The warmth of the mid-October night surprised me. Only the sound of crunching dead leaves beneath the feet of the masses filing into Nationwide Arena served as a reminder that we were in the midst of fall. Security entrance points sternly reinforced a zero tolerance policy for cell phones inside the arena, resulting in immediate removal if caught. Large crowds always result in seating confusion, and this night would be no different. The attendants did their best to get people where they were supposed to be before ultimately giving up and pointing disgruntled guests to the nearest available seats with the  “I’m trying really hard to be professional” smile.

The first few opening acts performed amidst the chaos and that alone played a major role in their receiving of  little to no fanfare. Most of the audience members were caught up between getting lectured by the door security, arguing with seat attendants, or buying alcohol (everything is funnier while intoxicated). Act after act came and went as the audience began to settle, each a little funnier than the previous.

As the last opening act finishes his set and walks off stage the lights begin to fade out. A short montage plays followed by a moment of total darkness and silence that felt much longer. Then, demonstratively, ultra-bright lights flood the arena. The fans stand, cheer wildly, and applaud ceremoniously greeting the night’s main event. A small man about 5’4 stood alone in the middle of the stage happily soaking in the affection of the crowd. The wait was over; at last, Kevin Hart.

(In respect to those wanting to see the show for themselves and to avoid any legal backlash from the Hart camp there will be no spoilers. The show lasted roughly an hour. After his final joke Hart thanked Columbus for having such a great crowd and promised he would return in the future.)

Leaving the arena was just as hectic as getting in; security and seat attendants waved flashlights around ushering the crowds towards the nearest exit like herded sheep. As I weaved mindlessly through the maze known as Nationwide Arena tripping over the occasional half empty beer bottle I listened in on fans reciting their favorite lines of the night and weighing in on how they felt about Hart’s performance.

My observations left me conflicted due to the mixed reviews. Some people dismissively decreed “(Hart)’s losing it” and lamented that “he just doesn’t put the same amount of effort into his standup anymore.” Others raved about the “amazing” show that had “some of his best work yet”.  My surprise stemmed not from the fact that people felt differently about the show, but just HOW far apart the two sides were. I followed up with some people, on my own, feeling the need for a more in-depth explanation.

I asked a Columbus native Laron Marshall sided with those that the “loved it” and had nothing but good things to say about the performance. “This was easily some of his best stand-up he’s done in a while. Of all his shows this is easily number one or two on my list.”

Marshall likes the authenticity of Hart’s standup, claiming it to be more relatable than his movies. In Hollywood you are given a script and told to “act” like somebody else. In stand-up Hart is the producer, director, and actor of his own work and that’s a big part of what draws Marshall to Hart’s shows.

Marshall’s sentiments couldn’t be any more opposite from somebody who was underwhelmed by what he had just seen. Antoine Roberts of Atlanta, Georgia was in attendance and gave his reasons to why he left a bit disappointed. “I expected more from him being that he is at the top of his game. This was my first time seeing him live and compared to his other standup, this was a little mediocre. There were multiple times when he said his punch-line and I didn’t laugh at all.”

I took down his information for follow-up purposes and when I contacted him to verify a few things he told me something that caught me a little off guard. That in looking back on the show a day removed from it he actually laughed more than he did at the show.

“It was crazy; I was explaining some of what he said to a friend of mine and started laughing so much I could hardly finish what I was saying, and they were the jokes I didn’t initially find that funny.”

It got me thinking about how much people don’t appreciate moments until they are memories or gives someone flowers once they have passed away, especially when they are great. We as a people become complacent, expectant, and to a point unappreciative when we witness ordinary people to do the extraordinary with regularity. It happens almost religiously in sports when the greats are so consistently great we put them to the side and unless they exceed great then we are not too much impressed anymore. LeBron James has been a one man ticket to the NBA Finals the past five years of his career. He hasn’t received an MVP trophy in recent years despite having to put forth MVP caliber efforts almost every year. It’s sad but the list goes on and on; Tom Brady, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur to name a few. Under-appreciated while being great but in looking back these people are and will be revered as icons that will last through the generations to come.

Kevin Hart has accomplished so much up to this point that some fans have gotten used to his greatness and now demand more than great and when he can only give them great they are unmoved. But in the aftermath and having given it time to settle in they realize they were victims of high expectations and begin to appreciate it for what was and not for what they envisioned. The laughter Mr. Roberts exhibited while he was at home would have been better served in the presence of Kevin Hart where Hart could have seen for himself that his work was appreciated. In some instances, despite what you’ve been told numerous times, it’s not always best to hold your applause until the end.

8.5 Sitting Ovation
  • 8.5
  • User Ratings (1 Votes) 8.5

About Author

Writer Walter Watson's roots are in St. Louis, Missouri where he has written for multiple professional news sources prior to joining the FlyPaper family and was a winner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch "Best young Journalist" competition. Walter specializes in sports journalism but also has an impressive repertoire of work in other categories.

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