*The year 2004 was a blessing and a curse for Kevin Hart.
He scored his first leading role in the film “Soul Plane,” but…the movie was “Soul Plane.” The comedy was panned by critics, blasted by some African Americans as stereotypical and suffered at the box office.
The same year, Hart also booked his own ABC series “The Big House,” but it was cancelled after just 28 days.
Adding insult to injury, there was very little money coming in from his standup.
“That was a rough stint in my career because as a comedian I wasn’t known, so I wasn’t making money on the road,” Hart says. “I was doing colleges here and there and I was probably getting $500 or $600 a college but it would cost me $300 to fly to the university. When I was doing comedy clubs, I was doing seven shows for the weekend and walk away with $900, but after paying for my flight and the rental car, that $900 would get knocked down to $600. That wasn’t really giving me a comfortable lifestyle. It was struggle.”
Fast forward seven years to the release of “Laugh at My Pain,” the theatrical version of his 90-city comedy tour in 2011 that earned a staggering $15 million in ticket sales. His stop at LA’s Nokia Theater put him in the record books as the first African-American comedian to pocket over $1.1 million for two-day ticket sales, unseating previous record holder Eddie Murphy.
The sudden box office star was soon landing roles in such big-budget films as “The Five Year Engagement” and “Think Like a Man,” with “Grudge Match” opposite Robert DeNiro and Sylvester Stallone, and top billing on “Ride Along” opposite Ice Cube on the horizon.
As Hart prepares for the July 3 release of his new standup film “Let Me Explain,” he takes a moment to look back on those lean years following his bittersweet experience of 2004.
“Let Me Explain” opens July 3. Watch the trailer below.