The last few years haven’t been too shabby for comedian Hannibal Buress. He did that stand-up bit in 2014 about Bill Cosby’s previous sexual assault allegations. The clip went viral, and inspired a slew of women to come forward, also with the same type of allegations against Cosby. However, that sole event wasn’t responsible for the continued rise in his popularity.
Buress has been showcasing his subtle and offbeat style all over the place, from consistent touring with his stand-up act that features his unique observational humor, to regular appearances on television shows including Broad City and the Eric Andre Show. His magnetic pull made him a standout in movies like Neighbors, starring Seth Rogen, and Daddy’s Home, featuring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, highlighting his ability to grab the focus in big ensemble casts.
On Thanksgiving eve, November 23, Buress stops in Phoenix a one-night-only appearance with his show Hannibal Buress: The Hannibal Montanabal Experience, at Stand Up Live. We caught up with him about that and more.
New Times: You’ve been around a while, but the last few years, you’ve blown up. How have things changed for you?
Hannibal Burress: Mostly in interactions with people, when I am out and about – getting more, or different, reactions. I guess it also depends on where I am. Sometimes it’s chill, sometimes people get weird. It’s a new amount of visibility.
Do you enjoy the recognition?
It’s situational. For the most part, I don’t mind, unless people are being aggressive. But it’s not a blanket situation. It varies in different environments.
When did stand-up become something that you wanted to pursue?
I started doing stand-up when I was 19 and in college. It wasn’t really a goal of mine; I kind of fell into it. I went to an open mic night with some friends. I wanted to try it out the next time, so I did that and went from there. I fell in love with it, focused on it, and just kept doing it. I wasn’t really a big fan before I started doing it. After I started doing it myself, I dug into its history and present. I soaked up as much as I could by listening to and watching as much stand-up as possible.
Has your style changed a lot since those early days?
Definitely. I have more energy. As I got more experience under my belt, it made a huge difference. I started when I was 19. I’m almost 34, so earlier on, my shows involved more short jokes. Now I can do more eight- or nine- minute stories. I just feel much more skilled.
Stand-up seems pretty terrifying. Do you get nervous?
It depends on the situation. For the most part, I don’t get nervous anymore unless it’s a gig that isn’t one of my personal stand-up gigs. Different nontraditional stand-up situations, like following a DJ, can be kind of crazy, but in comedy settings, I don’t get too stressed. Those types of situations are few and far between, maybe a couple times a year at the most.
In those nontraditional situations, you have to come on stage and immediately figure out how to shift an audience’s focus.
Yeah, totally. You just have to make the most out of it. It involves a quickness in thinking of how to navigate it, how to engage them, and then just moving quickly to do all of that.
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From TV shows to movies, you do a good amount of acting. Are you going to continue to ramp up that activity?
I take it as it comes. It’s fun, and opportunities have continued to pop up. I would really like to do a TV show in the next couple of years where I’m the lead. I definitely appreciate that acting has introduced a lot of people to my stand-up, and vice versa. They feed each other.
It’s been awhile, but at one point you were a Saturday Night Live staff writer. Was it a goal to be a cast member on the show?
Yeah, it was about 7 years ago. Sure, it would have been cool to be a cast member. I was writing for the show but making some moves to be on camera. It just didn’t work out that way, but that’s okay.
Tell us about the current show, Hannibal Buress: The Hannibal Montanabal Experience
It focuses on my life and things I’m dealing with these days, like the new notoriety and adulthood. I guess that’s the theme, if there is one. It’s hard to explain stand-up on a phone conversation or in print form. It can be a bit of a fruitless process. I hope people who like me will come out, and those who haven’t seen me can check me out online and it might encourage them to come.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.