Hardly Working: A Q&A with Oddball Comedy Festival Headliner Hannibal Buress

Categories: Comedy

Hannibal_Buress.jpg
Seth Olenick

Comedian Hannibal Buress has a lot of items on his to-do list these days. He's not only shooting a new pilot for Comedy Central but he's also part of their episodic remake of the Broad City web series and the sidekick for the insane Adult Swim talk show The Eric Andre Show. When he's not doing his own standup tour, he's either prepping a new Comedy Central special or starring in a Nike commercial with NBA star Kevin Durant.

Then on top of that, he's on a 15-city tour with Funny or Die's Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival with headliners Dave Chappelle and Flight of the Conchords, which lands in town this Sunday at the Gexa Energy Pavillion.

So we felt really bad asking him to take some time out of one of his few days off to talk us about what it's like to be on the bill for such an unorthodox comedy gathering, working with the insanely energetic Andre and what to expect from a Dallas comedy crowd.

It sounds like you've been busy as hell. Besides doing your stand-up shows and movies and your work on The Eric Andre Show , I just saw your commercial with Kevin Durant. Do you even get a day off?
[He laughs.] I have my days off. Today is kind of light with just one event I'm hosting but the goal is to work so you don't have to work. Two weeks ago, I just went to Las Vegas to hang out for a few days. So when I work, I work hard and when I chill, I take some time off.

How did you get involved with Funny or Die?
I have worked with LiveNation before and they were putting together the lineup and offered it to me and told me that Dave Chappelle was going to be headlining it and it would be a good opportunity to work with Chappelle and all these other great acts. It's an awesome lineup and it's huge venues, so there hasn't been a stand-up tour like this ever. So it's really just an exciting opportunity to build my audience and travel and also do less work because normally when I tour as a headliner, I have to do at least an hour on my shows. So on these, we're only doing 15-20 minutes. So I get pull some big shows without the heavy lifting. So it's going to be fun.

How do you pare down your material?
Since it's just a 15 or 20 minute set and especially at a big venue, it's just shorter bits whereas in my hour long sets, I would do some stories but in a 15 or 20 minute set, you don't do one bit that's seven minutes. You want to grab their attention quickly.

What is it like to be in a show with this many people and to top it off have Dave Chappelle and Flight of the Conchords on the top of the ticket?
It's exciting. Dave Chappelle is one of my comedic idols and I watched him a lot when I started out, and I've gotten to do some shows with him. So the opportunity to watch him and learn from him is awesome. Flight of the Conchords was a great show too. It's going to be an awesome experience.

Can you talk about the TV work you've been doing?
Yeah, I'm working on this show Broad City starring Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer and produced by Amy Poehler. We started shooting that in September. The Eric Andre Show premieres on Adult Swim in October, and I'm working my own pilot for Comedy Central also. It's still early so I don't want to talk about the concept of it but my show is just in the idea phase.

And you get another special with Comedy Central as well, right?
Yeah, we're hopefully filming it in November or December to air in January of February.

I love The Eric Andre Show. How did you become his sidekick?
He had this idea for the show years ago in 2008 and he asked me to film this pilot in an abandoned bodega in Brooklyn and he started sending it to people. It was just a weird show. I didn't think anything was going to come of it. I used to always talk shit and say, "Hey man, what's up that thing we shot?" not thinking anything of it. Then it got into the hands of some people at Adult Swim, and we shot another pilot and as we were shooting the pilot, I could kind of tell it would get on the air because a lot of the execs were there and so invested in it. Now it has a cult fan base. It's definitely not for everybody. It's a very weird show but it's help me build my audience and get to do some weird stuff I normally don't get to do.

Did you watch him on The Jezelnik Offensive two weeks ago?
Yeah, I saw him. He set off some fireworks.

It seems like he's crazy like that all the time or just saving it up for when he's on camera. What's Eric like to be around when you're working or just hanging out or whatever?
He's a really focused, hard working dude, especially when he does talk shows. With his show, he's works very hard and it's a lot of planning, and he seems like a crazy person, but he works hard and writes a lot. So when he goes on to a talk show, he plans on that and really wants to make the most out of the moment. He comes off crazy but he's actually very calculating and smart.

So are you working on new material for the festival?
It depends on what you've seen. If you haven't seen the other stuff, so it's all new to you. [laughs] It varies. I don't know exactly what the set will be, but I'm just going to try and do some good jokes.

Do you ever hear back from rappers or artists you talk about?
I've met those dudes before. I've bumped into [Tyler The Creator and co-founder of Odd Future] and they're fans. They were cool with it. I do a joke about their lyrics where they say "kill people, burn shit, fuck school" and they were cool with it. I also talked about Young Jeezy saying, "House stupid dumb big, my rooms got rooms" and a journalist brought that up in an interview and he said, "Oh, his house must not be that big." The people I talk about, I'm actually fans of. It's not mean. I'm fans of whoever I'm talking about on stage.

So you've written for Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. Do you not miss writing for TV?
I don't miss it at all. I'm focused more on my own projects. I don't see myself being a staff writer on a show for a long time. I liked working on them, and I learned a lot, and it helped me grow as a writer.

Have you played Dallas a lot?
I have not. I've played Dallas Thanksgiving weekend 2011 right before I filmed Animal Furnace at the Addison Improv and I did a college in Dallas, Southern Methodist University, last year. Those are the only two times I've been to Dallas.

When you play a big festival show like this, you expect each crowd to be good, but can you have expectations about what it's like from your club shows?
No, these shows will be nothing like my club experience. That was 250 to 300 seats. This venue is going to be 13,000 to 14,000 and I'm just doing a short set. So this is a huge event and people will be excited, so all I've got to do is get up there and do my best jokes and watch the rest of the show. I'm excited about it.



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