There’s a brief prologue where guests at a rooftop party accuse him of not being in touch with his father, having sex only with light-skinned women, and both being only locally famous and being so successful that he is no longer real. Furious, he tells his manager to get him to the Garden immediately. “The Olive Garden?” the man responds. No, Madison Square Garden! Kevin Hart has some things he wants to get off his chest. Let him explain!
Like all great stand-up comics, Hart is a master of timing and can make all of the roles in a story with a slight but astonishingly vivid shift in his face, voice, and posture. Like Dane Cook and Tyler Perry, Hart is a master of viral marketing and branding. Under the radar of the Hollywood machine, he has become the top touring stand-up, as he takes pains to show us with a global montage of venues, many enormous and all sold out. He may be able to stand on a street corner and plaintively explain that no one there seems to know who he is. But his millions of YouTube followers are devoted fans, and when he shows up, whether it’s London, Amsterdam, or Oslo, they are there.
And then it’s New York, and the Garden. He is excited to be there, and he brings the fire. Literally. He thought it was cool when Jay-Z and Kanye had fire on stage, so he gets some big fire and has it flame on every now and then to punctuate a punch-line — or just to be a punch-line, as we enjoy his enjoyment of the pretentiousness and pointlessness (but coolness) of fire on stage.
Stand-up is the toughest job in the performing arts. It’s you and the microphone. No script, no other performer to cue or toss to, no hit song to get the audience applauding after just one chord. It’s 30,000 people and you and your stories.
In this case, the stories are mainly in the “b****es be crazy” category. He begins by telling us he is happily divorced, which is great because he can do things like feed the pigeons without anyone suspecting he is a liar. Then he tells us he is a liar, but seems to think it is irrational for a woman to find that upsetting. Women, on the other hand, are not under any circumstances allowed to cheat. And friends — they are there to back you up, and when you begin the phone call with “Don’t lie,” that means, well: “LIE.”
Unlike the all-time greats, Chris Rock, George Carlin, and even Bill Cosby, Hart never goes past the “funny thing happened to me” line of comedy, which is entertaining enough, in large part because he sees his flaws. But you get the sense, especially in story about his son and a final comment about how much it means to him to be there, that there’s more to him. Now that he’s explained, maybe the next tour can be, “No Longer Safe.”
Parents should know that this movie is filled with profanity, n-words, and crude sexual references.
Family discussion: How do Hart’s expectations for the women in his life differ from what he expects from himself? Did he make the right decision in the story about his son? What do we learn about him from the opening scene?
If you like this, try: Hart’s “Laugh at My Pain” and the stand-up comedy of Chris Rock and Richard Pryor