Hannibal Buress on Bombing at the West Palm Beach Improv: "That Show Is Legendary"

Hannibal Buress simultaneously does and doesn’t care what you think about his comedy.

The Chicago native meticulously combs through his material in hopes that audiences find his quirky brand of honest, self-deprecating humor funny (he is a comedian, after all). As his numerous specials on Netflix can attest, however, he’s not afraid to experiment with jokes that might be risky. In fact, the Emmy-nominated standup is probably best known to the general public as the man who wasn’t afraid to call out the once untouchable Bill Cosby.

That being said, it would be a disservice to tag Buress just as that dude who criticized Cosby. The increasingly busy actor, comedian, and writer is on the cusp of global stardom, with a number of film and TV projects out and several more in the works.

This highly sought-after performer is set to return to Florida for a one-night stand(up) at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood Friday, July 22. We spoke to Buress and subjected him to a battery of questions that ranged from killing it on the big screen, including in the new Spider-Man movie, to absolutely bombing in South Florida.

New Times: You’ve got your recurring role on Broad City, specials on Netflix, roles in Angry Birds and The Secret Life of Pets, and last year you got to tear apart Justin Bieber for a Comedy Central Roast. How great is life right now? Is this where you expected to be at this point in your career?

Hannibal Buress: Things are good. I'm enjoying a lot of the work I'm doing, and I'm glad that people are appreciating my work. I'm in a rare situation, and I'm very aware of that. I'm spending a lot of time now researching some things that I can do outside of the entertainment industry, like real estate, stocks, startups, etc.

Do you think with all the films and TV shows you’re getting involved in there will come a point where you might take a break or quit altogether from touring?

I take a lot of breaks from heavily touring. It definitely can wear on your body and health a bit. I definitely won't be on the road as much three to five years from now. I do enjoy traveling and doing shows. It's exciting to have people show up wherever I go.

You’re in the next Spider-Man movie. Can you tell us anything at all about that — either the role or how it’s going to be different from the other 17 versions?

All I can tell you is that I'm not Spider-Man. It'll be set during Spider-Man's high school years. My character does not know that he's Spider-Man, so I don't get to see any crazy fight scenes.

Are you a comic book fan?

I wasn't a heavy comic book fan, but I definitely had a few X-Men comics. I think. Or maybe I just watched the X-Men cartoon and played the arcade game a lot. Wait. No. That was NBA Jam. Correction: I didn't read a lot of comic books at all.

Because your style of comedy is laid-back, fans and media have called you a slacker in the past, but you’re a crazy busy dude. Does that ever piss you off?

It's funny to me because I have some really intense and loud moments in my standup. I get really crazy and weird sometimes. I like to have a range of moments in the standup so people feel like they just watched an episode of Days of Our Lives.
You were in Scotland for that grueling festival and your documentary, and recently you performed in South Africa and then in Israel for the first time. What’s the one thing you need to do when you initially visit a new country?

Usually I'll take a nap to get over the jet lag, then I'll fire up Tinder to see what the local talent is looking like. Then I buy enough sandwiches to last me the whole trip — and one pineapple core to pour my drinks into.

How often have you been to South Florida? Any weird stories?

I've been to South Florida several times over the past few years. I like the vibe. I played the Improv with Wyatt Cenac years ago. That was a lot of fun. I played Revolution in Fort Lauderdale in 2010 when I definitely should not have been playing there. I didn't fill that place at all. [Laughs] That stage is super high. That was a weird gig.

As a Bulls fan, how do you feel about them signing Dwyane Wade?

He's a great player and a Hall of Famer. But with him, Rondo, and Butler, I'm concerned about the floor spacing and the three-point shooting. It'll be an interesting season.

What’s the worst show you’ve ever endured as a standup comic?

I had a really bad show at the West Palm Beach Improv. I got pretty drunk. Tanked it. No regrets though. That show is legendary. Lots of people got refunded. I took a pretty hefty pay cut. It's what the Lord meant to happen, though.

A lot of comics get a little drunk or stoned before going onstage; a lot of times people think you look high when you’re doing standup. Has that ever been the case?

I've been high before a couple shows in my life. I can count them on one hand. Never on television; I would panic and snap out on a cameraman or I would get really quiet.

What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t doing comedy?

Parasailing around the world. I would be Mark Cuban. I would've come up with Soundcloud probably.

What happened with your show, Why? with Hannibal Buress?

I decided that the format wasn't really for me. I had some fun and learned a lot about running a show. It was an awesome opportunity and Comedy Central gave us a lot of freedom. I'll be taking another shot at television in the next year or so. I also will be a legendary game show host at some point, so hide your grandma.

Hannibal Buress. 8 p.m. Friday, July 22, at the Hard Rock Live, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood; 866-502-7529;
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Angel Melendez is an unabashed geek and a massive music nerd who happens to write words (and occasionally take photos) for Miami New Times. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University and an accomplished failure at two other universities, Angel is a lush and an insufferable know-it-all, and has way better taste in music than you. His wealth of useless knowledge concerning bands, film, and Batman is matched only by his embarrassingly large collection of Hawaiian shirts and onesies.
Contact: Angel Melendez