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Hamil with Care

Q&A with Hannibal Buress

Hannibal Buress is everywhere these days. The unflappable comic from Chicago plays Ilana’s intermittent love interest on Broad City, serves as ambivalent co-host on the anarchic Eric Andre Show and has a role on the new Netflix dramedy Easy. He’s also got three standup specials on Netflix, prompting one fan to tweet the following:

which Buress obligingly—and endearingly—retweeted. He doesn’t seem to take himself or his career too seriously, which has led to some magically absurd moments in entertainment, from his emergence as a rapper (of sorts) to his joke takedown of Bill Cosby that improbably resulted in the alleged serial rapist’s downfall. (Buress has absolutely no interest in talking about that, as you’ll see.) Most recently, Buress appears to give hostile interviewee Flavor Flav a roundhouse kick to the face on The Eric Andre Show:

Buress has a knack for matter-of-factly navigating strange cultural terrain in a way that seems downright sensible. He can make the mainstream seem inconceivably absurd, and vice versa.

Currently he’s touring the country with his latest standup show, The Hannibal Montanibal Experience, and he’ll be appearing at the Paramount on October 15.  I talked with him over the phone about his recent spate of TV gigs, hip-hop and his robot replacement.

You’ve got a lot of stuff going on right now but you seem like a pretty mellow dude. Do you use any stress management techniques?
No, not really. It’s just the tour right now. It’s not really tough work doing shows; there are things that annoy me at times but I’m usually able to put it in perspective. I don’t work at a fast food restaurant or have a stuffy office gig so I’m able to manage doing comedy and entertainment without freaking out.

You’re on a bunch of shows right now. I’m not gonna ask you to name which one’s your favorite, but if you had a criteria for favorite show, what would it be?
My favorite show would never require me to be there before noon and I’d work about four hours and leave. They’d have an Xbox with NBA 2K17 and the UFC game. Good material, good writing, a later schedule and a comfortable setting and I’m happy.

I agreed to do a favor for somebody and then they hit me up: “Your pickup for the shoot is at 5:30 in the morning.” I was like, “Motherfucker, I’m getting $300 for this, what the fuck is wrong with y’all, having me come through at 5:30 in the morning?”

It was one of those things where the reality didn’t hit me ‘til the day before. I don’t wanna live my night where I have to be ready at 5:30 in the morning! That shit was terrible, man.

You’ve also branched out into rap and DJing. If you had to choose another form of music to perform other than hip-hop, what would it be?
R&B? Is that too close? [Laughs] Because R&B is usually sexual and you can maneuver from there.

I guess being good at keyboard or piano would be awesome. You might be in a hotel lobby and you could just jump on that shit and show off.

You have a robot musician as a stand-in on The Eric Andre Show. Does Robot Hannibal creep you out?
It’s what needed to be done. I get tired of Eric’s shit and I didn’t wanna be there. That’s what it was: Eric Andre Show has some early mornings, too. So I said, “Hey man, I’m tired of this early morning shit, you gotta get somebody else up in here.”

So they got a robot. The robot’s great.

It really looks like you, too.
Yeah. I don’t feel threatened by a robot, because I’m not a Target cashier, so no robot is gonna take my job. But I’m okay if a robot subs in for a little bit.

You could franchise him out like MF Doom and send him to performances.
I don’t know about that. If my standup persona was a masked man I could maybe pull that off. I don’t know how well that’s worked out for him; I don’t see many MF Doom tour dates on the books. [Laughs] It might’ve been fun but it doesn’t look like it was a good long-term plan.

Obviously you’ve talked about it a thousand times, but you calling out Cosby set off this chain of events–
Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring!

Okay then. But you also break down rappers’ lyrics. You’re touring bigger venues now, and you have specials coming out more often. Does that play into what you’re gonna do onstage, wondering whether someone’s gonna be pissed off?
Nah. The rap stuff I never put in specials because that shit costs like $15,000 or $30,000 a pop to license. As much as I like the rap jokes I’m not paying five figures to put ‘em in, so it’s really just a part of my live show.

 

As far as people hearing what I say, I think I do it mostly in a playful way. Most of it is not mean-spirited. It comes from a love of the music and having an ear for stuff in the music that stands out to me. I haven’t really had any problems at all.

You don’t think about whether this is gonna start a beef–
If somebody gets mad about a bit where I talk about one of their lyrics playfully, well, there’s worse things that have been said about rappers by other rappers.

See Hannibal Buress October 15 at the Paramount.

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