(Editor’s note: Hannibal Buress has postponed his Charlotte show, originally set for this Saturday, “due to his shoot schedule.” The new date is Jan. 20.)
You might not know who Hannibal Buress is, and Hannibal Buress recognizes this.
That’s why, for instance, the trailer for his 2016 Netflix special “Comedy Camisado” opens with these words: “On February 5, get ready for the comedy event maybe a handful of people have been waiting for.”
I could tell you that the 33-year-old comedian – who brings his “The Hannibal Montanabal Experience” to Knight Theater on Saturday – was a writer on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” from 2009-10, but he was only on staff for one season and only got one sketch on air. I could tell you he was part of the cast of one of the biggest box-office hits of 2016 (“The Secret Life of Pets”), but that was an animated movie, so onscreen he appeared as a dachshund.
No, you’d probably only definitely know him if you watch Comedy Central’s popular “Broad City,” regarded by many as one of the funniest series on television, or if you watch Adult Swim’s cult hit “The Eric Andre Show,” a wickedly hilarious send-up of talk shows.
Still not ringing a bell? OK, try this: He’s the guy who told therape “joke” that ignited the national conversation about Bill Cosby and eventually led to the living legend’s dramatic fall from grace.
My advice, though, would be to maybe not mention Cosby around Buress – or, if you do, to make sure to soften him up a little bit first. That’s among the five key revelations I gleaned from a wide-ranging conversation I had with him last month to promote his Charlotte show.
1. He occasionally comes through the Carolinas even when he’s not working – to visit a cousin whose family lives in Rock Hill, S.C. But don’t expect Buress to kiss up to Charlotte just because he’d like to sell a few more tickets here. In talking about the city, he mentions: “I was gonna go to the (NBA) All-Star Game, but, well...” He pauses, laughs heartily. “You guys officially lost it, right?” Yes – the league recently moved the February game to New Orleans because of House Bill 2. (Buress didn’t comment on the controversial state law, which nullified Charlotte’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance that extended legal protections to gay, lesbian and transgender individuals, except to say: “Those are the decisions that big corporations have to make.”) “Eh, New Orleans is better anyway. I mean, let’s be ...” He trails off, starts laughing again. I joke that maybe I shouldn’t quote him on that. “Ah, you can put it in there,” the comic says. “I think people know. New Orleans is a much better place to hang out. I’ve been to Charlotte on a Tuesday night before. There’s not much poppin’.”
2. If you’re going to the show, expect about 70 minutes of comedy from the headliner. Give or take. “It depends on the amount of local references I have, the amount of local comedy I have,” Buress says. “I guess the Charlotte show depends on how many Hornets jokes I have – if I have any Michael Kidd-Gilchrist material, that might put (make the show longer). Or some Cam Newton jokes. We’ll see ...”
3. He likes doing small parts in movies, especially when he can do them with friends. Oh, and on a completely unrelated note: When sitting outside his L.A. hotel under the hot August sunshine, he likes margaritas. “(Making movies) is not super-exciting,” Buress says. “It’s more about the hanging out, if you’re on a movie with people you know or people you’ve worked with before, then that becomes the fun –” A woman’s slightly muffled voice can be heard: “Do you want a drink?” Buress: “Yeah, I’ll take a margarita, please.” Woman: “Do you want it frozen, or on the rocks?” Buress: “On the rocks.” He re-focuses: “Then that becomes the fun part. Like, when I did ‘Neighbors 2,’ you know, it’s the first time I’m in a f-----’ sequel, so I know all the people already. ... I’ve worked with Seth (Rogen) before; Jerrod (Carmichael) I’ve done shows with before and was in (the first) ‘Neighbors’ with. It becomes more fun than the actual filming.” A few minutes later, his drink arrives. A few minutes after that, I ask how it is. “It’s alright. I just – I’m sitting by the pool, so I just felt real cliché and got a margarita.”
4. As for starring roles, he just hasn’t found one that works for him yet. “I’ve been offered bigger roles (in) a few indie projects ... and I’m flattered that they would want me to say this many words on camera, but it’s not been the right fit for me, either schedule-wise or creatively. And sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong about it. There’s been times where I’ve seen stuff come out, and I’m like, ‘Dammit, I should’ve done that,’ ” Buress says, laughing again. “But it’s just a business, man, and you just hope to do good s--- that you enjoy doing and work with fun people, and keep growing as a person and creatively.”
5. Buress isn’t wild about answering Cosby-related questions, although a lot of it is timing. The Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call reported in March 2015 that he hung up after just two minutes because one of its reporters pressed him about Cosby. And Buress told me he cut short a call to a radio station recently because the interviewer tried to dive right in on Cosby. “They were cheesy, ’cause they jumped on and ... they’re like, ‘Alright, we gotta get into the Cosby thing!’ I’m like, ‘Right away? Do you? You wanna jump into that right away? ’Cause I got, you know, about 10 more things that (I’m working on).’ ” It’s been almost two years since he went on the tirade that was captured in a fan-made video. “Bill Cosby has the f------ smuggest old black man public persona that I hate,” he said on Oct. 16, 2014, at The Trocadero in Philadelphia. “ ‘Pull your pants up, black people, I was on TV in the ’80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.’ Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby. So, brings you down a couple notches.” Today, he says, “I get that you have to talk about it ... you gotta be a good journalist and ask about it, but I don’t think it should be the first thing somebody asks about.” Bottom line, though? “I don’t have anything fresh to say about it, man.”