Stand-up comedian Kevin Hart doesn’t really have a lot to complain about these days. Most people know he’s the hottest comic working today and a bona fide movie star. As someone who is also recently engaged, even his personal life seems to be coming up roses.
During his rock star entrance at Rupp Arena Friday night to a crowd of more than 6,000 fans on his What Now? tour, Hart appeared to be on top of the world. But he still had some things that were bothering him ... like what can best be described as a gangster raccoon terrorizing him in his suburban home, among other things.
Hart may be wildly successful, but he’s still prone to the occasional fear, insecurity and screw-up that comes with being human. He can vividly, vocally and physically recall these instances in what has become his trademark style, and even if his new material might not have reached the high watermarks set by 2011’s Laugh at my Pain or 2013’s Let Me Explain tours and subsequent films, he still had the Lexington crowd happily and often hysterically going along for the ride.
Well, at least the crowd that was able to see the entire show. Hart’s tour has a totalitarian cell phone policy, with security roaming the aisles looking for any and all lit screens and kicking people out, no questions asked. It actually became part of a running gag during Hart’s opening act, The Plastic Cup Boyz, a trio of friends and solid fellow comedians. Comic and show emcee Joey Wells gave a running tab of how many people got kicked out, with a crowd highlight being him describing how different ethnic groups in the audience would react when being asked to leave. By official count, 16 were booted before Hart came out, but there were more after that, including one person in my row.
Even when Hart came out adorned with a few glistening chains and wielding a golden microphone, he kept much his material close to home. He spoke about private school robbing his son of any edge through his penchant for house sandals and his reaction to broken Wi-Fi and a daughter overly dedicated to scaring her family. The latter ended up having a great payoff later in a story about watching a scary movie with his dad and his father’s wheelchair-bound wife, Connie.
This was a crowd very familiar with Hart and the “supporting cast” of his family, and even the mention of his dad’s name garnered an audible reaction from fans imagining the tale to come. They also invested in Hart's success, almost knowing when he was transforming a joke into a callback and eventually a catchphrase and saying it right along with him by the end.
He would use his interactions with his fiancee to relay a relatable situation, like a string of missed texts and drawn conclusions when your partner goes missing. Other times, he would use those interactions to explore scenarios so absurd and outlandish, they were head-scratching before they became hysterical. He questioned whether a couple should stay together after one of them was brutally mauled by one of several wild animals, leading to Hart using an equally brutal honest perspective and his body to successfully sell a joke in a way very few comedians can.
As far as comedic wells, he drew from his celebrity status as much as experiences that were surprisingly pedestrian. Most people don’t have to worry about having fans snapping cell phone pics of them during private moments in a public restroom or trying out various sex toys when on the road shooting a movie. But as Hart touched on what constitutes fun in his mid-thirties, he seemed just like everyone else. Turns out, he makes trips to Walmart ... at least when he and his friends get an unexpected urge to have a ping-pong tournament and need a table ASAP. Even talking about his first time ordering at Starbucks -- a joke that’s probably been told countless times by other comedians -- is turned into something increasingly funny through Hart’s star power, storytelling and sheer force of will.
At one point during the show, Hart said he’s got “stories like that for days.” The answer to his tour question “What Now?” might be a lot more of the same in his comedy. It appears a funny story and an even funnier storyteller can go a long way.