Comedian Kevin Hart has it all – movie stardom, millions and millions of dollars – except for maybe one thing.

“The triumph of tonight is we found something Kevin Hart doesn’t already have: the Mark Twain Award,” Jerry Seinfeld joked on Sunday at the 25th Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Hart accepted the award in the Kennedy Center’s 2,465-seat concert hall, capping a raucous 2½-hour night filmed by Netflix.

In an emotional speech, Hart, 44, thanked God, his mother, his wife, his children, his publicist, his agent, his financial advisers, his security team, the CEO of one of his companies, his “partnerships and investments,” his friends and colleagues, the evening’s presenters – and just about everyone else in his orbit.

“Take my mom away, and I don’t have an idea of what I want or who I want to be,” Hart said. Later, he addressed his children, visibly choked up: “I breathe for you. I live for you.”

He reflected on his journey from taking a gamble on comedy to becoming global superstar.

“Sometimes, a gamble is the best way to define what will be you or ultimately become the best version of you,” Hart said. And over the years, as he honed his comedy, he said, “I found more ways to amplify it and get bigger and better.”


The award, named for author Samuel Langhorne Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain), is given to someone whose humor “has impacted American society,” according to the Kennedy Center. With it, Hart joins the ranks of 20th-century legends Richard Pryor, Carol Burnett and George Carlin and more recent honorees such as Tina Fey, Dave Chappelle, Jon Stewart and last year’s recipient, Adam Sandler.

Hart’s friends, colleagues and mentors toasted and roasted him throughout the evening. Among them were TV host Nick Cannon, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star J.B. Smoove, rapper Nelly, singer Robin Thicke and “Night School” co-star Tiffany Haddish – all of whom appeared in “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” the parody of reality TV that Hart co-created.

Other speakers included Jimmy Fallon, Chelsea Handler, Regina Hall, Keith Robinson, a veteran stand-up comedian who mentored Hart early in his career, and Chris Rock, whose stand-up tour with Hart was captured in the 2023 documentary “Kevin Hart & Chris Rock: Headliners Only.”

Thicke and Nelly kicked off the show with a rollicking performance of the rapper’s 2002 hit “Hot in Here” as canisters shot up six columns of flames behind them – a reference to Hart’s special “Let Me Explain,” which included similar pyrotechnics.

While Hart is best known for comedy, in recent years, he has created an empire of commerce in hopes of building generational wealth. He owns fast-casual restaurants, a tequila brand, a protein shake line, a production company and an investment firm.

He has said he hopes to be a billionaire by the time he turns 45 in July.


This ambition wasn’t lost on the comics Sunday night.

Rock said his favorite Hart movie was “The Upside” because “he had to act like he had less money than Bryan Cranston.” Smoove, puffing on a cigar, said Hart changed “the business of comedy.” Seinfeld recalled seeing Hart speak to a room of billionaires at a financial summit.

“Do you know how many tickets you’ve sold?” Chappelle asked. He said he researched it: half a billion.

“Kevin really cares about the quality of the check,” said Hall, who has appeared in eight movies with Hart. “Not the project.”

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