NOTE: This show has been canceled. We heard Monday night that Hannibal had to cancel this week's show due to a scheduling conflict. Gaillard Center is issuing automatic refunds. But he's a funny guy and we talked to him last week, so here's our interview.
There's a moment at the beginning of Hannibal Buress' new stand-up special, "Comedy Camisado," that speaks to his philosophy as an entertainer. As the Chicago native takes the stage, a young man backflips out behind the curtain and casually removes the mic stand before exiting. Buress makes no mention of this brief display of acrobatics, but the very fact that it's included in the show gives you an idea of where Buress is coming from. Why not fill ever part of a performance with a little something extra, something unexpected?
The last time Buress performed in Charleston, he was a bit under the weather, but that didn't stop him from bringing out a corps of ballerinas during his performance of "Gibberish Rap" — a longtime piece of the comedian's repertoire that includes the lyrics "I'm rappin, rap, rap, rappin'. In my socks rapping. Got on my jeans. Jeans, degrees, put on deodorant Soda shit, Whodepsit." It's a catchy piece of absurdist hip-hop, but while Buress' illness didn't derail his performance, it did affect his post-show plans.
"I hate being sick on the road because I want to party and stuff. It didn't feel good. You can't try to holler at girls when you all got the flu and shit," he says.
Since his last time in Charleston — a city Buress points out looks like it is way too into the 1800s — the writer and comedian has seen his acting career grow. This past summer saw Buress appear in feature films like The Nice Guys, The Angry Birds Movie, and Neighbors 2. In addition to his role on the ever-unpredictable The Eric Andre Show (the host of which meditates on his lunch break in between destroying sets, according to Buress), he also plays Lincoln Rice on Comedy Central's Broad City. Perhaps a first among stand-up comedians, Buress is also a featured character in the newest edition of the basketball video game franchise NBA2K. Buress' involvement with the project began when he offered to curate a playlist for the game, but was instead offered the role of Ice the Barber.
"In the My Player mode, you create a character and he goes to barbershops and I'll be the barber there. I'm a big fan of that game. I've bought it several years in a row," says Buress. "We shot in California and put on some motion-capture suits. Thank you to the 2K Sports team and the animators for making me better than I am. Or maybe you're making me as good as I will be soon and you see me as my better self six months from now."
For Buress' current national tour, suavely dubbed The Hannibal Montanabal Experience, he is continuing to pack in whatever else he can into each show to keep audiences entertained. People can expect to be treated to a few video features prior to the performance, so that they're not just sitting around waiting for a good time.
"When I've gone to Cirque du Soleil shows, if you get there early they have somebody, either a clown or somebody in costume kind of running around in the audience or they do some type of bit with somebody getting chased. But the show starts when you get there. When you get there, there's something happening," says Buress, who's never shied away from incorporating outside influences into his routine. "I might watch another show or see something in a performances and try to do it. It's trial and error. You see how things work. I always like to experiment with the live shows, especially doing shows in a theater. You have that space and try to use the space and make the most of it. I know how to do stand up, so now I'm trying to figure out other elements that work and that are fun and how to engage in a different way."
As Buress' level of exposure has increased in television and movies, the performer says he can worry about it affecting his stand-up material. With much of his jokes pulled from his everyday experiences, Buress used to question whether he was talking too much about doing interviews or an unruly fan recognizing him on the street. But now he's accepted that those experiences are just part of his day-to-day life. And as Buress finds himself involved with different projects, he's seen the makeup of his stand-up audience change, as was the case after Broad City became a hit show.
"I didn't know it was going to be like that. People just connected with it. It was funny doing that opening scene where I'm having fake sex while she Skypes," Buress says of his on-screen role as the romantic interest of Broad City co-creator Ilana Glazer. "A lot of people that don't know my stand-up have seen Broad City and then got into my stand-up from there. So it has been kind of crazy to see these new fans from all over the place. It's different because it's people that don't really get into stand-up. You have your stand-up comedy fans that want to see what's new. They listen to podcasts. They read blogs. Then you have people who watch shows and they go to stand up to see a guy from a show ... There are a bunch of different ways to get people into your stuff. I'm just fortunate to work on good projects that people enjoy."