It’s a truism that for fans of stand-up comedy, there has never been a more exciting time than right about now. Twitter and YouTube mean that, if you so wished, you could engineer an unending drip feed of quality comedy into your own home. Imagine the line-up you’d be able to organise for the inaugural Living Room Comedy Festival – Stewart Lee, Daniel Kitson, Paul Foot, Louis CK, Aziz Ansari, Jerry Seinfeld – and with no barriers between living or dead comedians you’d be able to see sets from late greats like George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Patrice O’Neal, Richard Pryor, Mitch Hedberg – you could have the time of your life. Social networking has also given a leg up to comedians whose work may otherwise have been ignored, or whose careers were starting to wane – Rob Delaney, Richard Herring, Bo Burnham and, also, Kevin Hart.
As the lengthy intro video to this performance explains, Kevin Hart is very popular on YouTube. The vast majority of the fans he has managed to accrue worldwide seem to have watched all of his shows online, which allows him to sell out shows in Oslo, Copenhagan, Stockholm, and London on his Let Me Explain tour. This performance, mostly from Madison Square Garden but also featuring scenes from other cities over the credits, is mostly buoyed along by Hart’s likeable nature and deliberate exaggeration of his “small man” tendencies, a veritable mine of material given his petit stature (he’s only 1.57m tall).
In the hands of a different, less likeable (and probably taller) comic, most of the material would fall pretty flat. It never strays too far from your typical “urban comedy” fare – the problems with women, struggling to raise your son to be “a man”, staying true to your roots – but occasionally subverts it by making himself the victim, or playing up his many fears. A routine about cheating on his ex-wife and lying about it is surprisingly honest but troublesome, given his unrepentant attitude and appearing to blame her for his indiscretions. The surprisingly heartfelt ending is Hart’s paean to the mainstream and to demonstrate that he really means what he says, and that he’s a sensitive soul underneath the bluster.
How you feel about the show depends on how you feel about comedy in general. If you’re a fan of big-budget, well-edited comedy with multiple camera angles in front of a huge audience, with a likeable host, and you’re not too bothered about the strength of comedic material, then you’d probably enjoy the show. In terms of the “urban comedy” genre – more a big deal in America than over here, where it’s just “comedy” – it’s nowhere near as subversive or as hilarious as the work of Patrice O’Neal, JB Smoove, or Chris Rock, but there’s nothing that will offend the discerning comedy fan. It’s just OK.
The only notable DVD extra is a UK-exclusive interview with Alex Zane immediately after the UK premiere of the show, which was shown in cinemas nationwide. It’s doesn’t really achieve anything, with Alex Zane merely acting as a conduit for the questions of people on Twitter. It’s exactly as good as you’d expect.