Interview: Hannibal Buress

words by Chris Aitkens
| Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Hannibal BuressHannibal Buress is the next big thing in comedy. Already, his track record is very impressive and he’s still running strong. He has made many appearances on late night comedy shows, received praise from today’s biggest comics, and has written for TV shows including “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock.” Some of you might remember him as the crazy homeless guy that appeared in the 100th episode of “30 Rock.” He’s currently on a six-month-long tour for his debut comedy album, My Name is Hannibal. Fortunately, he was able to take a break in Utah and speak to me over the phone. We discussed his tour, feta cheese, ninja sex, girls he loves and hates, and the terrifying future of Verbicide.

I read that you were in Utah last night doing a comedy show — how was that?
I am in Utah. It’s alright. The show went really. I’m just using the daytime to get some work done and do some road laundry.

Have the Mormons annoyed you yet?
Damn, Chris. That was a bad segue. They haven’t annoyed me ‘cause I’m in my hotel, so I’m not around them. I don’t have anything against what they do, and even if I did, I’m only spending two days a year with them.

How’s the tour going so far?
It’s going well, man. It’s going really well. Shows have been well-attended, people have been coming out, and it’s been nice to just travel and perform. It’s nice, I got a small following in a lot of places. It makes it a lot more fun to perform when a few people know who you are, and I’ve been enjoying myself.

As soon as you get back to New York are you going start writing again or work on new material?
That’s what partially the road is for, working 0n new material. I’m just basically focusing on that and writing for some other projects and hopefully doing some acting.

I was watching 30 Rock this morning and I saw your cameo; I thought it was fucking hilarious. Did you write those parts for yourself or did someone approach you?
Nah, it’s a bit obnoxious to try to write yourself in a show. When we do a table-read of a script and there’s a small part — there’ll be several small parts, two-line things that haven’t been cast yet — and they’ll have writers read these parts. So for the homeless guy, I read the line in the episode, the first time we did it and it went really well, so when we were back in the writer’s room, they said “Hey, why don’t we have Hannibal be the bum?” And so we did it and they kept writing that character in, so it ended up being four episodes with that guy. That’s how it happened; I was really appreciative.

I hate to say this, but I’m somewhat of an internet pirate…so I kinda downloaded your album…
Hey, fuck you, Chris.

Who are you really named after?
Hannibal Barca. He was a Carthaginian general in BC (before Christ) who attacked the Alps and he crossed many historical places. People should look him up.

What possessed your parents to call you that?
You’re like the fourth person to ask me that today. My dad really liked that person in history.

What got you into comedy?
Well, it involves ninjas and feta cheese. Have you heard this story before? My dad moved to Cincinnati right before I was born, and he and my mom started a really successful feta cheese business. They were making so much money and the other people in the business were getting really jealous because my parents were making money. One of the people had connections to ninjas, so they kidnapped my parents. I was born in ninja captivity and my parents were in captivity for 19 years and they said, “We’ll release you if your son becomes a stand-up comedian.” I did a set at the Feta Cheese open mic and I did really well and they released my family. I didn’t think I was going to pursue comedy after that because I started under such traumatic circumstances, but I just kept on with it.

The real story I just started going to open mics in college and I saw that they were horrible and I thought, If they could be horrible, so can I. But that’s such a boring story. None of that sells tickets. But the ninja is more fun. That’s Verbicide-worthy.

Let’s move along to the Awkward Comedy Show. I haven’t had a chance to see it, but once it comes out, I’ll make sure to download it.
It’s alright. I download stuff. I was conflicted when I started seeing my album on download sites, but I thought, I download shit too, so I feel if I got mad at people for downloading my stuff, I’d be kind of a hypocrite.

Back to the Awkward Comedy Show. Most black comedians talk about drugs and hip-hop, but what are the other things you’re talking about in this show?
We taped that a while ago, but it doesn’t vary from my act at all. I talk about what’s going on in the streets, I talk about the world’s feta cheese situation, I talk about ninjas and their fertility situation. Did you know that ninja families are the highest users of fertility drugs? That’s why they all look the same, ‘cause they’re having quadruplets or triplets. It’s real crazy, it’s not an epidemic, they just really use a lot of fertility drugs. And you’d think, Oh, they’re using fertility drugs because they’re having babies later. We’re talking mid-20s lady ninjas taking fertility drugs.

How do ninjas conceive?
Ninja sex. Well, from the porn I’ve seen. I saw a guy, he jizzed on a ninja-star and threw it at the girl’s pussy. And she was pregnant with triplets.

If there was a zombie apocalypse, what would your choice of weapon be?
Zombie AIDS in a bottle. Spray them zombies with zombie AIDS. No elaboration, that’s the end of the answer.

I read somewhere that your first appearance on TV was due to somebody cancelling and they had to get you last minute.
That wasn’t my first act on TV. No, “[Late Night with Jimmy] Fallon” wasn’t. But that’s what happened with Fallon, somebody was sick. Before Fallon I’d done Craig Ferguson’s show and [the] Awkward Comedy Show before, but I’ve done other TV stuff. But Fallon is an honest and good man, and [his people] called me the day before asking if I wanted to do it. I said, “Yeah, I’ll do it!” The good thing about doing it last minute was that [there] wasn’t a bunch of time to stew in the nervousness. I did the set less than 24 hours after they called me, that was really cool.

When you know a month ahead that you’re doing something, you get nervous about it. You over-think jokes, you over-think the order — Should I do this first, should I do this joke second, should I call back to a joke? You over-think the set because you have all this time, and you do it over and over and over. Which could help; the preparation could be helpful. I think that was nice to have the experience of just rushing in the next day and doing it.

Do you ever get inspired by other comedians?
Yes. I enjoy watching Patrice O’Neal. He’s one of my favorite stand-ups for a while and I look up to him a bunch. Just watching him live makes me think, Man, I need to get better! Right now!

What turns you on?
Beautiful women in comedy. And Janelle Monae is really hot. I like her a lot. I’ve been to a bunch of her shows. I went to two shows of hers in one day when I was at SXSW in Austin, Texas. I saw her for the first at the earlier show and I said, “Man, I gotta go see her again today.” Ever since then, I’ve seen her several other times. She’s real good.

What turns you off?
Dumb people. Like this one girl I was just out with. I thought I liked her, but then she was really annoying. She was a white girl and she said, “I wish I was black.” And I asked why and she said, “Black people just look better. Have you ever experienced the discrimination for real? Is it that bad?” She was a real idiot, and her views on race were really dumb. It was upsetting how dumb she was. I had known her for a while but I hadn’t spent extended time with her to know she was an idiot on that level. She was oblivious. I called her the Bill O’Reiley of my life. It seems like she was just saying stuff to argue with. Saying it, but not really meaning it. So she turned me off. Even after that I tried to hook up with her.

What sound or noise do you hate?
I hate it when acoustic singers do covers of gangster rap songs and make them sound all weird and indie. I don’t like that at all.

What job would you hate?
Hotel house-keeping. You know how many jizz-towels they have to touch? I’m pretty sure that [the house-keeping in the hotel I’m in now] had to touch at least two today. Hey, that’s Verbicide. And I’m also slightly delirious.

Is this for online or print?

Online. We used to be in print but we went broke.
Oh. What’s after online? What if you get too broke for online? Is that possible?

Not too sure. Then we’ll have to depend on word-of-mouth.
Yeah, just people saying the articles to other people: “Yeah, there was this interview with Hannibal Buress. Let me tell you about it.” Let’s just hope you keep that domain. Don’t let it expire. I might snatch it up and start my own Verbicide.