Kevin Hart Awarded 25th Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize For American Humor

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In Philadelphia, where he was born and raised, on the comedy circuit was where Kevin Hart spent most of his days. And it certainly paid off. Forty-four-year-old Kevin Hart has been selected to receive the 25th “Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for lifetime achievement in American humor.”

According to NPR, this award is “[c]onsidered the highest honor in funny business, [and] previous recipients have included Tina Fey, Bob Newhart, David Letterman and Jon Stewart.”

The prize is intended to honor those who have impacted “American society in ways similar to the award’s namesake, the satirist and social commentator who was born Samuel Clemens.” In 1998, Richard Pryor became the first recipient of this award.

In a statement, Deborah F. Rutter, Kennedy Center President said, “For over three decades, Kevin Hart has been a source of laughter across America and throughout the world with his iconic characters, inimitable physical comedy, and relatable narratives. An accomplished writer, producer, actor, and comedian, he has made lasting contributions to the comedic landscape and represents our celebration of American humor at the Kennedy Center.”

“We express our gratitude to Kevin for enriching American culture and look forward to celebrating his exceptional career,” continued Rutter.

“I can’t wait to celebrate!” says Hart. “I’ve been doing comedy since the inception of this award 25 years ago. To be honored in this commemorative year feels surreal. Comedy is my outlet for social commentary and observations on life—I am grateful to the Kennedy Center for recognizing my voice and impact on culture.”

This is the culmination of a three-decades long career for Hart, who “got his start telling jokes during amateur night at a local comedy club in his native Philadelphia.” As a teenager, Hart performed at local venues, including The Laff House under the moniker “Lil Kev.”

Reminiscing about the early days of his stand-up career, Hart recalls “a string of brutal failures that included being booed off the stage multiple times.” Hart even claimed that one time, he had “a piece of chicken thrown at him on stage,” local news outlet WBALTV reports.

But his efforts were not in vain, and the comedian who stands just over 5 feet tall, has certainly achieved a larger-than-life status. From his 2002 movie debut in “Paper Soldiers,” Hart would go on to steal the scene with a cameo in “2005’s ‘The 40-Year-Old-Virgin’” to leading roles in “Think Like A Man” and “Jumanji.”

“Hart has gone on to become one of the country’s most bankable and ubiquitous performers, with 11 of his films opening at No. 1 at the box office. All told, his films have grossed more than $4.23 billion in global revenue,” notes WBALTV.

The prize will be presented to Hart next year on March 24 at a gala in the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

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