Hart continues to be an agent of change for rising stars of stand-up.
Kevin Hart is adding another shingle to his entertainment empire. Laugh Out Loud, his new comedy streaming service, is launching August 3rd as a joint venture between the actor/comedian and Lionsgate. The announcement comes a month after another comedy streaming site, Seeso, announced a restructuring, moving away from original content. Filling that void now, Laugh Out Loud will offer original scripted and unscripted programs in addition to new stand-up specials from both rising comedians and well-known veterans.
This is not just an arbitrary streaming service with Hart’s name pasted above the title. Laugh Out Loud is a purposeful endeavor that fits with Hart’s overall mission in entertainment. He wants to give greater visibility to diverse voices in comedy. The stand-up mogul began using his name — that would be the only name in comedy to sell out a football stadium — to promote other comics’ specials.
In 2014 and 2015, he added the “Kevin Hart Presents” prefix to Keith Robinson and Lil’ Rel’s specials, respectively. Then he expanded his efforts to give unknown comics well-deserved exposure in his 2016 series Hart of the City. Each episode follows Hart in a different city, searching for the rising stars of its local comedy scene. This series gave exposure to 10-year vets and new comics alike. In addition to showcasing local scenes, the show also gave those comedians who are geographically unable to be seen in the hubs of New York and Los Angeles valuable TV exposure.
Hart recently debuted a series on Comedy Central called Kevin Hart Presents: The Next Level, which showcases a new comedian each episode. The show’s format consists of an interview segment and a stand-up segment. This formula is reminiscent of what Johnny Carson did for fresh comedians via The Tonight Show. After a comic would perform a set on the show, Carson might signal them over to his desk for a chat — but only if they killed. This was Carson’s way of saying to the industry, “Pay attention to this comic.” The Next Level is Hart’s cosign. If a comic makes it on the show, Hart is giving a Carson-like OK.
Laugh Out Loud is the next logical progression of Hart’s mission. With his new venture, Hart is broadening his talent pool from purely live comics to Internet comics, as well. YouTube comic GloZell has her own series, while Vine comics King Bach, Emmanuel Hudson, and DC Young Fly anchor another. Much of Hollywood is cautious when it comes to Internet stars, but Hart is capitalizing on these comedians’ popularity. Each comic has more than a million followers on their platform of choice and views in the multi-millions.
It would seem these Internet comics are doing fine on their own, yet getting recognition from Hart legitimizes their bankability to Hollywood executives. With the success of Laugh Out Loud, we may see a gateway for Internet comics to find work on TV. The burgeoning trend of Internet stars being accepted in Hollywood was punctuated this year when YouTube personality Lilly Singh scored a role in HBO’s Fahrenheit 451.
Sure, Laugh Out Loud could be seen as just another iron in the fire. But it’s definitely so much more. Hart is using his name to champion a new wave of Internet comics as well as many unsung comedy veterans. Additionally, the service brings increased representation to minority comics. In a form of entertainment that has the reputation for being overwhelmingly white and mostly a boy’s club, Hart is moving the dial toward inclusivity.