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December 12, 2017

Why Kevin Hart should bring Joel Embiid to SNL

The tall and short of it: Will Kevin Hart pair up with 'The Process' at 30 Rock?

Two-man comedy acts in which one partner is much taller than the other are a tradition almost as old as comedy itself. 

Abbott and Costello. Laurel and Hardy. Kramer and Mickey. C-3PO and R2-D2. Jay and Silent Bob. I’m not sure what it is that’s naturally funny about a tall guy and a short guy side-by-side, but it’s something that’s stood the test of time like few other comedy tropes.

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On November 16, in Los Angeles, we got a look at what could be the next tall/short comedy team. That night, the legend of Joel Embiid reached new heights, when the Sixers center scored a career-high 46 points in a win over the Lakers at the Staples Center. And even though the game ended at after 1 a.m. Philly time, Embiid’s legend was further cemented right after it was over, when actor and Philadelphia native Kevin Hart crashed Embiid’s postgame interview, while chanting “Trust the Process.”

It was a neat moment to see the Sixers superstar embraced by a noted local favorite son, especially one with the basketball cred of Hart, a noted hoopster who’s a mainstay of the NBA All-Star Weekend’s annual Celebrity Game.

But you’ll notice something else about that clip: Embiid, at 7 ft. 2 in., is very tall, and Hart, at 5 ft. 4 in., is very short. Hart’s self-deprecating jokes about his shortness have long been a prominent part of his comedy act, but next to Embiid, it’s another level. In the above video, the top of Hart’s head barely comes up to the numbers on Embiid’s jersey.

The two seem a natural comedy team for far beyond height reasons. Hart has often, in his movies, starred opposite a bigger, traditionally macho, male co-star, like Dwayne Johnson or Ice Cube. He was even going to appear in a basketball comedy called "Ballers," opposite LeBron James, a few years ago, before it was called off.

And while we know Hart is a funnyman who can play basketball, we also know that Embiid is a basketball player who’s really, really funny.

Embiid, in his brief time in the league, has essentially invented a new style of athletic hilarity, which is pretty impressive for a guy who's only known how to speak English for a few years.

His on-court mannerisms, from revving up the crowd to getting under the skin of rivals, never fail to put a smile on the face of Sixers fans, even beyond all the dunks, rebounds and dominant inside play. And whether he’s flirting with Rihanna or trash-talking an upcoming opponent, Embiid has quite possibly the most entertaining social-media presence of any active professional athlete. There’s something about the guy that’s just naturally funny.

Embiid’s appearance representing the team at last summer’s NBA Draft Lottery, and his reactions to each of the several positive bounces for the Sixers, was like a masterpiece of the silent comedy of facial expressions:

I know I’d love to see Hart and Embiid hone their comedy together again, and it turns out there’s an upcoming opportunity: Hart is hosting Saturday Night Live this Saturday. Might we see Embiid make a surprise appearance? Funny as it was to see him and Hart side-by-side on a basketball court, seeing them on the Studio 8H stage – or maybe the Weekend Update desk – would be even better? And I can only imagine the comedy magic that Embiid and Leslie Jones could make together.

It would work logistically, too: the Sixers are off that night – they have a home game the previous night against Oklahoma City and travel to Chicago the following Tuesday, leaving Embiid plenty of time for a quick trip to New York, and a reunion with his much shorter pal.

Joel Embiid is a star, in more ways than one. I know I’m ready for him to make his national comedy debut.