If you’re married with a kid or three, Kevin Hart’s new Netflix special — Irresponsible — is a solid new snuggle streaming option. Why is it perfect for watching in bed with your partner? Despite Hart being very, very rich, he focuses on telling relatable in his jokes about fearing the energy of toddlers, being caught having sex with his wife in front of the kids, and his pathetic macho fantasies. The now controversial comedian isn’t everyone’s shot of whiskey, but even his biggest detractors should respect that Hart is trying to offer men empathy and women insight. For the most part, he succeeds.
If you followed the Oscar clusterfuckeroo, you know that a month worth of Twitter bickering was followed by a Kevin Hart non-apology for homophobic jokes and an offer to host the 2019 Oscars getting rescinded. This is not an article about that. Much has been written about that and there are some good articles. I’m not rehashing those here because non-culture vultures often don’t care (even if they maybe should) and the people who care tend to consume art in the context of controversy (even if they maybe shouldn’t). For those keeping track, Kevin Hart also cheated on his wife in 2017, which I bring up here because that incident represents the spot where Hart’s life and art intersect. In his new special, he addresses it directly.
And that’s where it gets interesting, mostly because Hart is saying is something men everywhere need to hear. There’s genuine wisdom between the laugh lines. “Whatever happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas!” Hart shouts. Then he gets into the details of the mistake. “I don’t like it when people act like you planned to fuck up!” he says. “Nobody plans to fuck up! That’s why it’s called a fuck up!” Hart spews. “You don’t walk outside like today is the perfect day for a fuck up. ‘Oh, I’m fucking up all day today. This is fuck up weather!’ That’s not how it happens! The important thing is to learn from it! You gotta learn from your fuck ups.”
While the idea of “fuck up weather,” might not be the funniest joke in his new set, it’s the best joke. In real life, men — and fathers in particular — tend to blame their mistakes on environmental factors. There’s a well-documented pop-culture archive of this kind of pseudo-justification for acting like an idiot, ranging from Michael Caine’s philandering in Hannah and Her Sisters to Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me.” The difference is, that with this joke, Kevin Hart actually seems to be genuinely taking responsibility for a specific mistake, one that could have easily cost him a marriage and screwed up his relationship with his infant child.
Let’s be clear: None of the exonerates Hart or makes him likable. But these are good words worth hearing.
Hart isn’t necessarily a good guy. It wouldn’t have killed him to apologize for the homophobic jokes that led to the Oscar kerfuffle. Saying sorry and owning your shit is what adults do. Having said that, it doesn’t seem like Kevin Hart is a villain, either. Instead, in this new Netflix special, he comes across as a guy who is wrestling a bit with his own moral and very literal failings. Being introspective isn’t as admirable as being good, but it makes for better jokes.
The classic definition of comedy as tragedy plus time doesn’t seem to apply to jokes about Hart’s affair. It happened very recently. But it does apply to the standup special as a whole. The joke isn’t that Hart made a mistake, the joke is Hart himself. The tragedy that has passed is the creation of Kevin Hart, imperfect human. Lots of men feel like they are themselves, the product of a cultural tragedy. Maybe this is right. Maybe not. But it’s good for a laugh either way.
Kevin Hart: Irresponsible is streaming now on Netflix