Hannibal Buress Talks Comedy With Us Ahead of His Majestic Theatre Gig

Hannibal Buress really wants T-Pain on his podcast.
Hannibal Buress really wants T-Pain on his podcast. Marcus Price

Hannibal Buress is one of the most unique, original voices in comedy today, stand-up or otherwise. Blending absurdity with the benign, Buress can take what’s on its face a simple premise, like talking about the mixed drink “Flaming Dr Pepper,” and create a full history of how it was made to hilarious results. It’s comedy that lacks an agenda other than to entertain, to just make you laugh, and the amount of thought put into each bit makes them so memorable, you can recite them to a friend the next day after hearing it once.

Buress has been someone to pay attention to since his first album, My Name is Hannibal, was released in 2010, and with television roles in the Eric Andre Show and Broad City, the Chicago-born comedian is coming into the widespread recognition he’s been overdue for. Most recently he’s appeared in such high-profile movies as Spider-Man: Homecoming and the summer comedy Tag, all the while still writing and performing new stand-up material.

On Sept. 13, Dallas will host his great talents when Buress steps onstage at The Majestic Theatre to perform. Buress took the time to talk with us about comedy, his podcast Handsome Rambler, and whether he prefers to do stand-up comedy or acting in the years to come.

If you could only pick one, would you prefer the rest of your career be stand-up or acting?
Neither. I wouldn’t want to do neither of these things for the rest of my… I want to do other stuff (laughs). Just one or the other forever? Ugh (laughs). I want to be a Twitch millionaire. I want to make millions from playing video games at home and just get massages and work out and eat great food in between. That’s the idea. And then I’ll Twitch on vacation, eight hours a day video games, and then the other time do vacation stuff. That’s what I want to do.

"I want to be a Twitch millionaire." – Hannibal Buress

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But to answer your other question: It would be stand-up. But a light amount of stand-up. Like maybe once or twice a week, type (laughs). Definitely wouldn’t be grinding heavy at it. I don’t want to be going at it four nights, or four times in a night, when I’m 60.

Do you ever see yourself in a writers room again like with SNL or 30 Rock?
I’d do punch-up, but I wouldn’t do a season writing on … At this point I did a season writing on somebody’s show, something really went wrong. And it’s not to say that that’s a bad job, it’s just really not for me and not where I’m comfortable. Right now I would go to a friend’s ... like somebody’s show who's a friend of mine, I’ll go sit in and contribute for a day or so on that show for free, I’ll pop in. But as far as staff? Fuck no.

I don’t have the mentality for it. That’s every day, giving your ideas to somebody else.

How long have you been doing stand-up? Like 15, 16 years? Is there anything you would do different in those first years?
No. Because I was doing it in college, so there wasn’t really much to adjust (laughs). Where I was doing it, Carbondale, Illinois as an open-mic'er, so really there is no shift in plan or approach. There’s no room for that. It’s not like coming up in New York where even if you’re brand new, there’s still somewhat of a ..., you could decide, “Oh I’ll do these types of open mics, or I’ll try to do this.” Starting in Carbondale, I think I did what I could do. I performed on the shows that were available to me and produced my own shows, and tried getting road work, and I did my own on-campus TV show, and tried to get onstage as much as I can; so I think for those first couple of years ... wrote more, maybe? But also, it was from a 19-year-old’s perspective so ... and I wrote a lot back then. No, I’m happy with those first couple of years.

For your stand-up, do you sit down and write, like you say, "For the next two hours I’m going to write comedy," or do you approach it another way?
It varies. I mean I can sit and write sometimes, look at old notes, try to develop them or develop different ideas I’ve been thinking on, or I’ll just go onstage or I just walk around, and things pop up. Or read, however. I can kind of come up with stuff in all types of spaces.

You have a Netflix special. Do you think the amount of comedy Netflix has produced has hurt or helped stand-up?
It’s probably helping it. They are putting out a lot, and it’s something you can’t really gauge right now because the wave hasn’t really subsided, and the results of it aren’t completely tangible. Meaning, they’re putting out a lot. They just really started ramping up with the 15 minutes and 30 minutes, so we have to see how that helps development, and you know these different acts, how that affects touring, the touring business and festival business. It’s kind of a thing where this is brand new, this level of output, so to see the real results, it would be three to five years. Or even a year you have to give it.

What led you to start your podcast, Handsome Rambler?
It was really just to boost ticket sales, to be completely honest. That was the initial plan, and then it veered away from that. It veered into just kind of a fun outlet to do something different than my stand-up — just have fun and show that to the fans, and bring other people in on it. Try to give people, you know, where we ask some typical interview questions, but try to mix it up and ask some stuff they don’t normally get asked, and goof around and make some songs.

It’s really fun for me. Hopefully we get our business back on track and start releasing one or two a week again. Because we edit them and listen to them, and I say reckless stuff, or I say weird stuff, and sometimes I overthink it and cut it out, so that’s why I don’t just put them out. We have a bunch of episodes banked because we record sometimes three or four over the course of two days.

I think over the next few months I’ll work on not being so precious with the content and just letting them fly a little bit.

"I think over the next few months I’ll work on not being so precious with the content and just letting them fly a little bit." – Hannibal Buress

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Is it hard fitting recording a podcast into your schedule?
No, it’s not hard, you just have to set it and then book guests with it. But it’s not that tough, especially if we go out to L.A., then we can book three people in a day. We go to L.A. for three days. We do Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in L.A., book three podcasts. 2-4-6 each day or 4-6-8, we got nine episodes that can carry us for two months, if we’re on a weekly schedule, but we’re not, so it ends up carrying us for like a year (laughs).

What’s your wish guest list to have on the podcast?
We’ve been working on getting T-Pain on there. We do a lot of Auto-Tune and he’s one the kings of Auto-Tune. It’ll be amazing to have him on. The Rock would be cool.

But that’s the thing, too. I don’t like bugging people. I think I’ll start having my publicist or somebody reach out because I don’t want people to feel pressure, even though I am pressuring. But some people I pressure — not pressure them, but I say, “Hey! Come on, do this shit!” Also people forget that you asked. I forget about stuff I was asked about I wanted to do and then I get reminded and I say, “Oh, yeah. I do want to do that.”

Tickets start at $36.
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