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12 Oct 2016 - 23:25:00

‘Kevin Hart: What Now?’ Review: Comedian Connects, Even in the Biggest of Big Rooms

'Kevin Hart: What Now?' Review: Comedian's Jokes Connect

Every stand-up comic plying his or her trade in every seedy bar and off-brand comedy club in America dreams of one day playing the big rooms. And while Kevin Hart has made the leap from the comedy circuit to movie stardom, he still likes to get behind the mic, only now he does so in the biggest rooms possible.

"Kevin Hart: What Now?" sees the "Ride Along" star doing his thing in front of a record-breaking audience: the capacity Lincoln Financial Field in his hometown of Philadelphia, which reportedly marked the first time ever that a comedian has played to a sold-out football stadium. Hart on stage has always had a gift for connecting with audience members in a one-on-one way, and that skill serves him well in front of this mammoth crowd.

Given his level of wealth and fame, of course, Hart has reached the point in his career that Judd Apatow so skillfully satirized in "Funny People": a man-of-the-people comic whose material now encompasses his house, his kids' private schooling and the outrageous demands of pushy fans. But even if Hart has become enough of a big shot to get Halle Berry (whose winning cameo here is a reminder that she should do more comedy) and Don Cheadle to play along with the 007 spoof that opens the movie, he's still frank and funny enough to relate to the folks in the cheap seats.

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As with his previous concert film "Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain," the bookending bits are directed by Tim Story while Leslie Small handles the onstage action. Story's contributions were mostly pointless last time, but in "What Now," the spy stuff (also featuring Ed Helms as a bartender) is glossy and silly enough that it never feels like merely a distraction to fill out the running time. (The parts that run before the concert, that is; the button at the end diminishes the impact of the stadium show's climax.)

Whether or not you find Hart's stand-up funny is, of course, completely subjective, but he's a performer with consummate skill and utter ease on stage. Whether he's expounding upon his fear of wild animals or recounting how he sweated his way through his first experience trying to order something at Starbucks, Hart is a natural raconteur, alternately arrogant and self-deprecating, worldly and juvenile.

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Not all of his jokes land, and he occasionally relies on repetition and callbacks in a way that might seem phoned-in, but hey -- in front of 50,000 people, you can't be blamed for wanting the occasional safety net. For me, these dead spots were more than made up for by some brilliant material.

At the end of the evening, Hart observes that his audience is made up of people of all colors, and Small and editors Peter S. Elliot and Guy Harding underscore that fact in their audience cutaways; interspersed with Hart's performance, we see black people laughing, and white people, and Asians, and Hispanics, and a woman in a headscarf.

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Kevin Hart's been doing this long enough to know his own sweet spot: no politics, nothing too bawdy or gross, make the joke about being short before anyone else can. At this point, he's not going to tamper with success, and so for better or worse, "What Now" captures a comedian fully ensconced in his comfort zone.

'30 Rock' 10th Anniversary: 19 Essential Episodes (Photos)30 Rock

Since it first aired on Oct. 11, 2006, through to the series finale in January 2013, Tina Fey's "30 Rock" boasted hilarious moments and unforgettable guest stars.

30 Rock

"The Rural Juror" (Season 1, Episode 10)

Perhaps not "30 Rock's" greatest episode, but Jenna's indecipherably titled movie stands as one of the show's most memorable running gags, and the perfect example of the show's off-kilter brand of humor.

NBC30 Rock

"Black Tie" (Season 1, Episode browse around this website 12)

In her book "Bossypants," Fey called linked here this episode, which features a bizarre storyline in which Jenna attempts to woo a European prince crippled by centuries of inbreeding, the moment "30 Rock" found it's voice.

NBC30 Rock

"Fireworks" (Season 1, Episode 18)

Will Arnett makes his first appearance as Jack's scheming nemesis Devon Banks, one of the show's greatest recurring characters.

NBC30 Rock

"Rosemary's Baby" (Season 2, Episode 4)

A delightfully bitter Carrie Fisher plays Liz's childhood hero, and Alec Baldwin gets one of his funniest moments on the series, role-playing as Tracy's family in a fake therapy session.

NBCludachristmas 30 Rock

"Ludachristmas" (Season 2, Episode 9)

Jack's relationship with his mother, played by Elaine Stritch, was always one of the highlights of "30 Rock," and was only made better put up against Liz's relationship with her own family.

NBC30 Rock

"Sandwich Day" (Season 2, Episode 14)

Liz's attempt to "have it all" culminates in a hilarious bit in which she is forced to eat an entire sandwich at airport security before she can confess her love for her ex-boyfriend.

NBC30 Rock

"Believe in the Stars" (Season 3, Episode 2)

Between Tina Fey's Princess Leia impression, Tracy and Jenna's attempt at a "social experiment" and an Oprah Winfrey guest spot, "Believe in the Stars" stands as one of the most memorable "30 Rock" episodes of all time.

NBC30 Rock

"Gavin Volure" (Season 3, Episode 4)

Steve Martin proved a perfect fit for "30 Rock's" wacky reality in this Season 3 episode, in which he plays a reclusive, Jay Gatsby-esque billionaire.

NBC30 Rock

"Mamma Mia" (Season 3, Episode 21)

Jack's attempt to "Mamma Mia" his mother's former lovers in an attempt to find his biological father demonstrates "30 Rock's" uncanny ability to bring real emotion to laugh-out-loud humor.

NBC30 Rock

"Dealbreakers Talkshow #0001" (Season 4, Episode 7)

The best episodes of "30 Rock" get crazier and crazier over the course of their half-hour runtimes, and "Dealbreakers Talkshow #0001" culminates in Liz locking herself in a dressing room, crying from her mouth.

NBC30 Rock

"Anna Howard Shaw Day" (Season 4, Episode 13)

In one of the show's best bits, "Anna Howard Shaw Day" sees Liz hallucinating her ex-boyfriends, played by Jon Hamm, Jason Sudeikis and Dean Winters, as Jamaican dental assistants.

NBC30 Rock

"Khonani" (Season 4, Episode 18)

"30 Rock's" comedy was never sharper than when it was mocking its home network, and the episode satirizing the drama between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien over "The Tonight Show" is a perfect example.

NBC30 Rock

"Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning" (Season 5, Episode 12)

The idea that Jack would attempt to pre-record a telethon for every possible natural disaster as a ratings grab is one of "30 Rock's" most cynical -- and inspired -- moments.

NBC30 Rock

"TGS Hates Women" (Season 5, Episode 16)

Tina Fey recently said she was "opting out" of addressing criticism of her work, but episodes like "TGS Hates Women" prove she's listening.

NBC30 Rock

"Queen of Jordan" (Season 5, Episode 17)

A pitch-perfect parody of the "Real Housewives" franchise and its ilk, "Queen of Jordan" features a star turn by Sherri Shepherd and a breakout performance by Titus Burgess.

NBC30 Rock

"Idiots are People Two!" (Season 6, Episode 2)

The line between reality and fiction is blurred when "30 Rock" features a storyline about Tracy Jordan making offensive comments just months after Tracy Morgan goes on an anti-gay rant.

NBC30 Rock

"Live From Studio 6H" (Season 6, Episode 18)

"30 Rock" did two live episodes throughout its seven-season run, but Season 6's skewering of television history is the superior outing.

NBC30 Rock

"Mazel Tov, Dummies" (Season 7, Episode 7)

Liz Lemon finally gets her happy ending with a sweetly strange wedding episode that came just as the show was heading into its final victory lap.

NBC30 Rock

"Last Lunch" (Season 7, Episode 13)

"30 Rock" had seven seasons and 138 episodes' worth of storylines to wrap up in its series finale, a task only made tougher by the show's relentlessly arch brand of comedy. But the surprisingly sweet ending proved that the best comedies can blend both heart and humor.

NBCNext Slide1 of 20

In celebration of the decade milestone birthday, TheWrap reveals the NBC comedy's must-watch episodes

Since it first aired on Oct. 11, 2006, through to the series finale in January 2013, Tina Fey's "30 Rock" boasted hilarious moments and unforgettable guest stars.

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