Kevin Hart knows a thing or two about cancel culture.
The popular comedian and actor lost his gig hosting the Academy Awards in 2019 because of tweets he posted about 10 years earlier as well as old stand-up routines that critics considered offensive for their alleged “homophobic” content.
Fellow comedians turned actors Nick Cannon and Jerry Seinfeld came out to offer their support and decry the hypocrisy and attitudes of Hollywood. But their words did not keep the Oscars brigade from their determination to set Hart straight for his years-old comments.
In an interview with the Sunday Times over the weekend, Hart made clear his views on cancel culture: “Shut the f*** up!”
What did he say?
Discussing his flourishing career, Hart pointed out to the Times what many successful celebrities who do not constantly toe the woke line have discovered: Being good at what you do makes you a target.
“[T]he bigger that you get the more people poke at you,” he told the paper. “I don’t know why. The road to success is amazing. Then you get there and opinions about you grow.”
The Sunday Times interview then rehashed the Oscars imbroglio, noting that the Academy asked Hart to apologize for his old comments, which he initially refused to do, saying he had already addressed the old remarks and apologized. (He later apologized again, but was still elected not to host the ceremony.)
Now he’s saying that if people want to dig up old comments, well, that’s life.
“If people want to pull up stuff, go back to the same tweets of old, go ahead. There is nothing I can do,” he told the paper. “You’re looking at a younger version of myself. A comedian trying to be funny and, at that attempt, failing. Apologies were made. I understand now how it comes off. I look back and cringe. So it’s growth. It’s about growth.”
But he has had it with canceling people for old “nonsense.”
“If somebody has done something truly damaging then, absolutely, a consequence should be attached. But when you just talk about … nonsense?” Hart said. “When you’re talking, ‘Someone said! They need to be taken [down]!’ Shut the f*** up! What are you talking about?”
“When did we get to a point where life was supposed to be perfect? Where people were supposed to operate perfectly all the time?” he continued. “I don’t understand. I don’t expect perfection from my kids. I don’t expect it from my wife, friends, employees. Because, last I checked, the only way you grow up is from f***ing up. I don’t know a kid who hasn’t f***ed up or done some dumb s**t.”
Sounding fed up with all of it, the paper said, he noted, “I’ve been cancelled, what, three or four times? Never bothered,” adding, “If you allow it to have an effect on you, it will.”
“That’s not how I operate. I understand people are human. Everyone can change,” Hart said. “It’s like jail. People get locked up so they can be taught a lesson. When they get out, they are supposed to be better. But if they come out and people go, ‘I’m not giving you a job because you were in jail’ — then what the f*** did I go to jail for? That was my punishment — how do you not give those people a shot?”
People change, the actor said, and that should be allowed — plus, who is the woke crowd to decide who gets another shot?
“They’re saying that all life should be over because of a mistake? Your life should end and there should be no opportunity to change? What are you talking about?” he asked. “And who are you to make that decision?”
The movement, he added, has had a negative impact on comedy:
Though he claims not to be bothered by cancel culture, he does admit that comedy has changed because of it. He started in stand-up in the late 1990s with the stage name Lil Kev the Bastard, before his first big comedy special, I’m a Grown Little Man, took him to new heights in 2009, with cathartic jokes about his stature: he is 5ft 2in. Back then the circuit was unfiltered, he says, but now comics feel censored and have lost the freedom once attached to their craft. “You’re thinking that things you say will come back and bite you on the ass. I can’t be the comic today that I was when I got into this.”
But if he is not, as he says, affected by the persistent threat of cancellation, why change the comedy he does? “It’s not necessarily about cancel culture,” he elaborates. “It’s backlash. It’s about the intent behind what you say — there’s an assumption it’s always bad and, somehow, we forgot comedians are going for the laugh. You’re not saying something to make people angry. That’s not why I’m on stage. I’m trying to make you laugh and if I did not make you laugh I failed. That’s my consequence.”
Hart concluded that his comedy is bringing people together, not tearing people apart — unlike cancel culture and our politics today.
“If there’s a message to take from anything I’ve said, it’s that in this world of opinion, it’s OK to just disagree,” he said, adding, “We are so caught up in everybody feeling like they have to be right and their way is the only way. Politics is f***ed up because, if you don’t choose our side, you’re dumb.”
“It’s a divide,” Hart added. “It’s f***ed up. But I’m not about to divide. I don’t support the divide!”
“I put everybody in the f***ing building,” he said. “We all come into this building Kevin Hart is in and we all laugh. I bring people together — like it or not.”