Hannibal Buress is a comedy writer and performer known best for his laid-back, yet somewhat awkward style, which has brought him success both on and off-screen. He’s performed for late-night bigwigs like Letterman, Fallon and Kimmel and is also a former staff writer for SNL and 3o Rock. Buress currently co-hosts the The Eric Andre Show and refers to himself as “the black Ellen Degeneres.”
This year, he’s taking Just For Laughs by storm, kicking off the first of many performances at L’Astral on July 24th. We caught up with Hannibal to talk JFL, jaywalking and everything else in between.
What can we expect from your show this year at Just For Laughs?
Well, it’s similar to last year– I take the stage and do some comedy and talk about stuff that happens in my life. Some food, rap music, sex and travelling, and then I’ll finish up hopefully with a big laugh. If not, that’s ok. Stuff happens. I’ll probably do some smaller shows after my show. It’s just stand up, telling jokes, things I find funny, hopefully that other people find funny. Doing work.
What shows will you be a part of aside from your solo shows and the gala?
I’m doing a couple Nasty shows. I’m hosting Hip Hop Karaoke, the Galas and stuff, that’s about it.
This is not your first time in Montreal. You have an infamous story about receiving a jaywalking ticket here. You’re very clear that you haven’t paid the ticket and don’t intend to do so, right?
No, I don’t.
Do you plan on taking advantage of the city and jaywalking this summer?
You know, I’ll look around more this time. I’ll be a little more cautious, I’ll check the scene out. You know, I jaywalk in Chicago and New York all the time, and it’s not an issue to them. The shock was at the fact that he wasn’t just going to say “Alright man, later, don’t do that again”. I couldn’t relate to his passion for trying to stop jaywalking.
We jaywalk here all the time and the cops don’t always care. Sometimes they’ll slap you with a ticket, but it’s usually not a big deal. What do you look forward to when you’re in Montreal?
Nothing really, man. Doing shows. I look forward to getting my cheque [laughs]. Nah, nah, I look forward to hanging out with the other comedians, getting drinks. Even though I’ve been here a bunch of times, I don’t have many spots I go to. I’ll try to seek out some dope restaurants, but for me, it’s usually all about going to the shows and performing and watching other shows and hanging out. I don’t have any specific plans.
Maybe we can change that this year, find some cool stuff for you?
Actually, a few years ago, I was in Montreal early because I was doing a long run of my solo show. I looked up stuff to do and found Hip Hop Karaoke at Le Belmont. I’m just excited to be back in the city, it’s a fun time.
How long have you been doing comedy? What’s the timeline for Hannibal?
I started performing in March 2002.
Who would you say are your biggest influences in comedy?
I’d say Dave Chappelle, Patrice O’Neill, Chris Rock, Louis CK… those guys.
Being in comedy for this long, you probably have a process nailed down. Take us through the construction of a bit for Hannibal Buress. What’s that like?
Well, usually, someone says something dumb to me and I fume about it for some time. I don’t say anything because I’m like that and then I hit the stage and talk about it. Or I see something weird and I make a note of it and try to explain why I think its weird. It’s gotta be something that really sticks in my mind, and if I keep thinking about it– that’s what Louis CK said– if you keep on thinking about it, you can talk about it on stage. That’s what it is. I still do some writing, actual writing on paper, but I usually just go from memory and try to work on ideas naturally.
You’ve written for Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock and now, The Eric Andre Show just got picked up for a second season. How have the different styles of shows challenged your writing?
It’s so different writing sketches– it’s short form and you try to get laughs going in a short amount of time, whereas 30 Rock is a narrative and you try to get a lot of jokes anyways, while writing for these specific characters. Those characters are already established, you’re just trying to think in their minds, whereas Andre’s show is just really a free for all, and we’re ridiculous and reacting to the situation to try and be weird to help the guest. It’s more of a genuine reactive comedy, not a lot of writing involved.
Do you have any advice for aspiring comedians?
You just have to write a lot and perform a lot even if you think you suck. Even if you feel like you suck, maybe keep on going with it, but know that there is a possibility you might not get better. Some people get better and grow, and some people suck forever. If you go down the path where you suck forever, 10 to 11 years down the road and you still stink, not doing any work as a comedian, I don’t know if you should quit or keep inflicting your horrible will upon audiences. I would say quit. That’s my advice to terrible comedians after 11 years. If you’re just starting out, perform a lot and write a lot and figure out how to make it better.
You put together a show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. Do you have anything to say about that?
It’s every Sunday, almost every Sunday. Whenever I’m on the road, I have a guest host, but yeah its just a show that where I host five or six comedians per night and we have a DJ. We have a lot of fun and it’s great to try out new material and new jokes. It’s been going for almost four years.
Hannibal Buress, do you have a website?
To buy tickets to Hannibal’s solo show at L’Astral July 24th at 9:30 pm, click here.
To see him at the Seth Meyers Gala at Place des Arts July 24th at 10 pm, click here.
For Hip Hop Karaoke at Le Belmont July 25th at 11:45 pm, click here.
For the Jay Baruchel Gala at Place des Arts July 25th at 7 pm, click here.
AND for The Nasty Show (only the Metropolis dates between the 25th and 27th) click here.
Stay tuned for Hannibal’s upcoming webseries, Talking to Strangers. The Roots are set to be part of the debut show this summer.
Interview by Mike Carrozza