Comedian and film star Kevin Hart has a very controversial opinion about the recent attack on his fellow standup comic and friend Dave Chappelle and went on Jimmy Kimmel Live to share it. He was actually there to promote both his new children’s book Marcus Makes a Movie and his tequila line Gran Coramino (the incongruity of which guest host Mike Birbiglia cheerfully points out), but he went into his thoughts about the man who attempted to attack Dave Chappelle at the Hollywood Bowl and was severely injured by security after. As it is, Kevin Hart thinks it was a good thing that the attempted attacker was hurt, and that it was something that needed to happen. Hear it here:
As Kevin Hart sees it, the barrier between audience and performer has grown dangerously blurred, and that people no longer sufficiently respect a liver entertainer and that they have come to see a show. As such, he sees someone being swiftly and publicly injured after attempting to cross that barrier as being something like a cultural reset to remind people that it is not okay to attempt to attack a performer during a show (or really, anyone at any time, if we are being honest). To his credit, Kevin Hart did qualify that he sees this as a step backward in order to move forward, and does not appear to be making a blanket statement condoning violence. Here are Hart’s own words:
Somebody ran onstage and got their ass whooped… Not scary. It’s one of those things that needed to happen, though…do you want people to continue to think that they can cross that line and break the barrier of entertainer [and audience]? Somebody getting their ass whooped sends a message out to other people that was like, ‘You know, I was thinking about doing that. But after seeing that, I don’t really want to do that.’
While his statements are pretty controversial, it is not difficult to see where Kevin Hart might be coming from. Although the context (and potential danger) of the situation is different, the infamous recent incident in which film star Will Smith walked on stage to strike Chris Rock mid-Oscars presentation because he was offended by a joke is something of a bellwether for the current state of live performances. In the aftermath of the Academy Awards incident, many prominent standup comics indicated their fears that it encouraged audience members to feel they had a right to physically confront and/or attack performers that had said or done something they felt offended by. This new incident with Dave Chappelle only increased that fear, hence Kevin Hart seemingly having a “fight fire with fire” position on the subject.
Kevin Hart and Dave Chappelle are both known for being controversial comics, with the latter increasingly coming under criticism for his stances on transgender issues and muscling over city government through his enormous wealth. Regardless of how one feels about Chappelle, physically attacking a performer is a sign of changing views on violent behavior. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office recently announced they would not be prosecuting Isiah Lee, and that his actions did not constitute a felony charge. He has, however, been charged with four misdemeanors, including battery and possession of a weapon with intent to assault. The fallout from the incident at the Hollywood Bowl will no doubt continue to unfold, with many more controversial opinions from many people about it. And no doubt Kevin Hart will continue to let us know what he thinks about it, what other literary projects he has going on, and the clean, refreshing taste of Gran Coramino tequila.