I’m a huge fan of Kevin Hart’s stand-up comedy, I even saw him live in Wembley, which was awesome, so when I found out he narrated his own audiobook, and while I currently have an audible membership, it became top priority listening.
Superstar comedian and Hollywood box-office star Kevin Hart turns his immense talent to the written word by writing some words. Some of those words include: the, a, for, above, and even even. Put them together and you have the funniest, most heartfelt, and most inspirational memoir on survival, success, and the importance of believing in yourself since Old Yeller.
It begins in North Philadelphia. He was born an accident, unwanted by his parents. His father was a drug addict who was in and out of jail. His brother was a crack dealer and petty thief. And his mother was overwhelmingly strict, beating him with belts, frying pans, and his own toys.
The odds, in short, were stacked against our young hero, just like the odds that are stacked against the release of a new book in this era of social media (where Hart has a following of over 100 million, by the way).
But Kevin Hart, like Ernest Hemingway, J.K. Rowling, and Chocolate Droppa before him, was able to defy the odds and turn it around. In his literary debut, he takes the listener on a journey through what his life was, what it is today, and how he’s overcome each challenge to become the man he is today.
And that man happens to be the biggest comedian in the world, with tours that sell out football stadiums and films that have collectively grossed over $3.5 billion.
He achieved this not just through hard work, determination, and talent: It was through his unique way of looking at the world. Because just like a book has chapters, Hart sees life as a collection of chapters that each person gets to write for himself or herself.
“Not only do you get to choose how you interpret each chapter, but your interpretation writes the next chapter,” he says. “So why not choose the interpretation that serves your life the best?”
The best way to describe this audiobook, other than entertaining, engaging, and insightful, would be to liken it to Hart’s stand-up comedy show, because I was laughing so much. Humour is such a powerful tool, it can be used in both good and bad times, when talking about positive or negative experiences, and Hart has mastered the art of humour!
This book is split into two halves; in the first half, Hart details his childhood, growing up in North Philadelphia. Some of the things Hart spoke about I was aware of because he’d mentioned them in his comedy shows – this cross over of content, although expanded on in the book, showed how much truth there is in his shows, and that he practices what he preaches. There’s a moment in this book were Hart is given some advice about his comedy, and that is to talk about his life, real experiences, that is how you really connect with an audience. Having watched his shows, and now listened to his book, it’s clear he’s done that. I Can’t Make This Up is the perfect title for this book, because when you hear some of the stories, one’s about his dad in particular, you’ll be thinking this is so crazy, can it be true? I have no doubt certain things may be exaggerated, but you get this real sense of truth, like it’s so crazy, he can’t make it up!
In the second half of the book, Hart takes you through his rise to stardom. This was missing in the last two celebrity autobiographies I’d listened to (Trevor Noah and Gabrielle Union), so it was a bonus to finally get to hear about a celebrity’s journey to fame. The back and forth trips to New York, writing and developing new comedy material, financial and relationship stress, the all-round struggle, dedication, hard work, and commitment.
“To commit successfully, you don’t have to always believe in yourself—because, let’s face it, we all have our doubts at times. But you do have to believe in something higher than yourself: your purpose. If you believe in your purpose, you can survive the most challenging times, because God or destiny or your will—or whatever you prefer to believe in—is on your side. If you know it’s your purpose to win the race, then you’re not going to turn around, because there is no other option but to win.”
In this book, Hart owns his mistakes, particularly in regard to his first marriage. It was great to see him, towards the end of the book, reflect on how he behaved earlier on in his life – it’s fair to say there is a coming-of-age aspect to this book. You can see the learning and growth. However, there were a few moments where it felt like Hart adopted a superior tone – this whole ‘I did it so you can do it too, no excuses’ mantra, sometimes it served to motivate me (see above quote), other times it annoyed me, (see below quote).
“Your life today is the sum total of your choices. So if you’re not happy with it, look back at your choices and start making different ones. Even if you are struck by lighting and injured, you made choices that led you to that spot at a particular time – and you get to choose how you feel about it afterward.”
As much truth as there may be in the above quote, it’s hard to hear from someone who has been successful because it can either make you reflect on your life, make you want to make better decisions, or it can make you roll your eyes because it’s easy to speak such phrases once you’ve made it, but when you’re still in the ‘rags’ stage of your ‘rags-to-riches’ journey, it doesn’t always seem that simple.
There were some weird and wonderful chapter titles in this book such as the title for chapter 66: “Chapter 66, Chapter 8 + Chapter 58 = 66” – Hart had this running theme, throughout the book, on how difficult it was to come up with chapter titles, it was very funny. There were also moments where you could tell Hart was adlibbing, or had at least altered certain things for the audiobook. This gave the feeling that it was more than Hart just narrating his own book, instead he was talking to you, engaging you in conversation, even though you couldn’t answer back (or should I say, he couldn’t hear your answer) – Hart even included a paragraph about him asking question in the audiobook but no one was replying so how does he know anyone’s actually listening? Lame when I retell it, funny as hell when Hart speaks it!
Hart has this great narration style, he’s able to change the speed, pitch, and volume of his voice to fit the story he is telling, and he does this with perfection – that’s what makes him such a great comedian. There’s this realness to the narration, sometimes, he’ll be saying something so funny, he starts laughing himself, but this doesn’t disrupt the narration, it just makes it even more entertaining because you’re laughing too. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Kevin Hart stand-up comedy, I highly recommend this audiobook!