Hannibal Buress On ‘Comedy Camisado,’ Animation, And Doing Stand-Up In Japan

Hannibal Buress is more than just the comedian who told that joke about that guy. The soon-to-be 33-year-old — a fact he laments at length in his new stand-up special, Comedy Camisado — has albums, writing credits, and television and film appearances to his name that span a decade. And before that? The Chicagoan started doing stand-up back in 2002 while studying communications in college.

These days Buress, who last year hosted the Comedy Central series Why? With Hannibal Buress, busies himself with regular roles in Broad City and The Eric Andre Show, voiceover work in the Angry Birds movie and The Secret Life of Pets, cameos in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising and The Disaster Artist, and plenty of stand-up to keep him on the road. He graciously took the time to talk about these with Uproxx, as well as what it was like to do comedy in Japan, and Comedy Camisado, which premieres Friday, Feb. 5 on Netflix.

Between Comedy Camisado, the new hour, Broad City and everything else, your schedule seems quite full. Do you like keeping busy, or have you had any time to relax?

No, I’ve had lots of time to relax. I went to Japan over the holidays for about eight days. Went to New Orleans for a little bit and a few other places, so I have some time to relax. Broad City is about 10 days’ worth of shooting scattered over two or three months. The Eric Andre Show is about two weeks. My show was kind of demanding as far as time commitment goes — about a couple of months. It’s a lot of different things, but the scheduling and the time demands aren’t as crazy as they may look.

Aside from your stand-up and Why? with Hannibal Buress, you’ve also written for Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. Do you have a preference?

I prefer writing in a group setting where other people are writing for me. [Laughs.] I’d rather write for myself, and it sounds pathetic, but I think anybody would.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

You know, it’s great to create your own projects. Working for my own show was fun, because you get to have an idea and say, “Let’s work on it like this.” You can really shape the execution of it, as opposed to just pitching something to somebody.

Right, but whenever you’re acting in projects written by someone else, do you still try to contribute to the writing process?

With voiceover stuff, like Angry Birds and The Secret Life of Pets, there’s freedom to riff. You give the lines a couple of different ways anyways, but after you say your lines in a take, you’re usually free to play around, put it in your own words. I do that a lot whenever I’m recording voiceovers, and I’ve become more comfortable with that medium, with knowing how to make it pop a little bit. I’ve been doing voiceovers for a couple of years, and it seems simple, but lately I’ve been reminding myself that I have to make the voice pop. People can’t see me. What they’re seeing is this little animated character, so it forces you to learn all these vocal moves. It helps me out, but it also gives the animators more to work with. Eric Andre’s show has a lot of improv, and I’ll throw some ideas into the mix whenever I’m there. Same with Broad City. It’s mostly scripted, but things can be pitched also.

How long have you been working with the material in Comedy Camisado?

I guess I went on the road initially in the middle of October 2014, then filmed it in September, so almost a year. During the summer I wasn’t touring. I was doing some dates, but I was working on my show mostly, so I wasn’t really touring that much. I probably could have filmed it in April. There were definitely some jokes that improved between April and September, some that I added, but I felt like the show was in really good shape. It took a little while, but I’m glad. It takes some time, and the more time you have with a show, the better it gets. You add things, get more comfortable and do things to adjust the show’s flow.

The special was filmed in Minneapolis. Aside from the joke about why you picked that venue, was there another draw? For instance, the timing…

No, it wasn’t the timing. There are good crowds there, you know? I’ve performed there live and have always had a good experience. The crowds are lively and sharp, and I built a fanbase there early. I like that venue a lot, too. I did a couple of shows there before, and I just liked the look of the place. So that’s really why.

Do you usually take the same amount of time to get a special ready before you record it?

With Animal Furnace, I was on the road for most of 2011. Pretty much from March to November, I was on the road doing stuff for that. It just takes a while. It’s ideal to really perform a lot and get the set solid. You get better and you get to work more places. There have been times where I was like, ‘I could film right now,’ but I’d just hold back a little bit and give it some more time. It usually takes at least a few months to get an hour on point.

Will you hit the road as soon as you’ve got new material written, or do you wait until you’ve got a certain amount ready?

I won’t do a theater. I’ll do a small club and get a feel for it. When I started up the tour for Camisado in October, I happened to be in San Francisco the Monday of the first week I’d scheduled shows. So I did a last-minute show there and worked on my set. Then I got it in shape on tour. I was putting on a good show, but I was still getting there. And it took a few shows actually to really get it on point. I’d say three shows, at least, and then I had it. In fact, I’m about to start prepping to get back out. So I’m doing a week in Bloomington, Indiana — six shows in three nights — and that’s how I’m going to build this new set. To figure it out piece by piece.

What’s the best crowd you’ve ever had at a live show?

When I was over in Tokyo, we put together some last-minute shows there at a small venue. They could handle like 90 to 100 people. It was mostly for the American, British, and Australian crowds there, but there were a few Japanese people in the audience. There was a different type of excitement there, though, because not that many comedians tour Japan. At least comedians from the United States. But it was fun, and I could really feel the engagement from the room.

You know what this means, don’t you? You’re going to do what a lot of other American celebrities do in Japan — film crazy, insane commercials for weird products.

[Laughs.] Maybe, man. Maybe.

Hannibal Buress: Comedy Camisado will be available to stream Friday, Feb. 5 on Netflix. Until then, here’s a preview…