Zero F#%s Given: Kevin Hart's Netflix special is a feeble attempt at being funny

Kevin Hart's latest special takes place in his living room. And that is probably where it should have stayed.

Deven Kanal November 20, 2020 09:56:25 IST
Zero F#%s Given: Kevin Hart's Netflix special is a feeble attempt at being funny

Kevin Hart in Zero F$%s Given. Netflix

Kevin Hart's latest special Netflix special, Zero F#%s Given, takes place in his living room. And that is probably where it should have stayed.

"I want to explain to you guys why I'm in my house,"  the comedian states right off the bat, to a sparse and masked audience. "I'm no longer comfortable anywhere else but my house."

Which may be part of the problem. 

The point about being comfortable, uncomfortable – and “being cancelled” for his jokes – is one Hart repeatedly makes over the course of the hour and nine-minute special.

But despite his repeated assertions about not holding back, Hart seems awfully gun shy about tackling topics that might actually cause controversy. 

Unlike Dave Chappelle, who seems to be leaning in hard into his image as a truth-teller about society and culture, and who lets jokes fly without regard for feelings or fall out, Hart chooses to play it safe. One might understand why, given that Hart lost out on hosting the Oscars in 2018 after some homophobic jokes he made on Twitter came to light. 

Or not. 

Because the truth is, that this stand-up special is not particularly special – or even funny. Hart kicks off with some topical but weak material about contracting COVID-19, or ‘the VID’ as he calls it, and keeping it quiet because news of a much bigger star – Tom Hanks – getting it.

His most interesting joke of the special comes early on and deals with fame (something with which Hart is well and truly acquainted).  Hart muses about how fans managed to "f*ck up the best job in the word" and "f$%#^ me good."

He draws a parallel between the public – that he feels turned on him – and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (of the 1980s), which systematically persecuted black men. It is an interesting concept that, in the hands of masters like Richard Pryor or Paul Mooney, could have proved combustible but instead ends up in a tame joke.

Like many other successful comedians, Hart has taken to mining his family – his wife and children – for laughs.  Unfortunately, the material is way below par. Here is the short of it: The daughter is a ‘ho’, the son is ‘dumb,’ and the wife is a nagging shrew.

Hart’s material about the teachers at his children’s private school not understanding his level of fame is Ellen DeGeneres-like in its self-absorbedness – without the accompanying self-awareness of why it makes her such an unlikeable douchebag (on second thought, recent revelations about the ‘Be Kind’ comedian may challenge that assertion).

By far the most amusing bit comes right at the end of his routine when Hart reveals the aftermath of a serious car crash that left him debilitated and laid up in a hospital bed. It is a little gem in a sea of material that feels unfinished and comes across as unpolished.

This is the weakest output yet from Hart, the most successful and famous comedian of the past decade.

As one boxer rightly observed, it is awfully hard to get up at 5 AM, and go for a run when you have been sleeping in silk pajamas. Which is apropos given the weak punchline to his bit about taking up boxing, and then walking away after a sparring session gone awry.

All but the most ardent fans of Hart can safely skip viewing this special. And hope that Hart rediscovers the fire within.

Zero F$%s Given is streaming on Netflix.

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