Comedian Hannibal Buress Talks Standup, Baseball and Ninjas

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Since his last stop in St. Louis just over a year ago at the Firebird, Hannibal Buress has been beyond busy. Heading into its second season, Buress will return as Lincoln, co-staring on Llana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson's Comedy Central hit Broad City. He'll also be back in the oversized chair/undersized couch for the third season as cohost of The Eric Andre Show and is making yet another big-screen debut later this year with Flock of Dudes. Buress still hosts Sunday nights at the Knitting Factory when he's home in New York City and just set off on The Comedy Camasido Tour with a brand-new hour this very month.

We talked with Buress about how he makes time to write and develop his standup, what it means to "get baseballed" and, as an added bonus, he was even kind enough to divulge the details of his first standup appearance. He will be appearing at the Pageant on Friday, October 24, at 8 p.m.

Kelsey McClure: You're going out on the Comedy Camisado Tour -- is that going to be some of the stuff from the special? What can people expect?

Hannibal Buress: There's different stuff. I've got new stuff to talk about. I'm redoing a couple quick bits from there, but for the most part it's different things. I have lots of things happen to me. I like to tell what's going on with me currently, so I have a lot of stuff.

And you're still hosting a weekly show at the Knitting Factory in New York, correct?

Not as much, I'm traveling too much to do that.

Right. Since your stop in St. Louis last year you've had another season of The Eric Andre Show come out, Broad City, and then also a new Comedy Central hour. How do you have time to write for your standup?

I do standup all the time. Those projects -- Broad City, The Eric Andre Show -- are confined to a certain window of time, you know what I mean? It's not as bad as it seems like. It's not so intensive that I can't do anything else. I might do Broad City and I'm done at 7 in the evening, then I go and do a set. The Andre Show is 7 to 8 p.m., then it's time to do standup.

It's not like I'm a neurologist or something where I'm really focused. If I was a brain surgeon and still doing well in standup, you would like, "Well, he must be a bad brain surgeon." But with writing you can split your time with it and work on the other stuff.

Are the writing formats distinctively different, and do you prefer one over the other?

I prefer doing standup a lot more. I mean, I started out doing standup; that's what I've been doing the longest.

When you started writing for 30 Rock and Broad City and the different TV shows, was that something that came about because of your standup career, or was writing something that you were just pursuing alternatively?

I was just always kind of doing standup, and those opportunities popped up because people see the standup as maybe fitting in well with the projects.

As far as acting goes, the next project in line to be released is Flock of Dudes. What's that one about?

Flock of Dudes is this guy; it's got Chris D'Elia in it and Kumail Nanjiani, Eric Andre's in it.... It's a coming-of-age story about a dude growing up. It's campy and good, a grown comedy; it's an ensemble comedy. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Continue to page two.

Are you still based out of New York, or do you live elsewhere now?

I live in New York.

Was there a big decision for you to decide between New York or LA?

Not really, just because New York, it's just a better standup city. It's just a better place to do standup, New York.

Why is that?

New York is more compact; it's easy to navigate. It's just a better spot. You could do four or five shows a night in New York.

You came up out of Chicago. Do you think that leaving Chicago or the Midwest had a big impact in your career taking off, or do you think you could have done as well if had you stayed?

No, you can't really get the opportunities that I've gotten if you're just in Chicago. You can get some, but a lot of things in show business happen last-minute. I got offered The Jimmy Fallon Show, just out of the blue. I got offered it the day before, so if I lived in Chicago and they were asking about me, it may not have happened because of the travel.

What got you onstage the first time?

My family got kidnapped by ninjas, and they said I needed to do a five-minute set to get them free. And so I studied standup for awhile, and after a month of working on it, I went and did some comedy for those ninjas, and then they released my family. I kept doing standup.

How often are you asked that question?

Enough.

How did your first set go? Were you funny?

It was OK. It was just exciting. I was starting to see my ideas and then had people laughing and enjoying it, and it's a really fun feeling. It's like when people, you know, you're telling a story with your friends, and they laugh and it feels good. Just imagine that with other people, a microphone, and it's something that you've worked on for awhile. That's what I enjoy about it.

Are you writing out the majority of your set, or is it more spontaneous?

It varies. I know what I want to close on the set, usually. I like to know what I close on and what I open with and have a loose format. It's not a script. It's not a script from top to bottom, but I like to leave some moments in the middle and just let it flow from there. I just like to know what I'm going to start out with and know how I'm going to end it, and in the middle, then kind of let the energy guide and be loose for the improv.

There are elements of improv in each of your performances?

Somewhat. I mean, it depends on the show, it depends on what's happening, it depends on the city. I try to mix it up a little.

To switch gears, have you ever heard the term "getting baseballed"?

Getting baseball-ed?

Yeah.

No.

So during the month of October, the entertainment industry, if we go into postseason, can take a serious hit because everybody goes to baseball games instead of doing anything else. I didn't know if that was an anomaly to our fair city or if that was a thing that happened elsewhere.

The term...I don't know, I never heard the term before, but that happens in other cities. Where other events -- something because of a sports team getting in the playoffs because it's a big sports town. I haven't heard the term "getting baseballed." It's a good term. Hopefully, my show doesn't get baseballed. Does the postseason last through October?

If the Cardinals make it through, yes it could. [Ed. note: This interview was conducted before they didn't.]

Well, I don't want to get baseballed, so I hope they get swept.

Well, I appreciate you taking time out of your day to talk with me, and I'm definitely excited to have you back in St. Louis and to see that you've grown into a bigger venue.

Hopefully I can fill it. Tell people about it. I was looking at the [baseball] schedule as we were talking. That date could be a game.

What's it say, is there a home game?

I hope the Cardinals don't make the World Series, is what I'm saying.

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