Kevin Hart: Irresponsible review — An unforgiving self-assessment lacking in humour and strong message

Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

Apr 25, 2019 12:57:56 IST

Comedian and actor Kevin Hart’s new Netflix special, Irresponsible, is bold and always has the shadow of the history of racial discrimination hanging over it. And Hart adds to this an unforgiving self-assessment, asking several questions about gender, race, colour and parenthood. While the humour rings high in some parts, overall, the show is a disappointment, and I am inclined to say that despite all the hard work that Hart puts behind it, most of the jokes fall flat.

Kevin Hart: Irresponsible review — An unforgiving self-assessment lacking in humour and strong message

Kevin Hart during his stand-up special, Irresponsible. Netflix

Hart begins the show by making a disclaimer about the title of his special, claiming that its relevance would become clear as the show progresses. Sadly though, it never does. Throughout the gig, Hart narrates stories about how he always ends up finding himself in the middle of awkward situations and how he never manages to salvage them. Such situations include, for instance, an occasion when his children walk in on him and his wife having sex. What could have been a perfect recipe for a hilarious set is wasted.

Hart then moves on to parenthood and explains why he does not consider himself a good parent. Once again, the jokes are far from fresh, and let alone offering new and innovative insights into parenthood, it is hardly relatable at all. Similarly, a story about his visit to Japan also turns out to be a big bore. One of the things about comedy – especially stand-up comedy – is that it never works when there is excessive repetition. And this could be repetition of anything – a catchphrase, a physical action, a facial expression, or even an emotion. Hart commits this cardinal sin of comedy not once, not twice – but throughout the show. In other words, then, his show suffers from a lack of density of ideas.

The keen and observant audience would also not fail to notice how, after this year’s fiasco at the Academy, where he was supposed to host the Oscars, but later walked out after a massive public outcry over his long-standing history of homophobic jokes, Hart deliberately and cautiously steers clear of any such comments – except for one, in which he impassively declares his own sexual preference. One wonders whether Hart rues the fact that he had to miss one of the most coveted and most prestigious roles in Hollywood’s annual entertainment gala, or if he is under pressure from his producers. Perhaps both.

But it has to be said that the comedian does not seem to be afraid to stand stripped of his fears and apprehensions on stage, and to project his vulnerability as the very foundation of his comedy. His humour, although not top-notch, is certainly self-deprecating, and his condescension of himself never delivers a false note. I admire how he manages to draw inspiration from several life-threatening events in his real life and makes little jokes about them. It takes both courage and optimism to do that.

But as for the humour in his pieces, there is very little to write home about. My problem is not merely that there is not enough humour or wit in Hart’s Irresponsible. Frankly, even if there wasn’t any, I would not have cared. After all, we all saw what Australian comedienne Hannah Gadsby did with her fascinating special Nanette last year. As long as there is a strong message to make up for the wit, it’s all good. But Hart’s show has very little of either. Neither a strong core message, nor a lot of rib-tickling funny moments. And that’s a big flaw for a comedy special.

Kevin Hart’s Irresponsible is currently streaming on Netflix.

Updated Date: Apr 25, 2019 12:57:56 IST

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