Seinfeld, Chappelle, Rock honor Kevin Hart at Mark Twain Prize during politically-light night

(The Hill) - Some of the biggest names in comedy — including Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld and Dave Chappelle — joined forces to honor one of their own, as they cheered on Kevin Hart at an awards ceremony that at times touched on politics.

The “Jumanji: The Next Level” star looked on as performers saluted — and sometimes roasted him, clocking in countless zingers about his less-than-towering stature — at the Kennedy Center in Washington on Sunday as he became the 25th recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Kevin Hart attends the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts 25th Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor presented to Kevin Hart, Sunday, March 24, 2024, in Washington. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

The prestigious award from the performing arts institution “recognizes individuals who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th-century novelist and essayist Samuel Clemens, best known as Mark Twain.”

While 44-year-old Hart has said over the years that he doesn’t “speak on politics,” the topic appeared to be on the minds of some of the night’s presenters.

Rock took to the stage and said while this year it’s called the Mark Twain Prize, “Trump wins, next year it’ll be the Mark Fuhrman Award,” a reference to the former police detective who used racial slurs in tapes played during O.J. Simpson’s 1995 murder trial.  

“We got some dark days coming,” Rock added, following his mention of the former president.

Hart, asked by ITK ahead of the event about his choice to keep his comedy mostly politics-free, said, “I'm not sure how other people feel. But you know, I'm not a divisive personality.”

“I want to bring people closer together. Conversations that divide, I just do not want to partake in,” the Philadelphia-born comic said.

“It doesn't mean that I don't respect it — I do respect it,” Hart continued.

“We all have lanes and there's nothing wrong with operating in the lane that’s best for you,” he said.

And although he’s not a fan of injecting political issues into his material, at least one lawmaker said she was an ardent Hart admirer.

“I am a big fan,” Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) exclaimed to ITK.

“I’ll be in my congressional office and it’ll be like, ‘Kevin Hart is on!’ And it’s like, let’s turn it up, because we work all day. We work all night. And so you have to have a moment that you just say, I'm gonna do something that's not congressional, or legislative. And for me, it’s Kevin Hart,” Beatty said.

“I'm into comedy, and he stays out of politics. And that's probably very smart for both of us,” she said with a smile.

Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter said that comedy has the power to bring people together — even often-hyper-polarized members of Congress.

“In this city, everybody needs an outlet and laughter is that outlet. And it doesn't really matter your politics, because in a way you, have so much fun with it,” Rutter said.

As Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein got ready to present Hart with the award, he seemingly made a crack at the ages of the 2024 Democratic and Republican presumptive nominees, President Biden and Trump.

“If Mark Twain were here today, he might not fully understand the significance of what is happening tonight. That is because he would be 214 years old — just about the age when he could run for president,” Rubenstein said to chuckles from the audience.

Hart traded laughs for a more serious tone during his remarks while accepting the Mark Twain Prize, saying that with comedy, he “fell in love with something that I could adapt to, I could grab on to, and I can keep.”

“I got good at it. And getting good at it, I figured out more ways to amplify and get bigger and better.”

“People watching this shit tonight man, it’s not about the awards, it’s about the idea of happy with you,” Hart told the crowd.

He thanked his family, saying through tears to his children, “There is no me without you. There is no life in me without you. I breathe for you. I live for you.”

Some of the performers who appeared onstage to fete Hart included: Chelsea Handler, “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon, “Curb Your Enthusiasm’s” J.B. Smoove, rapper Nelly, Tiffany Haddish, Regina Hall, Dave “Lil Dicky” Burd, The Plastic Cup Boyz, comic Keith Robinson, Nick Cannon and Robin Thicke.

The Mark Twain Prize performance will stream on Netflix beginning on May 11.

Contact Us