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Hannibal Buress

Penthouse Retrospective

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

May, 2011

Hannibal Buress

Rising comic Hannibal Buress can coax laughs out of any subject, which is why you’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the future.

Pickle Juice, Apple Juice, and Nine Millimeters

Hannibal BuressHannibal Buress delivers wry, sly, and frequently hilarious jokes on topics such as ramen noodles, pickle juice, his desire to kick pigeons, and the protocols of gangsta rap—all in a style that’s so laid-back he’s been accused of being stoned onstage. His reply to that particular accusation? “I’m not stoned, I’m just cooler than you.”

After listening to his first stand-up CD, My Name is Hannibal, and checking out his weekly show at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory, we tend to agree. And we’re not alone. Chris Rock called Buress “the funniest young comic I’ve seen in years.” Jim Gaffigan said Buress “is incredibly funny with a smart, unique style, and I am proud to be his father.” Mike Birbiglia called Buress “one of the best joke writers I’ve ever seen.” The Chicago-born Buress has deployed those joke-writing skills on Saturday Night Live, and he currently writes for 30 Rock. He’s also made stand-up appearances on Lopez Tonight, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and The Late Show With David Letterman.

Don’t be surprised if his unusual name soon becomes a household one.

Who are you named after?

The [Carthaginian] general, Hannibal Barca.

Have you heard from other Hannibals?

There’s a comedian in California named Hannibal. He’s looked me up and I’ve watched his stuff. I was doing a show in San Francisco and he asked me to open for him. I said no. There can only be one Hannibal on the show.

Are you going to give your kids unusual names?

They’ll all be Hannibal Juniors like George Foreman’s many Georges, and the girls will be Hannibelinas or Hannibellas, Hannibobby.

How do you feel about your name?

I think it’s good for comedy because it’s memorable. I grew into it, but it can still be annoying. Sometimes I tell people my middle name if I don’t feel like having that conversation. I wonder how many times I lost out on getting laid just because my name is Hannibal, because it reminds people of Hannibal Lecter. There has to be at least one.

Has being a comedian helped you get girls?

There are girls who enjoy comedians, so it’s helped, because I’m always out doing shows and meeting people. Meeting more people means you get more girls by proxy. It’s a numbers game.

Do you feel most comfortable onstage?

I feel most comfortable in bed. But as far as dealing with people, it’s fun being onstage because you get to talk uninterrupted. There are not many places where you have people’s attention and you just say your ideas and put them out there.

Do you do crowd work, or is it a last resort?

It’s not a last resort. I do it, but I’m not awesome at it. I’m better if somebody is being shitty and then I can rip into them and talk to them. It can break up the energy. When people see something being created on the fly, it’s a different kind of laugh.

What’s been your best show?

The Gathering of the Juggalos. That was a gig that I thought would go horribly. People usually get things thrown at them, and I didn’t, so that felt like a victory. I wasn’t there the day Tila Tequila [performed]. There was a lot of nudity and a lot of open drug sales and a lot of people that were really fucked up.


And your worst?

I had a show where I got carried offstage. That was because my friend was doing an Apollo-style talent show and he was the Sandman and he was obnoxious and people started booing. It was pretty embarrassing. This was early on, during my first year of doing comedy. He was a bigger guy and it was kind of tough to fight it.

What was writing for Saturday Night Live like?

It’s fun to work on something that’s bigger than just you, instead of being totally single-minded and working on your own thing. SNL is great because the show has a lot of history and it was something I watched as a kid, and to work on it for a year was a lot of fun. Putting together a show on the fly every week was a cool experience.

How would you describe your comedy style?

I do what I call “cutesy” jokes, where it’s a nice observation and it’s cute and it’s fun. I also have harsher, real-life stories where I might come off kind of mean. It depends on the crowd; some like when I’m talking about sex and dating in an honest way based on my experience, and some crowds will go against that. I have some material based on my newly single life where it might sound like I’m really shitting on women, but I’m just shitting on those particular women in the story.

What’s a cutesy-joke example?

I saw a man on the street. I was coming out of Walgreens, I just bought some Oreos, and it’s my birthday. For the first time in my life I could say, “What do you want, a cookie?” It’s a contrast to when I’m talking about kicking girls out of my hotel room, or hooking up with girls.

Do you have a final message for Penthouse readers?

Thanks for reading this interview and taking a break from looking at perfectly shaved vaginas.

Whether cute or harsh, Hannibal Burgess serves up comedy that gets laughs from audiences of many types.

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