Kevin Hart is often billed as this generation's Eddie Murphy. But in front of a sold-out Target Center crowd on Friday, Hart spent an hour proving the comparison is more about status than style.
Like Murphy, the comic-turned-actor is on that comedy rock-star plane. His stand-up specials garner theatrical releases and his current "What Now?" arena tour is projected to be the highest grossing comedy trek ever. But where '80s-era Eddie adopted a flashy, cocky persona, on stage Hart is more honest and down to earth. Well, down to earth for a guy who bans cellphones at his shows (16 people were reportedly booted from Friday's concert) and catapults onto the stage in a puff of smoke.
"Minneapolis, you can do better than that!" Hart said, goading the cheering crowd. "We sold the [expletive] out tonight."
The Philadelphia-bred comic often opens his sets with a life update — in the past discussing the death of his mother or his divorce. In 2015, Hart is engaged again and doing the family thing, which the first half of Friday's show was based around.
Clutching a golden microphone, the 35-year-old mined familiar domestic scenarios — a back-yard raccoon problem, his son getting soft and the inequities of Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts.
Perhaps a skill honed behind the lens, Hart uses his body as well as anyone without being overtly physical. Some of his biggest laughs stemmed from mimicking his son's mannerisms learned from white friends or clomping around the stage as a sex-charged man mauled by an orangutan.
The latter bit evolved into one about untrustful women, a longtime Hart theme. By this point, his stand-up formula was clear — open with something personal, develop recurring references and even a catch phrase (this tour's being the skeptical woman's "Oh, reeeaally?"), then deliver a knockout anecdote. A long, hysterical story triggered by nighttime noises had the crowd roaring at every turn, tying in elements of the show's first 30 minutes with a grand-finale panache.
"Y'all thought it was over?" Hart questioned, catching his breath after the climax. "We got half the show left."
The second half was far less family-oriented, as he recounted a ridiculous guys night out, a "bad sex week" and vividly explored racially diverse sex toys.
The unfit-for-print punchlines were some of Hart's dirtiest (and funniest). "It didn't get bad until I looked in the mirror," Hart said of his, ahem, self-gratifying exploits.
A large screen behind him flashed images in sync with his material. For example, a grimy bathroom picture displayed while Hart recalled a stall-side fan encounter, hopping on his stool in re-enactment.
After that bit, Hart began his closing narrative, putting his spin on a tired Starbucks line scenario that didn't match the creativity of his whirling half-time tale. Nevertheless, it didn't dampen the electric, relatable-by-design set from the movie star comic in the prime of his career.
"I've been coming back to Minneapolis for years now," he exclaimed over boisterous applause. "It has gotten bigger and better every time."