing comedy since the inception of this award 25 years ago. It feels surreal to be honored in this monumental year,” Hart said in a statement. “Comedy is my outlet for social commentary and observations on life… I can’t wait to celebrate!”
Heart is a box office draw. His credits include Jumanji, ride along And S.The Secret Life of Pets Movies. Although his 11 films have not always been critics’ favorites, they have grossed more than $4.23 billion worldwide, according to the Kennedy Center.
Kennedy Center President, Deborah F. “For more than three decades, Kevin Hart has been a source of laughs across America and around the world with his iconic characters, unique physical comedy and relatable narratives,” says Rutter.
Hart faced criticism when his old, homophobic tweets surfaced and for homophobic content from his early standup. There was an uproar when he was invited to host the 2019 Oscars. He said he was thrilled by the offer, but decided to decline it because, he tweeted, he “didn’t want to distract from a night that should be celebrated by so many amazingly talented artists.” He also apologized to the LGBTQ community.
“I’m sorry I hurt people,” I have added, “I’m growing and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together, not tear us apart.”
Hart will receive the Mark Twain Award at a ceremony at the Kennedy Center on March 24, 2024. This program will be broadcast at a later date.
This story was edited for audio and digital by Rose Friedman.