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Kevin Hart and Nick Cannon's prank war continues at D.C. gala with Eddie Murphy stunt

Highlights from the Kennedy Center's 25th Mark Twain Prize for American Humor ceremony honoring Hart, which will air on Netflix in May.

<p>ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty</p>

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty

Kevin Hart receiving the esteemed Mark Twain Prize for American Humor didn't stop Nick Cannon from using the ceremony to continue his ongoing prank war with the comedian.

Hart was honored with the top prize at a Sunday gala at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., which featured speeches from other famous comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, and Eddie Murphy — well, except that when the latter was announced, it turned out to be not the legendary Saturday Night Live alum, but the host of The Masked Singer introduced that way as a practical joke.

It was the latest stunt between the Celebrity Prank Wars cohosts, which previously included Hart sending the very fertile Cannon a vending machine of condoms; putting his cell phone number on a billboard, encouraging people to call for parenting advice; and recently went as far as Hart competing on The Masked Singer. Everyone in the crowd, including seemingly Hart, fell for Cannon's stunt, thinking Murphy, a past recipient of the award, was making an unannounced appearance.

In his speech, Cannon told Hart: "Every comedian is proud of you — except one or two cats," in reference to Katt Williams' recent callout of Hart. Cannon then joked that a few other notables were about to pop out, including Chris Rock, who, as it turned out, was not a prank. The Chris Rock Show star called the intro the "funniest I’ve ever seen Nick Cannon."

<p>Paul Morigi/Getty; FOX via Getty</p> Kevin Hart and Nick Cannon

Paul Morigi/Getty; FOX via Getty

Kevin Hart and Nick Cannon

A filmed version of the Kennedy Center's 25th Mark Twain Prize for American Humor honoring Kevin Hart will air May 11 on Netflix. Read on for more highlights.

Hart was ushered into the theater with style: Cannon's Masked Singer costar Robin Thicke serenaded the honoree with a cover of Peggy Lee’s "Fever" that segued into a pyrotechnic rendition of Nelly’s "Hot in Herre," easily one of the night’s highlights. 

As the event got underway, it became clear that the night was less a tribute to Hart’s iconic characters, classic movies, or satirical take on life and politics — which, one might consider standard fare for a prize that has also honored the likes of Murphy and George Carlin — than his commitment to positive thinking and hard work, and his groundbreaking ability to turn his comedy skills into a lucrative entrepreneurial brand. As outgoing board chairman David Rubenstein — who recently purchased the Baltimore Orioles — noted in his introduction, Hart is a "leader of a new generation of comics."

George Wallace, who started out in stand-up comedy as part of the New York City scene in the late ‘70s and once wrote for Redd Foxx, told EW on the red carpet: "Kevin is Kevin no matter what, he is going to be who he is no matter what age or era. Funny people are funny, they love what they do and making people happy. Redd Foxx would think: great comedians love comedy, no matter what you do. There is a different path for every comedian, we just love successful people."

There were several recurring themes in the speeches about Hart: his flakey communication skills, his joyful outlook on life, his tenacious work ethic, his height, and his ability to draw huge audiences. Past recipient Chappelle recognized that half a billion people have purchased tickets to watch Hart perform stand-up, and that does not even factor in the comedians' movies and shows.

<p>Paul Morigi/Getty</p> Kevin Hart at the 25th Annual Mark Twain Prize For American Humor at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Paul Morigi/Getty

Kevin Hart at the 25th Annual Mark Twain Prize For American Humor at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Hart’s first comedy peer to honor him was Seinfeld, who gave a home run performance. "One of the most important things in show business is doing favors," Seinfeld joked about showing up for the event, before reflecting that there is not much Hart actually can do for him as he does not want to be in Jumanji! Seinfeld established one of the night’s major motifs: Hart’s legacy is his business acumen and entrepreneurism, as well as his likability. 

Next up was Tiffany Haddish, who dubbed herself Hart’s "comedy sister" as she wore one of his hand-me-down jackets. Her conceit was Hart was a leprechaun – not because of his short stature, but his incredible luck. He is "magic," she said. Haddish knew Hart in the comedy club scene right as he started making money. Her presentation did not exactly crush, though she had a hilarious moment riffing off a hard-laughing member of the audience who she hopes may be a congressman (and, potentially, a future baby daddy).

Jimmy Fallon treated the audience to an old school country song, focusing on Hart’s height and success. "So much talent, how is it legal/ We’d be heartbroken if he got carried off by an eagle," Fallon crooned.

Curb Your Enthusiasm star JB Smoove shared about knowing Hart back at the Laugh House in Philadelphia and that he would get paged whenever someone noticed Hart was stealing one of his jokes. Indeed, his lighthearted yet barbed speech covered the ways Hart plagiarized Smoove’s career in various ways. For instance, he said before Hart launched the Plastic Cup Boyz, Smoove had a similar group involvingTupperware. His speech landed on a high note: a confession that Smoove wanted to air out his grievances at the Kennedy Center rather than Club Shay Shay, another reference to Katt Williams including Hart in his podcast interview disses.

<p>ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty</p> J.B. Smoove (R) and his wife Shahidah Omar

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty

J.B. Smoove (R) and his wife Shahidah Omar

Hart’s mentor Keith Robinson delivered a killer performance that was both hilarious and deeply moving. As a a two-time stroke survivor (“My New Years resolution: no more strokes!”), Robinson’s set began joking about the long time it took him to get on stage, and event organizers encouraging him to limit his remarks to four-minutes. “Kev, I love you – goodnight!” he quipped. After a brief stumble, Robinson recovered with a very funny ad-lib – throwing his cane at musician Adam Blackstone.

Robinson, who also met Hart at the Laugh House in Philadelphia, revealed the comic helped him as he was recovering from his stroke during COVID. "I’m going to make a call,” Robinson remembered Hart saying. He was moved before panicking: "To who?!"

On a lighter note, Rock joked that Hart “got that second wife happiness!” He reflected on meeting Hart during Death of a Funeral, saying he and Aziz Ansari are the only comedians who actually took his advice: find your own voice. Rock said Hart did, and 800 days later he was a bigger star than Rock, starring in movies with another Rock, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He also commented on Hart’s business smarts, joking this event was not for charity, but actually a paid Kevin Hart gig. In another funny moment, Rock said his favorite Kevin Hart movie was The Upside because he had to act like he had less money than Bryan Cranston. “Regular Denzel over there.”

Regina Hall, who's made a staggering eight movies with Hart discussed meeting up at a table read during Scary Movie 3, and how his career has skyrocketed. As his "common life wife," she said she feels entitled to his tequila money, while also discussing his inconsistent communications, and tendency to steal jokes. “All lies,” she claimed, throwing in a penis joke for good measure. Hall tosses in a reference to Soul Plane, a movie she claims this largely white DC crowd does not know, let alone appreciate.

Finally, Chappelle came on stage to Dead Prez’s “Hip Hop” and seemed a little nervous, saying it is strange to honor someone like Hart while he is still “active duty,” a reference to the fact Hart is among the youngest recipients of this honor. Chappelle noted Hart’s humble origins, his appreciation for his friend’s positive attitude, and the joy, grace, and kindness he brings to the world of comedy. Hart is a “powerful dreamer” who has inspired Chappelle to work harder. Before Hart, arenas were not considered the ideal setting for even big selling comedians, he said. It was an earnest and heartfelt speech that also included jokes about Seinfeld and Cannon – a nice touch, given Chappelle’s classic joke about the Wild N’ Out star on his Comedy Central show. 

After a bathroom break that gave Chappelle a chance to dance off stage and make a quick nod to Ashanti, who also was in attendance, Hart came to accept his prize. He name-checked everyone, excluding the salty Cannon and Smoove, summarizing his feelings as: “Success is nothing without the people who really know you.”

<p>Paul Morigi/Getty</p> Kevin Hart

Paul Morigi/Getty

Kevin Hart

“It is a night of love… thank you for showing up,” Hart told the crowd. He admitted he sought to deliver a meaningful, impactful speech, and largely delivered. To God, and his mother, he credited for having a value of self. To his team, he thanked the financial consultants – his many partnerships and investments. On the emotional end of the scale, he fell in love with comedy and committed. “Life without a gamble is a weird thing… you don’t know the best version of you, truly.” He also paid loving tribute to his family, particularly his brother, Robert.

With tears streaming down his face, Hart finished by noting – from his fellow comedians like Chappelle, Rock, and Seinfeld, on down – this was the first night he truly felt his people and network had shown up, saluting “everyone that is part of the ecosystem.”

Watch an edited version on Netflix on May 11.

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Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.