New KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW? review by Rahul Vedantam – Kev takes on a stadium of fans

New KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW? review by Rahul Vedantam – Kev takes on a stadium of fans


Kevin Hart is undoubtedly the King of stand-up comedy at the moment. Whether or not you think he is the best stand-up in the current zeitgeist is irrelevant, as the man sells out theaters and now football stadiums. His charismatic and extremely likable nature has something for everyone. Whereas Andy Samberg and Aziz Ansari’s boisterous energy lead into quirkiness that irks some, Hart’s leads him into frustration – but this frustration is so relatable that it’s fun to see a little guy tackle everyday problems. That’s why Hart is always the inexperienced normal guy in comedies CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE or RIDE ALONG. Kevin should be thankful for being so short because it has turned him into the anti-Lebron. Easily flustered, easy to relate to, and un-intimidating.

Now this persona has come into contrast with the persona he has built outside of his on stage character. Not to imply that he is egotistical, but he has fully embraced the luxury of his success, becoming the first comedian to have their own shoe. This also leads to him releasing his 5th stand-up special in theaters with KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW?, simply because he has enough clout to do so. Enough people are willing to buy a ticket for him. The production value with the stadium scenes is nice, and often there will be complimentary backdrops or animations that accompany the jokes to help with visualization, but it’s never incorporated meaningfully (except for one where it looks like he’s sitting on a giant toilet). This is understandable, as he wasn’t touring with a giant screen behind him for him to incorporate many jokes into his routine, but it’s still a tad disappointing since I’m watching a film. Because an hour and thirty minutes is ridiculously long for a stand-up special, he pads the beginning and a little bit of the end with a James Bond-themed casino bit. It’s purely an intro and while having a couple jokes, is just Hart living out his dream of being Bond. And while that would be fine for a small intro, this drags too long with only mediocre jokes to really justify it. Halle Berry is a bond girl who is more talented than him, and Don Cheadle is easily aggravated by Hart’s funny trolling. It’s padding through and through, and no one should worry about skipping it.

In fact, the beginning of the special starts out slow as well, because after setting himself up as such an underdog observational comic, he starts out with theoretical cartoons that he can exaggerate. He describes how he wouldn’t be able to live with a partner that was attacked by an animal, describing two specific animal attacks and getting into cartoon bits about a man without kneecaps and a woman without a shoulder. But when the premise is already so ridiculous, his cartoon exuberance has nowhere to go. Luckily the special gets better when he gets back into observational comedy: being tempted to use male sex toys, creating a worse lie because the truth is just embarrassing, having someone disturb him while he is one the toilet, and the disturbing amount of confusion he feels trying to order at Starbucks. He is the king of observational comedy right now, and when jokes land they kill. Let that not be underplayed by my criticism. He is the same old Kevin Hart there.

The problem comes when some of the jokes just lack… substance. That’s something that’s bound to happen when you produce your 5th special, but things like the Starbucks joke just seem to be lacking. There is not enough material to pull from to make Starbucks look THAT difficult when ordering a drink. The special’s signature reoccurring joke “Really?” is an impression of suspicious and sarcastic black women that seems like a manufactured meme. The camera cuts to groups of women saying the line in tandem every time the set up comes, almost as if to tell us “See, I promise this is very accurate and funny.” Now hey, it might be, because I don’t have any experience with black women saying something like that to me… but a good impression shouldn’t need it.

Overall though, Kevin Hart fans should see the film. He is still the king of observational comedy, and as usual there is something for everybody. Tosh fans will like the biting theoretical cripple jokes. Fans of Loius C.K will appreciate any observational humor. Casual stand up fans will find the most accessible man out there. Hart is going to stay on top for a very long time, as he is only now starting to ask himself “What now?”

KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW? opens October 14, 2016

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