The world's funniest—and shortest—sex symbol opens up about his newfound fame.
PLABOY: You've had three films come out this year, and you're working on at least three more. You also have a TV show—Real Husbands of Hollywood—and you tour the world doing stand-up. Why work so hard? Are you paying off gambling debts?
HART: No, I'm good. I'm just trying to become a media mogul. I don't think people accomplish goals by sitting and waiting for success to come to them. You have to get out there, put your all into it. I put 110 percent into my craft, and I don't sleep unless I have to. At the end of the day, I want to be remembered as a great comedian and a great actor and a great writer and producer and eventually director. The only way I'm going to accomplish those goals is to work. And work. And work and work and work.
PLAYBOY: Your new film, Think Like a Man Too, was shot entirely in Las Vegas. Are you bound by the "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" rule, or can you tell us about the crazy things you and the rest of the cast did during your downtime?
HART: It wasn't all that exciting. We were in Vegas, sure, but we were there to do a job. I took that very seriously. I like to have a good time—we went to a few parties—but when I'm working, I'm boring. I'm not going to do something that jeopardizes the film or my career or everything I've done to get to this point. That would be insane. Every time I thought about going out after the shoot and getting crazy, I'd remind myself, This could all go away. And then I'd go back to my room and go to bed.
PLAYBOY: You play a happily divorced guy in Think Like a Man Too, and you're working on a divorce comedy for ABC. Are you divorce's biggest advocate?
HART: I'm definitely an example of what life should be like after divorce. My ex-wife and I are still friends and still raise our kids together; we just do it separately. In a relationship it's possible to outgrow a person. My ex and I were growing apart, and it was a situation where we could have become enemies if we stayed married. Being married was killing our relationship, but getting divorced helped salvage our friendship.
PLAYBOY: A lot of your stand-up act is based on your experiences with your ex-wife. When she married you, did she forget to get a comedy prenup?
HART: [Laughs] I guess she should've thought about that. That's what you get for marrying a comedian. No, there's nothing malicious about it. When I talk about her, it's never angry or brutal. It's just me talking about my life, and that relationship is a large part of my life. I put our situation out there, and people relate to it honestly.
PLAYBOY: You've used pretty much everything in your life as fodder for comedy. What don't you have a sense of humor about?
HART: I'm not a political guy. I don't really deal with Democrats or Republicans. I don't find that funny. And I don't talk about the gay community, be it male or female. No thank you! It's such a sensitive subject. I've seen comics get into serious trouble by joking about gay people. It's too dangerous. Whatever you say, any joke you make about the gay community, it's going to be misconstrued. It's not worth it.
PLAYBOY: What about your private life? Is there anything that you consider off-limits for comedy?
HART: No. Everything is out there. Even my mom. I did a long bit in my stand-up about her funeral, and that was tough to talk about. But those sad moments can also be the funniest. Losing her was definitely one of the saddest things that ever happened to me. But thinking about it and telling the story, you realize there's something funny about it too. You see the funny parts of having to bury someone you love.
PLAYBOY: You've also talked in your stand-up about your dad, who struggled with cocaine addiction and spent time in prison. Was he a victim of bad circumstances or of bad choices?
HART: I'd probably say bad choices. He put himself in a position to do things badly. But he learned from his mistakes and got better. That's all we can ask for, really. I'm just happy he got himself out of that situation. I can be more objective about him, because he wasn't always around. But my mom, she raised me. So when she passed away…. [pauses] That was hard. I had a good woman in my life. She made sure I had everything I needed. And she did a great job.
PLAYBOY: You're known for your high-octane, mile-a-minute delivery. What do you enjoy doing slowly?
HART: One word: fucking.
PLAYBOY: If you show up for a gig in a foul mood, how do you turn on the funny? What's your happy place?
HART: My happy place could be a number of things. Listening to music is usually my way of focusing. Cracking jokes with friends or taking a quiet moment by myself are others. Oh yeah, and fucking puts me in a happy place. Lots and lots of fucking.
PLAYBOY: We're getting the impression that you enjoy fucking. But in the comedy documentary Laugh at My Pain, you claim that your sexual stamina is somewhere between 20 and 23 seconds.
HART: Well, right now I could probably make it to a good two minutes. I learned some tricks. You've got to practice and stick with it. If I feel like I'm in trouble, if I'm going to explode too soon, I'll just hold my breath.
PLAYBOY: Won't that make you pass out?
HART: No, no, it works. I'll hold my breath and count to 60, and then I breathe, and then I'll hold my breath again and count to 60 again. That gets me to at least two minutes. I'm a sex symbol now, so I've definitely had my share of encounters. I've got to be prepared for anything.
PLAYBOY: You call yourself a sex symbol a lot. Are you being ironic, or is it a self-fulfilling prophecy?
HART: I'm kind of kidding. I have a girlfriend, so I don't have a bunch of women banging on my door these days. There have been times when I've been popular with females, but those days are definitely behind me. Do I think I'm a sex symbol? Hell yeah. Life is about making whatever you say reality. But it's also a joke. It can be both things at once. I can say things and people know I'm joking, but they see the truth in it as well.
PLAYBOY: On Real Husbands of Hollywood, Chris Rock tells you, "I'm actually famous; you're more black famous." Do you feel that might be true?
HART: Hell no. I think I'm huge. [laughs] No, I get it. That was the situation for a while, but I'm starting to cross over. My audience has definitely grown. Right now, if I did a stand-up show, it'd be 60-40 black to white. And that seems like a good balance. That's the sweet spot. I don't want to be a comedian just for black folks. I want to be universal. I want to make everybody laugh. I want people everywhere going, "Wow, Kevin Hart is funny," not, "Where do I know him from?"
PLAYBOY: You're five-foot-four. You've joked about the negatives of your height, but what are the advantages to being short?
HART: Well, first of all, your clothes fit a little better. You don't have to be shopping at those big-and-tall stores. If people want to talk to you, they have to come down to your level, literally come down to your level. It's the great equalizer. With tall people, you have to get on a ladder. But with me, just kneel a little and we're equals. Also, it's easy to maintain a nice body when you're short, because everything is compact. I think I'm happier than everybody else because of my height. Short guys are happy.
PLAYBOY: How did you get that confidence? Were you born with it, or was it a long road to get there?
HART: It was definitely a long road. Confidence comes with accomplishing things. You need to set goals for what you want to do with your life, and when you make them happen, that's what feeds your confidence. That's what happened to me. I set goals for myself, from stand-up to TV to film, and when it happens, if it happens, it's remarkable. You realize you can do anything you put your mind to. I'm a product of that.
PLAYBOY: In your last concert film, Let Me Explain, pyrotechnics shot fireballs from the stage to emphasize punch lines. Were you trying to make stand-up more like a rock show?
HART: No, not rock. More like a hip-hop show. I got the idea from a Jay Z concert. He was using pyrotechnics, and I thought, Yeah, I should do something like that. I wanted to do something different, add another bang to my stand-up. The last thing people expect when they come to a comedian's show is to see fire shooting out of the stage. So for me to have that, I felt like it was huge. It was different, and it was trendsetting.
PLAYBOY: You've worked with Robert De Niro and Ice Cube. Which one has the best war stories?
HART: De Niro by far. You know, Bob—that's what he lets me call him—has these incredible stories from his history of filmmaking. All Cube's stories end with someone getting shot.
PLAYBOY: We've seen some of your best stand-up performances in films, including Seriously Funny and Laugh at My Pain. What was your worst?
HART: My worst gig was probably in Atlantic City, at this club called Sweet Cheeks. This was in the very beginning of my career, when I was still pretty new to the whole comedy thing. I wasn't connecting with the audience, and they started booing. At one point, one guy got so frustrated he threw a buffalo wing at me. It hit me hard on the face, just stopped me cold. There's no way to respond to being hit with a buffalo wing. And there's no going back to comedy after that. I wiped the buffalo sauce off my face and told everybody good night.
PLAYBOY: You're self-conscious about your feet. What's so bad about them?
HART: They're ugly, just repulsive to look at. My toenails look like sunflower seeds. There was a time when I wouldn't go into a pool barefoot. I would use Chuck Taylors as my water shoes. But I don't care anymore. There was a point when I would go to insane levels trying to hide them, but I'm rich now. You don't like my feet, get out of my house.
PLAYBOY: You were widely criticized for making a joke on Twitter that some people thought was racially insensitive. Your exact tweet was "Light-skinned women usually have better credit than dark-skinned women…Broke ass dark hoes…lol." Did you cross a line?
HART: Listen, that was just me being silly on Twitter, playing on a trending topic. Some people were offended by it, but that's always a risk with comedy. Nobody's going to find everything funny. I didn't feel I had to apologize for something that was misconstrued and taken out of context. I have no ill will toward women, not dark-skinned women, not light-skinned women. I was just being silly. I'm a comedian. Being silly is my job; it's how I pay my bills.
This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Playboy.
Photography by Matt Hoyle