Words by Bryan Kalbrosky • Photos by Todd Cooper
It was a spectacle of epic proportions at the Valley River Center and Matthew Knight Arena on Saturday, Nov. 15, and the center of attention was comedian and actor Kevin Hart.
While Hart came to Eugene for his stand-up tour at Matt Knight Arena, he was also promoting his latest acting endeavor. In the afternoon, Hart shared a screening of his new film The Wedding Ringer (2015). An eager Eugene audience began to line up at 10 am, despite the fact that the film was not scheduled to screen until 2 pm. When Hart walked along the “red carpet” for media interviews, his focus was sharp and his demeanor was friendly. His visit turned into a major production, with appearances from hundreds of fans as well as the Oregon football team, the cheer team and, of course, The Duck.
“It’s amazing,” Hart told EW at the event. “To have people come out to support your craft and you and your talent is a really good feeling. It’s not something that I take for granted.”
Hart is known for roles in films such as Scary Movie 3 (2003) or Think Like A Man (2012) as well as cameo appearances including This Is The End (2013), Workaholics (2012) and even the occasional Sprint NBA pregame broadcast.
First and foremost, however, Hart identifies as a stand-up comedian. “This is what got me to where I am today,” Hart said. “I don’t ever plan on going in a different direction.”
What was most impressive during his time in Eugene was his professionalism. Hart seemed excited to be in Eugene — he took selfies with fans, signed autographs and engaged many in conversation. Hart also proved to be a gracious guest when the UO athletic department gifted him with two pairs of Nike shoes and a custom football uniform.
“First of all, I love your school,” said Hart, before his screener at the Valley River Center, when he explained to the audience why he came to Eugene. “I like your fucking uniforms, to be honest.”
His trip to Eugene was the product of a college tour, and his plan is to put his upcoming film directly into the hands of consumers across the country. “I feel like it’s my job to personally meet you and personally shake your hand and do shows and say what’s up.”
When it was time for his show at Matt Knight, it became clear to the packed house why the “comedian” side of Hart has reached significant fame. His stand-up albums I’m A Grown Little Man (2008) and Seriously Funny (2010) introduced audiences to his talent, but the energy of his live performance separates him from the rest. “This is why I’m different,” Hart said. “This is why I’m a fucking big deal, people. I do things out of the norm.”
“Everybody wants to be funny, but you don’t know that you’re funny until you actually make an attempt,” Hart continued. “Getting on stage is different from being around a group of people.”
His best jokes were the ones about his family, like his “spot on impression of his daughter” or the unique ways in which private school has changed his son.
“That’s what I’m all about,” said Hart. “I’m an entertainer for everybody. I wanted to go to the places that had something for everybody.”