“I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons” (Atria), by Kevin Hart

Kevin Hart’s rags-to-riches life story, told candidly in his new autobiography, “I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons,” makes a convincing case for simple values that seem much more closely connected to his roots in North Philadelphia than his success in Hollywood. He gives full credit to persistence, humanity and a conscience — mixed with a generally likable demeanor — as the cornerstones of his success.

He devotes many very personal chapters to his childhood and gives thorough introductions to all of his family members and friends. Clearly memories from his youth were impactful, as he can recount those stories — maybe too many? — down to the last detail and put them into the context of those aforementioned life lessons.

Not that he always practiced what he now is preaching.

But the moments when he lied to his mom about reading the Bible, crashing his then-girlfriend’s car, ruining her mother’s good credit and allowing anger to bubble up to the point when police had to break up domestic disputes serve as a reminder about the man he never wants to be again. That guy was poor. He could be a jerk, he was irresponsible and, probably worst of all, he wasn’t funny.

Rising above that turned Hart into one of the world’s highest-paid comedians. The way he did it was to stop telling jokes and to show the vulnerability that comes from his own story, punctuated with quick punch lines.

“My humor was in my uniqueness, my personality — not the way I saw life, but the way I did life. That was the payoff; that’s where I struck gold,” Hart writes.

That epiphany got him the laughs that first got the attention of Damon Dash, who founded Roc-A-Fella Records with Jay Z, and Hart’s big break. Since then he’s told his stories on college campuses, sold-out comedy clubs and a fair share of blockbusters.

He carries the truth-is-funnier-than-fiction style over into this book, although the poignant moments outweigh the humorous ones here.

Author photo
SAMANTHA CRITCHELL
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.