It’s Time for Kevin Hart to Decide What He Wants His Legacy to Be

A barrage of avoidable bad decisions has turned the comic from a legend to a laughingstock

David Dennis, Jr.
LEVEL
Published in
9 min readDec 4, 2020

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Photo: Kevin Kwan/Netflix from the Netflix documentary ‘Don’t F**k This Up’

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A few days after Kevin Hart released his latest Netflix special, Zero F**ks Given, he was back in front of the camera, this time with an Instagram video reminding the world exactly how many fucks he gave. Twenty-three times he reminded us — 23 times in 88 seconds, every one of them claiming not to care that his disjointed, bland, hour-long attempt at comedy had gotten a lukewarm response.

That wasn’t the end of the Kevin Hart Self-Defense Tour: Days later, he hopped on the social media app Clubhouse to debate fans who were discussing Hart’s comedic merits in a room called “Is Kevin Hart Funny?” What could have been a moment of game-changing celebrity-fan engagement turned into yet another example of Hart’s inability to reckon with himself and insistence on addressing criticism in the worst ways possible. The room turned toxic; Black women were silenced.

Hart wasn’t just genuinely charismatic, with a magnetic smile and an infectious laugh; he was a walking meme, as quotable as any Drake hook.

The incident, which trended on Twitter, was just the latest in a seemingly nonstop barrage of avoidable poor public relations decisions from one of the world’s biggest stars.

There was a time when Hart was one of the most likable men in Hollywood. He had a relatively unanimous approval rating (more on that later) because we’d seen him grind from the beginning. We’d seen him steal a scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and become one of those “isn’t that the guy from…” bit players, racking up low-budget, straight-to-TV movies, hidden Netflix duds, and Soul Plane. We saw him do stand-up in dingy bars with grainy video quality and spotty audio. For the most part, we assumed Hart would just be a comedian we’d laugh at when we saw him, and eventually wonder where he’d went when his career inevitably petered off.

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David Dennis, Jr.
LEVEL

Level Sr. Writer covering Race, Culture, Politics, TV, Music. Previously: The Undefeated, The Atlantic, Washington Post. Forthcoming book: The Movement Made Us