By David Gavri
Chicago-bred and New York based, Hannibal Buress began his comedy career back in 2002. By 2007, Time Out magazine named him the ‘Funniest Person in Chicago’. In 2009, he became a writer for Saturday Night Live and soon after, for the hit TV series, 30 Rock, in which he has also made appearances. Hannibal’s debut album, My Name is Hannibal, was released the following year, and it quickly became the number one comedy album on iTunes. His first hour-long special, Animal Furnace, debuted in 2012 on Comedy Central. Hannibal was later crowned the ‘Best Club Comic’ at the 2012 Comedy Awards. Hannibal’s TV appearances include Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Night with Jimmy Falon, The Late Show with Dave Letterman, and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. We are very lucky that Hannibal took some time out for a little chat.
First and foremost, why do you do comedy?
I enjoy doing comedy. I started doing it at 19 and that’s when I knew I wanted to keep on doin it. I just enjoy performin. It’s a fun thing to be able to take ideas on stage and have people laugh. It’s really excitin. It’s a fun time.
What’s the best part about doing comedy?
I get to do what I enjoy, what I love. I get to travel and perform all over the world.
Most interesting places that you’ve traveled for stand up comedy?
I’ve been to Australia a couple times. Norway, Scotland a couple times, England, Amsterdam, Canada.
Favorite comedic influences?
Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Louie is great, Patrice O’Neal… Alotta people, man. I liked watchin’ the Fresh Prince of Bel Air growin’ up, and Martin… There’s alotta influence.
Chris Rock has been a mentor to you. What has that been like?
He’s cool! He’s a cool dude. Chris has some good advice. He’s one of the legends.
What’s the best advice that you can pass down to other aspiring comics?
Perform a lot, write a lot.
Is there an end goal for you? What are your long term aspirations?
I just wanna work. Work and do more stand up, put out more specials, TV shows, and continue to build and write.
Performing on the road a lot, is it easy to lose track of where you are?
Eh, it’s happened a couple times where I woke up thinkin, “Where the fuck am I?!” [laughs] But, it’s just part of it. The travelin can get tiring, but I enjoy it. Sometimes it’s nice to just chill on a plane and watch a TV show. I’m almost used to it more to where it’s almost weird for me to be home for too long. I’m more used to bein on the road. It’s all part of the work, and I enjoy it.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Eh…no real ritual where I do this or do that—just depends on where I am. I kinda just chill out, listen to music… Today my pre-show ritual might be watchin the basketball game. [points to the TV]
When you’re not on stage, do you still feel pressured to be funny?
No, not at all. Some people have that vibe where they’re “on” all the time. That’s not my vibe.
How do you respond when people say to you, “Hey you’re a comedian? Tell us a joke!”
I just say, “No.” I tell ‘em, “No.” It’s annoyin when people do that to me. It’s SO annoying.
Were you ‘the funny guy’ growin’ up?
Na, I mean I had my moments. I think everyone’s kinda funny growin up. I don’t think I was the one that people thought would be a comedian—but I was funny with my friends. So alotta people were surprised when they found out I was doin stand up. But you’re quieter around some people and you’re louder around other people. So it just varies dependin on who you were around.
For a comedian, what’s the difference between New York and Los Angeles?
New York is better than L.A. for straight up stand up. L.A., if you wanna do other stuff besides stand up, that’s place to be for actin, writin, etc.
How is it different writing jokes for stand up VS writing jokes for a TV show?
Writin for a TV show, you’re thinkin of jokes for a specific character. So you’re not thinkin of stuff you would say, you’re thinkin of stuff the character would say. So you gotta focus your humor in that way. It’s almost easier because those characters have established voices.
Favorite TV shows?
A buncha stuff…Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Louie…
Interviewed & Written by: David Gavri