Kevin Hart’s Stand-Up Stories: From His Respect for Dave Chappelle to How Colin Quinn Helped Him Become a Better Comic

“I keep raising the bar for me … I’m my own competition,” comedian tells Howard

June 5, 2017

Kevin Hart returned to the Stern Show on Monday and turned the tables on fellow comedian Dave Chappelle. On his new Netflix special, “The Age of Spin,” Dave recalled taking his kid to one of Kevin’s stand-up shows and how excited his son was to meet Hart backstage afterward. Kevin had his own story to tell Howard about a time he and Chris Rock witnessed Chappelle perform a set at the Comedy Cellar. Rock and Hart had just tried out some new material of their own and were pumped to watch Dave take the stage.

“Keep in mind, me and Chris are excited,” Hart told Howard and Robin. “Dave went on stage and was so good, that me and Chris just took what we had, we balled it up. Balled it up. We threw it away.”

As Howard and Robin laughed, Kevin explained he felt “disgusted” thinking about how much better Dave’s routine was than his. But pushing himself to be better is how Kevin keeps himself funny.

“I keep raising the bar for me. I’m my own competition,” he told Howard. “I don’t compete against anybody else.”

Finding the right material is hard work, but Kevin is willing to put in the time in order to make sure he’s at the top of his game. He told Howard he’ll go to New York for a week with the goal of doing 45 sets total, or five or six sets each night. He doesn’t get up on stage early in the evening, either. He finds it best to go up around 1 a.m. since that’s when the crowd is most honest.

Howard asked Kevin if bombing in front of an audience is the worst feeling in the world. “Bombing’s the best feeling in the world at this position because you know that you’re not being cheated,” he replied. “You need that. You need to be able to check yourself and go, ‘Oh, wait, this may not be good.'”

Kevin said he didn’t bomb the night he first tried stand-up but he didn’t exactly succeed, either. What mattered more to him was that he was able to get through his act.

“Half the battle is standing on that stage, having the spotlight, and still going through with what you wanted to do,” he told Howard.

He recalled coming up in comedy in New York, following in the footsteps of soon-to-be and already established household names, including Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, George Wallace, and Colin Quinn.

Quinn, Kevin remembered, was especially influential in helping him break into the business. “To this day, I still have a great relationship with Colin,” Kevin said. “He was one of the first people of stature that embraced me and made me feel like a friend.”

Kevin also made sure to mention comedian Keith Robinson, who was a true mentor to him during his early days in stand-up. “He opened up the floodgates as to what material was and what it should be,” Kevin told Howard. “He showed me how to put work into the craft of comedy.”

Now that Kevin is the household name, he wants to always remember to pay it forward and help up-and-comers whenever possible.

“I want to see people win. There’s enough room for everybody to be successful,” Kevin said.

Kevin Hart’s new book “I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons” is available June 6. Click here to order now.