Kevin Hart says he didn’t think much of the sketch he’d done on the Black Entertainment Television Awards more than two years ago. The popular comic hosted the annual event for the network in 2011 and decided he’d create a skit that would make fun of the onslaught of reality shows featuring the wives of famous men.
He titled it “Real Husbands of Hollywood” and invited his friends, rappers Nelly and Jermaine Dupri, Nick Cannon, and “original house husband” Bobby Brown, to join in the fun.
The response to the less-than-two-minute presentation was nonstop laughter from the audience and continual calls for more from BET viewers via Twitter and Facebook.
“I really didn’t see it coming,” remembers Hart of his new show, which premieres Tuesday. “I knew the skit was funny, but didn’t think it would go any further than that. But BET kept calling me, telling me they wanted to do more with it. It was crazy because I had so much going on. But at a certain point I had to go, well, maybe we should do something.”
Hart wasn’t exactly sitting around the house waiting on employment. As one of the hottest comics on screens big and small, he is coming off a stellar 2012, when he starred in the box-office hit Think Like a Man and sell-out concerts at stadiums around the country with his one-man comedy show Laugh at My Pain.
“It was a lot for me to put on my plate, but then I thought, this is what I always dreamed about back in the day when I wasn’t working,” says Hart. “To be hot, in demand, so I could be working. It didn’t take long to figure out how I could get it done with BET since it was clear people wanted to see it.”
BET president Debra Lee says Hart delivers a level of comedy and humor the network can proudly stand behind. No small feat in today’s Hollywood environment.
“We made a commitment to do programming that is about quality and really about uplifting our community as well as entertaining,” said Lee. “Kevin is cutting edge and very smart with his humor. He sees things in a way others don’t, and that’s what makes him so at the top of his game. We love having him right now as he’s continuing to dominate.”
To amass the star quality he wanted for a full-length show about Hollywood husbands, Hart opened his little black book and once again began calling friends with famous names. He invited back old buddies Nelly and Cannon and added new ones like R&B singer Robin Thicke and actor Boris Kodjoe. One friend he didn’t make another call to was Bobby Brown.
“Bobby was really so funny in the original skit when we did it for the award show in 2011. But Bobby was in a different place then,” says Hart. “Whitney was alive, and it was different situation. With Whitney’s death it just wasn’t funny anymore. Bobby was mourning and dealing with his daughter, so we didn’t even think of going there with him for the show.”
While Hart’s star power and sharp comedy skills were strong enough to get his calls returned quickly by his celeb pals, a few had to be convinced that the project, meant to mock several popular reality shows, would be done with a certain level of style and taste.
“I love Kevin’s humor and the way his brain works,” says Thicke, the son of actor Alan Thicke. “So of course, when he called and said he wanted to talk about doing this, I wanted to hear his idea. I don’t watch a lot of reality television, but I was game to work with Kevin.”
Thicke said Hart laid out exactly where he’d need to go with his character and how much the show would be improvised based on Thicke’s own personal experiences.
“My family, my Dad has been in comedy for years, so I knew I could be funny if I tried,” says Thicke, who is married to actress Paula Patton. “There were areas of my life that I didn’t want to go to or make fun of. I was honest about what they were with everyone. Kevin and BET were great about letting us all decide what was enough and what was too far.”
All the men on the show make some reference to their famous and sometimes better-known spouses. Cannon, who is married to Mariah Carey, probably has the most famous partner and appears to have little issue discussing her larger-than-life persona.
“Nick was surprising,” says Hart. “I thought he’d do a few episodes and be out, because he’s got a lot of other jobs. But he did pretty much the entire season and loved it. I think he liked being able to let it all out and be funny about the stuff people say when you’re married to someone famous like that. It’s fun to make fun of yourself sometimes.”
Hart says he believes the original BET skit hit a nerve with audiences mainly because many people have grown overwhelmed and even frustrated by the tons of shows that showcase women solely based on their onetime associations with famous and wealthy men.
A divorced father of two, Hart says he and many of his well-known friends have often watched those popular reality shows over the years and experienced reactions to the content ranging from bewilderment to anger to sadness.
“A lot of these women do things on television that they’ve been encouraged to do to become famous,” says Hart. “Negative things that just aren’t even realistic, but they do because that’s what they feel will keep them out there in the spotlight. They are being exploited and don’t even know it.”
As sympathetic as Hart sounds, his Real Husbands of Hollywood pulls no punches as it pokes fun at some of the more infamous moments on reality shows such as Basketball Wives and Real Housewives.
Random, petty fights occur frequently between cast members, as do tasteless digs and backstabbing over the silliest events and conversations. No personal insult is left behind. Hart, who regularly notes his diminutive size (he’s five-foot-four) in his stand-up concerts keeps the joke going on Real Husbands of Hollywood.
“That’s always been what my comedy is about,” says Hart. “Talking about what my fans can relate to. That means silly reality shows about women that are too much or my size. I can laugh at it all, and I do.”