Movie review: Kevin Hart’s “Laugh at My Pain”

Kevin Hart cites Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Martin Lawrence and The Kings of Comedy as his inspiration for bringing his latest stand-up effort to the big screen as a concert film. But Hart may have Louis CK as much to thank for getting Laugh at My Pain into movie theaters, as CK’s Hilarious preceded him by a year in cinemas, and as they both share the same management.

Although a plaque acknowledging four million sales of Hart’s 2010 DVD, Seriously Funny, certainly gave him and his backers enough evidence that hey, what’s 4 million multiplied by the price of a movie ticket?

But what about the finished product they’re paying to see?

Well, it’s not just a stand-up concert film, nor is it just a documentary tracing back Hart’s steps to his native Philadelphia and family. No. It’s more than that. Technically and emotionally more. As Hart leads a pre-show chant near the film’s beginning, “Everybody want to be famous. Nobody want to put the work in!”

A 15-minute segment before we hear Hart’s latest jokes, we follow him through the streets of Philadelphia and talk to the comedians who were there at the beginning of his career, from Tu Rae’s open mic night at the Laff House, to the wise advice of Keith Robinson, who prompted Hart to re-examine his early act. “He said, ‘Who are you?” That led him to Dave Attell, who led him to manager Dave Becky.

Fast-forward to the stand-up. Hart’s professional success is offset by personal setbacks: He jokes about going through a divorce and taking the important things, such as the headboard from the bed. There’s also a story about his Cousin Al, who has found Jesus, but still managed to ruin his mother’s funeral. And the divorce has him wanting to be a better dad to his children than his own father, and after several act-out bits, you’ll be left thinking: “Alright, alright, alright!”

Here is a clip in which Hart talks about how his uncle overreacted to his mom’s death. Roll it!

Oh, and did you know Hart was on the Philadelphia swimming team that was profiled in the movie Pride? Before he learned to swim, things didn’t go so well with his dad. Roll it.

After close to an hour, we leave the stage for a short film in which Hart and his friends imagine themselves as some sort of Reservoir Dogs bank heist, and it lasts so long, I wanted to scream “Pineapples!” at the screen.

But it’s all saved by the final scene and the credits, which you should stay through til the end.

Now for some words from Kevin Hart himself, as he opened up to an interviewer for AMC Theatres, which is showing Laugh At My Pain at its locations nationwide. Here’s what he has to say about laughing at his own personal pain:

“When you look at the greats, you know, from Pryor, Murphy, Cosby, the list can go on and on, they get so personable. And nothing is held back. It’s hey, this is my life, this is who I am. And sometimes you have to address the things that you don’t want to address, because it’s bottled up inside you. And we don’t figure it out until it’s too late, but we use comedy as therapy. This is my therapy. You know. I didn’t talk about my mom passing away. I never talked about my dad being on drugs. I didn’t talk about my relationship status, and me going through a divorce — these are all things I had just held in, and I was very very reserved about. And it got to a point where I was like, you know what? I’m a comedian! My fans will respect me more when I’m honest. The more honest I am with them, the more of an open book I am, the more they can relate to me and the more they can say, ‘Hey, you know what? Dude, I like this guy. I relate to this guy. He doesn’t care. Nothing’s held back.’ It’s funny but at the same time it’s real. And by me putting my real life out there, I think I got the best of me.”

And that’s who Kevin Hart is today.

You can watch the movie trailer for Laugh At My Pain here. More than a million YouTube views already.

Here is the full 14-minute AMC Theatres discussion with Hart about his movie. Roll it.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →

6 thoughts on “Movie review: Kevin Hart’s “Laugh at My Pain”

  1. What were u guys watching this was is worst performance he kept building the audience up for a big let down. Everytime he would say and here is why and let me tell u why I thought he was going to say something funny WRONG. It was a bunch of unfinished jokes. He needs to go back and write so new material because this whole make fun of himself crap is getting old at least make fun of your self for a portion of your performance but not the whole thing. I think he was trying to hard to be like he played it wAy to safe. What happend to picking on someone in the crowd or talking about hollywood politics current news etc. watch Eddie Murphy Dave chappelle Paul mooney and even Aries spears who is highly underrated they master those areas. If the crowd can’t relate and get involved then u loose them. I feel embarrassed for Kevin because there was a lot of Hollywood stars who came out to see him and he failed badly. Kevin hart is the funny guy at the party but this stage was too big. I think he can do really well in movies though.

  2. This is not a review, this is a puff piece. Typically, no reviewer ever analyzes Hart’s material in depth or detail, because it would make it obvious that the material isn’t good. There’s no rhythm, timing or tension build up and release, just Hart’s certainty that if he “sounds funny” his words will be magically transformed into humor. And an audience that is just relieved they don’t have to “get the joke”.

    1. Thanks, Donald. In this particular case, however, I’ll respectfully disagree — because Laugh At My Pain isn’t just about how Kevin Hart approaches comedy, but also about his upbringing and his life through documentary footage. You and I do agree that Hart’s brand of comedy is more based on his energy, cadence and physicality than on pure joke-writing.

Comments are closed.