Kevin Hart Sounds Off on His Budding Comedy Empire
The world’s hottest comic demolished attendance records for his latest tour, will star in two major upcoming movies, and released a memoir this summer that topped the New York Times bestseller list. But Kevin Hart, 38, is more than a funny guy. He’s also opened a sprawling production studio, launched a streaming TV network, and has a tendency to invest in companies rather than just endorse brands—all of which landed him on Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list this year. We sat down with the star to dish about getting it all done, his costar “The Rock,” and building a comedy empire.
Fortune: We tried making a list of your big projects right now. There’s the production studio, the streaming comedy network Laugh Out Loud with Lionsgate, the memoir released this year, the movie Jumanji coming in December, partnerships with Nike, a line of nutrition supplements, and you’re invested in Tommy John underwear. What am I missing?
Kevin Hart: The Secret Life of Pets 2. And, oh, my tour, I’m also about to go touring.
How do you get all of that done?
I love the work. I am addicted to success. And at the end of the day I want my name to have a powerful meaning. Everything you’re saying I’m looking at as a building block. It’s helping me become the mogul that I want to be. So when I check out, they can say, “Wow, this comedian did all of this stuff, and it was one of the biggest and most successful careers that we’ve ever seen.”
Your mom worked as a computer analyst. Did she help foster your comfort with technology?
Not at all. As a matter of fact, I don’t want it to get out there that you guys say I’m like this amazing genius when it comes to technology. I’m not. I have people around me that are great. I position myself with strong people in areas that I’m weak.
You have a combined 100 million social media followers across different platforms, that’s pretty tech-savvy.
That just means I’m personable. People like the way I talk, and they think I’m funny. But if you told me to download something and then pull it up to send it to somebody. It’s going to take me 20 minutes.
You launched your new network, Laugh Out Loud, online in August. Why do a streaming instead of a regular TV network?
This is where television is going. If you don’t see that in a major way, you’re not opening your eyes. Everything is on a mobile device and on demand. Scheduled TV and programming still exists, but it’s not how people operate anymore. I mean, you can’t tell me the last time that you went home to catch the 8:30 episode of a television show. It made more sense to do
a digital platform.
What do you want to accomplish with the network?
I wanted to change the way comedy is viewed on the Internet. You know, there’s not one destination for comedy. It’s scattered. Comedy is all over the place. You have to search for it. And it’s segregated. I wanted to do a multicultural platform that acts as one destination for comedy. Comedy, content, any of it, come to Laugh out Loud. We’ve taped over 100 standup specials. We have about 15 to 20 mini-series that are brand new, and we’re working with new talent—the next generation of funny. This will be a way for a lot of people to get seen. I’m a comedian’s comedian, so wherever I can create opportunities, I will. This is a way I can do it.
Has being a comedian helped you in business in any way?
Absolutely not. Being a comedian is just me telling my life story and painting a picture that people can relate to and laugh at. The business side of it just comes from being a sponge, being around people that are high in the business world, doing business on a day to day basis, and asking questions asking questions and poking and probing. … You can’t be around these people and not what would they have: Oprah. Tyler Perry. Ellen, Jerry Seinfeld. Jay-Z. I mean, the list goes on and on.
Do you think of yourself primarily as—
As a sex symbol.
I was going to say as a businessman or a performer?
I mean, I’m all of it.
So, sex symbol, then businessman, then performer?
I’m a brand. Kevin Hart is a man of many endeavors. Business is one that has become a focus. I’m getting older. Eventually the entertainment part of [my career] will die off, and as that’s dying off, the business should be growing.
Are there any other industries that you still want to pursue?
I mean, I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring today. … I may have a fragrance, I may say I want to come out with a suit line. I may open up a gym. I don’t know. Whatever you put your mind to you can do, so it’s just whatever I decide to put my mind to.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be known as the guy really nice hands, when it’s all said and done. ‘Kevin Hart had nice palms.’
Who’s someone that you look up to?
Everybody. They’re taller than me.
Who’s someone we should have heard of but haven’t?
You’re working with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Do you think he should run for President?
Uh. No. I think he should sit his ass down. We got work to do. We got Jumanji coming out. All this shit needs to stop. It needs to stop. He needs to put on his goddamn hat and get ready for his promo tour. It’s a disaster.
You don’t think he could double up the promo tour with a 50-state get-out-the-vote push?
Absolutely not. I don’t think he’s even the one talking about it. People are just saying it for him. He hasn’t really said it. It was in the monologue of SNL and people took it and ran with it. But he’s not interested in running for president. If he was, I would punch him in the throat, and say sit down.
So you’re not running for president?
No. Absolutely not. No. No. That’s the last thing you’ll ever hear from me. Don’t get that rumor started.
What do you want to do that you haven’t done yet?
Everything. Except run for President. Everything else. If there’s something to do that I can do, I’m going to. The goal is to do as much as I can before I’m 50. I’m checking out of 50. I’m done. Tom Hanks cast away at 50. Gotta come find me. It’s just going to be me on an island.
A version of this article appears in the Sept. 1, 2017 issue of Fortune with the headline “Mining Comedy Gold.” This transcript has been condensed and edited for clarity.