Kevin Hart's LOL Network offers Canadian comedians a shot at success

Comedian Kevin Hart began at Canada's Just for Laughs festival looking for an opportunity, and now he's on a mission to open doors for people starting out.

Montreal-based studio among up-and-comers with series on digital network launching Sept. 6

Comedian and actor Kevin Hart is trying to give up-and-coming performers a platform to break into the industry with a new digital comedy network called LOL, launching in Canada Sept. 6. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Kevin Hart is launching a new digital comedy network to give potential entertainers a chance to break into the industry. And a Canadian studio is one of his picks.

The actor-comedian, famous for his standup and for films such as Think Like A Man and Ride Along, says he wants to use his success to open doors for "future comedic geniuses."

"Once a comedian coming in looking for opportunities, now I'm a comedian coming in looking to give opportunities," he told CBC News during an exclusive interview in Los Angeles.

"I think there's a difference between being funny and understanding funny. I think there's different levels to it and people who understand that can play into so many variations of what that funny is."

Actor-comedian tells CBC's Zulekha Nathoo how a Canadian studio caught his eye 1:26

2-minute pitch leads to series

Moving Mind Studio, based in Montreal, was one of the industry newcomers chosen by Hart after a two-minute pitch session during the Just For Laughs festival in 2016.

"He gave us some feedback on the spot," said Ryan George, 28, one of the studio's members. "The fact that Kevin Hart is willing to attach his name to up-and-coming comedians just gives us the boost that we need to make it in the industry."

"You might be funny, but you need someone to vouch for you."

The company's digital comedy series, which premieres when the network and app launch in Canada Sept. 6, is called Campus Law. It looks at college life from the perspective of security guards.

"We're showing the college experience from an angle that's never been explored before," said George in a phone interview from Montreal. "I think he [Hart] appreciated the kind of outside perspective."

Members of Moving Mind Studio (Ryan George, Samuel Brisson and Brandon Calder) pose with Hart at the 2016 Just for Laughs festival. (Just For Laughs ComedyPro)

'He invested himself in our voice'

"We're just welcoming talent that doesn't mind taking a risk or doing the unexpected," said Hart.

Those risks could pay off, says Bruce Hills, Just for Laughs's chief operating officer, but LOL has a strong competitor: Netflix.

"Right now, they own comedy for all intents and purposes globally," said Hills. "If you can figure out a niche that speaks to comedy fans, I think you have a chance for success."

Whether the network succeeds as a whole, standout newbies are getting a higher profile because of it.

George, who's been working in comedy for seven years, says "with so many people out there," it can be "difficult to differentiate us from the pack." Campus Law, he says, couldn't have been made without help from Hart.

"This idea was just sitting on our shelf until an opportunity came up. And to be honest, we didn't know if it ever would," said George.

"He invested himself in our voice. His involvement was creating an environment where we could make a show that we wanted to make."

About the Author

Zulekha Nathoo

Multi-media reporter, L.A.

Zulekha Nathoo is based in Los Angeles and has sat down with some of Hollywood's biggest names, including Denzel Washington, Cameron Diaz, Robert Downey Jr. and Matthew McConaughey. She also works as a CBC News on-air reporter, and has spent more than a decade at stations across Canada.

With files from Sebastian Cushing