I love stand-up comedy. Correction – I like good stand-up comedy; there is nothing worse than sitting through a comedian’s set when they are tanking. That’s not fun for anyone involved. If you are a regular reader of the blog, you know that I go to see a lot of comedy shows. If someone’s tour rolls through the Albany area, the chances are pretty high that I’ll be in the audience. I regularly DVR half-hour comedy specials to discover new comedians and I listen to several podcasts that prominently feature stand-ups. I regularly read blogs and websites that are focused on comedy. The Internet has made it so much easier to keep up with the comedy scene.
Still, I’m not a comedy nerd; I probably know more than your average person, but there are still a lot of comics out there that slip under the radar. Some comedians are completely unknown to me and others I am vaguely aware of but don’t know much about their comedy style or comic persona. Kevin Hart falls into that later category – I’ve heard his name referenced many times, but have never taken that extra step to seek him out. He even came through Albany on his latest tour and played the largest facility here, but since I didn’t know enough about him I wasn’t willing to gamble that I’d like him. Comedy tickets ain’t cheap folks.
When I saw that Hart was releasing a movie of his latest tour, Let Me Explain, I was a bit curious. Comedians often release comedy specials of their tours on HBO, Showtime or Comedy Central, but I really don’t remember the last time that a comedian released a tour film in actual movie theaters. That indicated to me that Hart had a level of popularity that I had underestimated. If they were expecting people to plunk down $11 to watch this film rather than for free at home, there must be a serious fandom that I had somehow missed. I decided that this was the perfect way to see what Kevin Hart was all about. I was willing to risk the cost of a matinee, especially since I don’t really pay for movie tickets.
After watching Let Me Explain, I can see what all the fuss is about; I thought that Kevin Hart was very funny. He wasn’t the best comedian that I’ve ever seen, but his material was well above average and made me laugh quite a bit. I can’t say that I would encourage anyone to go see the film in the theater, but I don’t know that I’d do that for ANY stand-up movie. For such a short runtime, seeing a comedy show on the big screen just really isn’t worth it. It makes more sense to rent the film and watch it at home. That’s not a diss on the content of the material; that’s me simply using the part of my brain that has a degree in economics.
I was a little confused when the film first started, as I thought this was going to be a straight forward concert film. Instead, the first 20 minutes or so were dedicated to a sketch of Hart explaining why he felt he needed to do a special and then tour footage of him at different shows and in different countries. This footage wasn’t of his actual stand-up, but of his fans in the various sold out cities saying how much they loved him. I began to wonder if I had misunderstood and Let Me Explain was actually a documentary rather than a concert film. This start didn’t work for me; the sketch was fine for setup, but lasted too long. The footage from him on tour seemed a little too self-congratulatory and like he was trying too hard. It was indulgent and didn’t add much to the film; if anything, it made him seem insecure and like he was protesting a bit too much. He should have let his material stand for himself. It was also a bit misleading; movie going audiences assumed that they were getting close to 75 minutes of standup and what we got was closer to 55.
However, once the footage of Hart on stage actually started it was quite enjoyable. He has good stage presence and excellent delivery. His material was generally great and covered a wide range of topics including lying, children, crazy girlfriends and horseback riding. Some of the bits would have benefited from some slightly better editing, but it only would have required minor adjustments. His material generally wasn’t dirty per se, but his use of language would most certainly make some people uncomfortable. He swears a lot on his act and uses the N-word pretty liberally; this wasn’t a problem for me, but that might be an issue for others. He is really energetic and doesn’t take himself too seriously; he’s pretty open in his act about the dissolution of his marriage (infidelity on his part) and acknowledges some recent troubles earlier in the pre-show setup.
Some other quick thoughts:
- I don’t know what the demographic of Hart’s audience is overall, but based on the audience I saw the film with I’m guessing it slightly leans toward African American males. It wasn’t until we were filing out of the show that I realized that I was the only non person of color in the theater and one of only two women. I also looked to be a little older than the rest of the crowd; my fellow movie goers may have been wondering if I was in the wrong theater. In my opinion funny is funny, so the fact that I may not be Hart’s target demo and I still found him very humorous can only be seen as a good thing.
- While I didn’t find the material before his stand-up all that useful, I did quite enjoy his “man on the street” footage of him in Europe that ran during the credits. Hart seemed very affable and was funny even without prepared material. It countered the more egotistical material earlier in the film. I’d sign up to watch a Kevin Hart travel show (and now I know about the existence of beer bikes. Are these things in the U.S.?).
- I assumed that the “deerbra” (half deer/half zebra) was totally a figment of Hart’s imagination, but then I found out about Okapi.
- The trailer for You’re Next looks promising (of course, I said the same thing about The Purge):
- Hart is right – fire makes almost everything better.
- It was clear by how choked up he got at the end of the show that playing Madison Square Garden meant a lot to him.
- At some points when Hart got riled up, his voice sounded surprisingly like Aziz Ansari.
- Hart makes reference to his height several times in his act and according to what I found online he is 5’2″. That’s about how tall I am and I’m really short; I can’t even reach the top shelf at some supermarkets (and that’s not embarrassing at all). I can’t even imagine being a man and being this height. This explains why he developed a sense of humor
I left Let Me Explain with my expectations exceeded; I’ll be making an effort to seek out Kevin Hart’s other specials and his YouTube videos. I now follow him on Twitter, which is one of the ways I keep track of comics that I like. If he rolls into town again, I’ll make a real effort to see him live. Hart has a lot of potential and while the special wasn’t perfect, I left the theater smiling. I don’t know if I’d consider myself a Hart fan yet – he didn’t completely bowl me over – but I’d recommend that other people check him out. Again, I don’t know that it makes good fiscal sense to see Let Me Explain in the theater, but put it the back of your mind for when it eventually is out on DVD or is streaming. Kevin Hart is now officially on my comedy radar.