How did Kevin Hart get to be everywhere, all the time?

The Washington Post
Kevin Hart's ride to ubiquity in eight steps.

If Kevin Hart's not in a movie, he's on a TV series. If he's not hosting an award show, he's presenting at one. If he's not hitting the late-night talk show circuit, he's hosting the Justin Bieber Comedy Central roast. Not to mention his "Saturday Night Live" appearances, comedy tours and attempts to go viral online.

How did this happen, seemingly overnight? As Hart comes to town for two shows this weekend, we count the Kevin Hart Explosion in eight steps:

1. September 2011: Hart starts to make waves with his stand-up tour film, "Laugh at My Pain," which debuts in the Top 10 at the box office.

By this point, Hart had been working steadily in stand-up comedy with hugely successful tours, along with Comedy Central specials and small roles in films like "Scary Movie" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." But it wasn't until he made a movie out of his national stand-up tour, "Laugh at My Pain," that the industry started to notice he had a gigantic fanbase. The film surprised everyone when it raked in $2 million at the box office, even though it cost less than half of that to make and wound up earning $7 million total. That number would be a flop for any major film, but for one that had a minimal budget and no promotion, it qualified as a hit. "We said, 'Hey, we know that we're going to do all right.' But we didn't know the magnitude of success that we were dealing with," Hart told Entertainment Weekly.

2. April 2012: "Think Like a Man"

Hart lands a starring gig in the wildly successful "Think Like a Man," based on Steve Harvey's best-selling books. Like many movies marketed toward an under-served or minority audience, the movie is dubbed a "surprise hit" and gets lots of attention, which solidifies his movie actor chops. He wins a BET Award for best actor for his role, and also nabs the spot as host of the MTV Video Music Awards later that summer.

3. January 2013: BET's "Real Husbands of Hollywood"

Hart conquers TV when he creates, executive produces and stars in BET's "Real Husbands of Hollywood," a parody of Bravo-type reality shows. Co-starring Nick Cannon, J.B. Smoove and Robin Thicke, the premiere lands 4 million viewers and is almost immediately renewed for another season, becoming one of the network's biggest breakout hits. The series' third season ended in January, and BET has ordered a fourth.

4. July 2013: The "Let Me Explain" stand-up tour film is a box office sensation, and everyone freaks out.

If critics were surprised that "Laugh at My Pain" did well, it was nothing compared to the $17.5 million his second stand-up film brought in over July 4 weekend, crushing Johnny Depp's "The Lone Ranger" in terms of theater average. The movie, a filmed stand-up special at Madison Square Garden, grossed $32 million overall.

5. January 2014: Hart is officially a movie star.

Hart started 2014 with "Ride Along" starring Ice Cube and finally, a movie aimed at an African-American audience is not labeled a "surprise hit" when it tops the box office. (Though critics were still surprised to see it make as much money as it did.) That kickstarts a massive year for Hart, leading to "Think Like a Man Too," "About Last Night" and "Top Five." In August, Hart announced his engagement to Eniko Parris, fittingly, on his Instagram account.

6. January 2015: More success and controversy

Hart's ubiquitous presence continued into the new year with the release of "The Wedding Ringer," a comedy starring Hart as a hired best man for a wedding. (Try not to confuse the plot with the 2009 Paul Rudd film, "I Love You, Man.") Critics panned it, but audiences still showed up in droves, resulting in nearly $80 million worldwide revenue at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo.

7. March 2015: Controversy and Justin Bieber

His next film, March's "Get Hard," was another financial success ($105 million worldwide) thanks to the combined star power of Hart and Will Ferrell. But the movie also came with controversy, as critics took issue with what they considered an abundance of off-color jokes about prison rape, class and race. Later that month, more cringe-worthy jokes flew as Hart hosted Comedy Central's "Roast of Justin Bieber." As is customary for roasts, guests took shots at Hart, the night's Roastmaster, but the host had pointed material ready for the pop star of the hour, too. "He's got a perfume called 'Girlfriend' — that's not gangster, Justin," Hart quipped.

8. 'What Now' and the future: On Saturday, Hart, 35, will bring the "What Now?" tour, his latest stand-up set, to Royal Farms Arena. Eight days after the show's announcement in mid-February, a second, late-night set was added due to demand. Consider it another indication that Hart's popularity has not waned, and could still even be on the rise.

Next up for Hart: More movies, of course. "Ride Along 2," due in January, reunites Ice Cube and Hart with the original's director, Tim Story. Another action-comedy called "Central Intelligence" — this time pairing Hart and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson — will follow. In a likely sign that he has truly made it, Hart will also provide the voice of a bunny named Snowball in the slated-for-summer 3-D animated film, "The Secret Lives of Pets." And just in case you miss both of Hart's Baltimore sets this weekend, don't worry — Universal will release a concert-movie version of his homecoming Philadelphia stand-up set sometime in 2016. Tired of Hart? Get used to it, because he shows no signs of leaving the public eye any time soon.

The Baltimore Sun's Wesley Case contributed to this story.

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If you go

Kevin Hart's "What Now?" tour comes to Royal Farms Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St., at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday. $49.50-$125.50. royalfarmsarena.com.

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