If you’re not already familiar with Hannibal Buress, it’s time to get familiar with him. The 31 year-old native of Chicago isn’t going away any time soon and has quickly established himself as one of the funniest standup comedians working today, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as comics like Louis C.K., Patton Oswalt and Jim Gaffigan. Hell, some are already positing that he’s the funniest man alive. And while that may be something of an outlandish declaration to make, it’s not that outlandish. Buress just seems to be instinctively funny, like being funny is something that comes as naturally as breathing to him. It’s just something he seems to be able to do without really having to try that hard and there’s probably a switch he consciously has to flip in his mind when he finds himself in social situations where humor isn’t acceptable.
It helps that he even looks funny. By that I mean that it’s hard not to look at Hannibal Buress and not just want to laugh. He’s sort of oddly shaped and often looks stoned and/or like he’s up to something, with a dash of straight-out-of-Central-Casting pervert tossed in. You get the feeling that if you were seated next to Buress on a plane that was about to crash he’d be cracking jokes about the situation the whole way down, interrupting your frantic, last-second attempts to pray for the salvation of your soul or to get a final message to loved ones via text or email on your phone, and you’d be helpless to keep yourself from laughing as you plummeted from the sky to a fiery death.
I first saw Buress perform at a small improv club in New Orleans in the summer of 2012. There might have been 20-25 people in the audience that night and at some point during his performance, Buress mentioned that he was in town for a bachelor party for his cousin. Buress then invited everyone in attendance to join in on the festivities by participating in a second line parade in his bachelor cousin’s honor after the show. This Saturday night, Comedy Central will air Live from Chicago, an hour-long standup special featuring Buress, and a healthy chunk of the material he performs in it traces back to that weekend in New Orleans (including the aforementioned second line for his bachelor cousin), some of which he performed recently on the Tonight Show. Also included in the special: Buress’ bits about trends in rap music and posing as Donald Glover’s agent to get free tickets to an Eddie Griffin show we posted a few days ago, along with many other expertly told stories and observational gems. In its totality, Live From Chicago — Buress’ new Comedy Central standup special — is hysterical from start to finish. There are no stale bits. Everything works and it all works to near-comedic perfection.
We recently spoke to Hannibal — who serves as co-host of the Eric Andre Show on Adult Swim, has recurring roles on the Comedy Central series Broad City and the FX animated show Chozen, and who may or may not soon have his own Comedy Central show — about his new standup special, working on SNL and 30 Rock, what he hopes for out of his career and his love for New Orleans, among other things.
UPROXX: You worked as a writer on SNL and 30 Rock when you were in your 20s, both of those are jobs that a lot of people would kill for. What made you walk away from those jobs, from writing on those shows, to focus on a standup career?
HANNIBAL: I did those jobs and they were fun. I had ambition to try to be a writer, but I really wanted to do TV writing just to learn that part of the business so I’d be able to run my own show one day, you know? So I worked for SNL and 30 Rock and I got to work under Tina Fey and see what it was like to be somebody that’s writing but also starring on a show and also executive producing it and running the show. I got to see what that was like. And then I really wanted to focus on standup after that, just getting better at standup. So after 30 Rock I went on the road for about, I think about eight months straight, up until filming Animal Furnace (a prior standup special).
UPROXX: You said you went out on the road doing standup for eight months. What places did you visit that made the most memorable impressions on you?
HANNIBAL: I’ve been to the Edinburgh Comedy Festival a couple of times and that’s been a real learning experience. It helped me learn a lot just ’cause I got to watch different type of performers from around the world that were doing comedy in a different way. Or they just had these really well-produced shows that had great technical aspects. So going to the festivals I get to see all these type of performers. You could just watch shows all day, all types of shows — comedy, music, theater and everything else at these festivals. I got to learn a lot there and also when I was doing my show I would do an hour every day with no open act. You just walk out. So that just really helped me become a stronger comic just because once you can just do a show, an hour show with no opener and do well, then when a crowd has warmed up, then it becomes easier. So yeah, going to those festivals was a big help and I learned a lot from them.