When Kevin Hart walked off stage after a stand-up show 10 years ago, he knew that something wasn’t right. “I was so out of breath,” the comedian, 38, says. “I was just so tired, like I needed a nap. And I had another show after. It was because I wasn’t taking good care of myself, I was gaining weight, I was eating fast food every day.” After watching fellow comedian Jim Carrey perform without so much as breaking a sweat, Hart decided to lead a healthier life — it was what the father of three likes to call his “Day One.”
Now he’s making an impact beyond just selling out stadiums and starring in movies. Hart is touring the country with digital health company Rally Health to inspire others to discover their own “Day One” of healthy living.
The tour hit Chicago earlier this month and — when inclement weather got in the way of the planned fest at Maggie Daley Park — Hart surprised gym-goers at Midtown Athletic Club (2444 N. Elston). Here, he opens up about the pressures of celebrity and how he stands out in a crowded field.
Why is living a healthy life so important to you? The beauty of healthy living is that it’s self-fulfillment; ultimately, you’re doing it for you, for your longevity, your family and friends. We all want to be here as long as we can, and being healthy increases those chances. Seeing my kids want to run and workout with me, that’s being handed down without me forcing it. As the head of a household, male or female, when you have kids around … they’re watching everything, they’re parrots. If you’re not taking care of yourself, [your kids are] going to follow suit.
Does the pressure of Hollywood ever get in the way of this lifestyle? Hollywood can be a drug, but it’s only a drug until you realize it’s a drug. That’s anything in life. It’s mental. What I’ve seen is that the minute people get out of their own way, they can go as far as they want. So many people are afraid to fail. … Nobody can beat you but you; nobody can stop you but you.
How do you make your comedy stand out? It’s my job to entertain, but also I have to paint pictures that you can relate to. Do I want to be the guy who’s just funny for a second? I can talk about funny things all day. You ever seen somebody trip down the steps? You’re going to laugh, but when you leave the show do you talk about me? Do you feel like you know me? That’s going to make me different. When I feel like [the audience] can relate to me and they know me, [then] I’m making a lasting impression.
What do you like about performing in Chicago? I love Chicago. I love the mixture of people — all different races, all different shapes and sizes. [They let] whatever’s going on in their lives go for that hour and forty minutes of show, and they laugh and have a good time together. Bringing people together on all scales — fitness, health, comedy, acting — it all goes hand-in-hand.