I walk on a special kind of egg shells when the comedian you are about to review opens his comedy special with a five minute bit that lampoons a previous news article about him. It is with a small amount of (perhaps undue) caution that I dove into this recent release from Comedian Hannibal Buress. To start with, lets discus the previous whole article bit. It’s easily one of the most constantly funny bits I’ve ever seen, perhaps made more so as it deals with a subject close to my heart. If you get a chance to watch only five minutes of this special, this would be my choice. However you’d be doing yourself a disservice as for an hour of comedy this is pretty much flawless. Let’s dive in!
This is Buress’ second album and easily a tour de force. Hannibal’s style is very unique with an interesting combination of a very chill straightforward delivery interrupted by sudden blasts of bombastic rhetoric. In many ways he’s constantly misdirecting you, letting you fall into the rhythm of his normal calm delivery and then tearing off on a rant that is as funny as it is surprising. He also sometimes clips his sentences, shifting from topic to topic in mid-thought, almost in response to the pace of the comedy. In a brief interview I was able to ask Buress about his unique style and he had this to say:
“I set out to be funny and talk about the things that I think are funny. I’m happy that people think that it’s unique and they appreciate it, but it wasn’t calculated… [my style] does evolve over time with performing experience. I talk about pretty much the same stuff that I talked about when I first started. With time it’s gotten better and stronger and it’s become easier to convey my ideas to an audience.”
Buress has a gift for observation, and delivers his unique perspective in a mix of grounded human perceptions of real life situations and deeply thought metaphors that are often as charming as they are funny. He blends being rebellious (nearly all his jokes are about interactions with authority figures or cultural norms) with a sly intellectual wit that takes nothing for granted. He’s everyone’s mischievous friend, or that person in class who was smarter than the teachers and had to let everyone know in the funniest way possible. I asked Hannibal about which comedians influenced him:
“I’m a big Patrice Oneail fan, and Dave Attel. Chris Rock, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, all those dudes man, very funny…”
In terms of comedians he came up alongside:
“From Chicago there are a lot of people that are in LA and NYC now like Pete Holmes, Kyle Kinane, Kumail Nanjiani, TJ Miller…and Dion Cole is really awesome too.”
It’s a long list, but I can hear a lot of those influences in his set, especially Carlin with his perpetual questioning of authority and every convention we see as standard in reality. His list of contemporaries too makes sense as this is a short list of great comedians coming out of Chicago in the last few years. Greats truck with greats. That’s what I always say.
For whatever reason, the short bit about his teenage cousin is one of my absolute favorites. I just can’t get enough of this routine, its pitch perfect and demonstrates a lot of what makes Hannibal great. Beyond the special, Hannibal has been doing a lot of writing for various TV shows, and I asked about this in our recent interview. More specifically I asked if writing for television and his unique comedy used the same parts of his brain:
“I don’t know; I didn’t look at my brain when I was doing it. It is a different skill set for a television show because you have to look at things that work for a character. With me I can figure out an idea for myself, and I can try it on stage and then fix it. If I’m writing something for SNL or for 30 Rock it has to be good or fully realized. I can’t just get out there and try it out and see what happens, like I can with stand-up. It’s a different skill for the same thing; it’s all about being funny. The structure and form is different but the goal is the same.”
I couldn't have put it better myself, nor could most. I can however gift you all with a few samples of the show for your enjoyment. The album is available in DVD and CD forms on Amazon HERE. I would suggest the DVD as the bonus content, “A Week To Kill” is available there, and is so good we here at Crave are going to give it its own review.