Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday July 3, 2013

Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain

Comedian Kevin Hart decides to clear a few things up. He does it with brio, delivering a hilarious set before a crowd at Madison Square Garden.

As Sarah Silverman did with her 2005 film "Jesus Is Magic," Hart sets up his stand-up show with a prologue. In Silverman's case, it was a huge lie told to impress her friends that she then had to make good in; here, it's Hart getting fed up, at a party he's hosting, with people making wild accusations about his personal life. To each rumor he responds, "Let me explain!" At each juncture, he's cut off. What's a guy to do? What would you do? Kevin Hart declares that he's putting on a show at Madison Square Garden, and storms off in a huff.

En route to the venue, Hart fumes about being called a "LAB" (local ass bitch), which gives him a chance to trot out some documentary footage of his world tour. Canada! Wow! just as we fear the tour might fizzle way up north, though, he's off to Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and England. All along the way, he plays to sold-out houses and appreciative crowds. How has his fame blown up to global proportions? Fledgeling comics, take note: "YouTube!"

This boastful, self-promoting prologue sets the tone, and it's a funny conceit, and it can be forgotten almost at once because the real laughs begin when Hart steps onto the stage, jets of flame spouting up all around him. His material isn't always funny in and of itself, but this is of little import to a true comedian; Hart's talent lies in his delivery, and his ability to tell a story in a way that involves the audience.

Most barbed are his declarations on gender relations. On his divorce: "She's moved on; she's happy. I've moved on; I'm happy. But I'm happier than she is." On the purported reason for the divorce: "Did I cheat? Yeah! Do I regret it? No!" And on the ongoing battle of the sexes? Hart assures the ladies in the house that almost all the time they think their guy is up to no good, they're right. But beware the one percent of the time they're wrong, and make an accusation! A man's most devastating words come as her accusatory rant winds down: "Are you done?" There are many ways a woman calling her man to account could go, evidently, but there's only one resolution to the rare occasion when she's got it all wrong, and it involves both sports and oral gratification.

Hart has a chameleonic talent. His voice is usually rather harsh, a bit nasal, even a little squeaky, as befits his constant comic riffs on his size, but he can lay on the smooth baritone charm with the best of them. When he nails a word, or even a syllable, it's with the dynamic snap of a tiger's pounce; put that together with his physical dynamism, and he's a comic dervish to be reckoned with.

That's fortunate, because Hart's prime source for material is himself: His faults, his fears, his proud moments and downfalls. Hart knows to mix the rarefied (mocking his own celebrity) with the mundane (what divorced daddy doesn't plan to hate his kids' eventual stepfather?). This show is Hart through and through -- he's all about himself here -- but his final salute cleverly carries the tonic of humility. This might be the biggest barrel of laughs you'll have at the movies all summer.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.