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Kevin Hart is a comedian, actor, father, husband, philanthropist and overall one of the most sought-after hyphenates in this generation in entertainment. However, as an entrepreneur, Hart is proud to be the brains behind his Laugh Out Loud (LOL) streaming service. As it hits its third year in business, the star and his posse of comedic prodigies have developed a specially curated network for today’s generation of comedians with uniquely created comedic content.
As a Black man in the entertainment industry, Hart has broken barriers in the comedy space including being the first U.S. comedian ever get to the 1 million ticket mark in under six months with “The Kevin Hart Irresponsible Tour” back in 2018. He’s also become one of the only comedians to sell out Madison Square Garden for Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain in 2013.
REVOLT had the opportunity to speak with Hart about his Laugh Out Loud company, the importance of laughter and mental health during the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the future of Black comedy and entertainment. Read below!
What was the inspiration behind Laugh Out Loud’s conception?
Laugh Out Loud was an opportunity to have a network, a streaming network, that could provide opportunities for the younger generation of funny whether it be male, female, comedian, writer, producer, director — it didn’t really matter. It was about creating a hub that can highlight this new wave and new level of talent because it’s so hard for the stars of tomorrow to get discovered because opportunities are tough to come by. I wanted to do my part and create something where I felt like I was giving more of an opportunity to those that could possibly be missing out or getting skipped over. There’s also an amazing component to provide “Comedy in Color,” a multicultural platform that’s shining a light on culture, and the Black and brown people around the world that are the stars of tomorrow.
LOL has a unique position in the entertainment industry as a Black-owned media company with majority Black leadership. How important was it for you to have representation throughout your company?
Extremely important. I think right now, the conversation that we’re all witnessing is a conversation that’s been long overdue. But, the light that’s been shined is opening up the eyes of so many to the systemic racism that so many have been going through. That has been an ongoing thing in our business, the entertainment business and in the world in general. This is an opportunity to make adjustments and make change, and put people in a position to be heard, especially when they’re saying the right thing.
LOL’s mission has always been about inclusion. Our programming strategy, “Comedy in Color,” has always amplified Black voices. From day one, it was important to me to identify smart, creative, culturally connected executives who understand, and are passionate about the talent and audiences we serve. LOL is a Black-owned company with many talented Black executives, supporting Black talent, and programming to diverse audiences. It’s not just about representation, but it’s about having the power to create opportunities for others.
As you approach the three-year anniversary, how have you seen LOL evolve?
Well, we’re still here. That’s the biggest thing. When we talk about networks, streaming networks, platforms, apps, etc.; so many have come and go. So many have basically started, spent a bunch of money and ended up bankrupt or not being able to sustain, and having to shut down or investors pulling out. There’s so much that has happened over the last three years that I’ve personally seen. To still be in business and to have the partners and partnerships that we have, that’s a big thing. I think it’s a sign to our team, executives, our entire staff, everybody’s working extremely hard and the goal of making the world laugh and providing comedy in color is one that we all have made a priority. To see it progress and come closer and closer to that, it’s a big deal.
What have been some of the most rewarding moments in its growth?
The most rewarding thing is being able to say that the vision that you have is becoming a reality. Having a dream and staying true to it regardless of what people are saying or what people feel, it’s a big deal just to see it happen and for me, that was a network and that’s a reality now. The network is here, we’re in year three and this is very much hard work and dedication in this company, and it’s paid off. To me, that’s the whole thing. Seeing your hard work and dedication that myself and my team are putting into this pay off is the best.
For a lot of us, laughter is a form of medicine. How have you been using comedy to cope with everything that’s been going on in the Black community?
Laughter is everything. It’s an escape. It always has been, so regardless of what you’re going through in life, sometimes it’s good to have something or someone to laugh with or laugh at. It’s just what makes the world go round.
How have you seen the comedy and entertainment landscape grow in relation to opportunities for Black comedians?
It’s grown over the years. There is no way you can, or I guess you could say, “Have a blind eye” to [it] or ignore the progression that has been made. We do have actors, actresses, comedians of color that are definitely examples of some of the steps in the right direction that are acting as movie leads, TV leads, and just doing more in the business. In the world of comedy and from the world of comedy, I think the opportunities and the doors that are opening are definitely signs that are — once again — going in the right direction. Does that mean that we’re anywhere near done or that we are as close as we should be? No. That just means that we’re making steps towards the place that we ultimately want to be, which is equality, and fair and equal treatment in the business of entertainment as a whole.
The natural growth of a comedian from comedy club and the stages that you have to go through is a lot more difficult for your Black comic, male and female. You have to get approved. There is no equal opportunity floor for the Black comic. We’re not equal. There are so many more comedy clubs and stages that are available for your white comic. Black comics have made progress via TV sitcoms, movies etc. But, there is no Def Comedy Jam to provide opportunities for up and coming comedians. LOL aims to be a home and platform for Black comedians and diverse voices in comedy.
For the up and coming generation of comedy — male [or] female — I think that the future is definitely going to be brighter because the work that people are putting in now is the reason why this light is being shined on our issue that we have now made very visible today that has been going on for so long. Making people understand what systemic racism is and how long it’s been happening, and the affect that it’s had on so many... hopefully [it] will be the reason for so many changes and doing the right thing in the future.
Where do you see the future of Black comedians in the next few years?
To the top, we’re seeing amazing numbers across platforms like Pluto TV and YouTube. Soon LOL will be available on Peacock. I know from my own touring experience, there is a global appetite for Black comedic voices. As we expand LOL’s global distribution footprint, we want to play a big role in helping diverse comedians reach a global audience.
How have you been encouraging the younger generation, and even your own children, to practice positive mental health during these unfortunate times for the Black community?
Just talk to them. Communication is everything. Find the time to talk to your kids. Making sure that your kids understand the climate of what’s going on today and giving them the opportunity to be heard. Communication is key, so having a high level of back-and-forth where you can reassure, uplift, motivate, inspire and those things are needed, and that’s what I make sure is on a high level of display in our household.