Interview: Hannibal Buress

RAGHAV MEHTA | Updated 2/20/2014

Knockout standup talks Seth Rogen, rap beefs and his daily motorcycle routine ahead of two shows Saturday at the Varsity.

Here's Hannibal Buress wearing a Chicago Bulls cap, Dessa T-shirt and lobster claws.
Provided

Hannibal Buress is one of the most consistently hilarious comedians of his generation. Since his stellar 2009 debut album "My Name is Hannibal," Chicago's so-called "Black Mitch Hedberg" (he hates that, by the way) has released an hour-long standup special (2012's "Animal Furnace"), written for NBC's "SNL" and "30 Rock," and is currently a regular on "The Eric André Show" and Comedy Central's new series, "Broad City," the latter of which is produced by Amy Poehler and features an all-star cast of UCB performers. Buress, an avid hip-hop fan, even made an appearance at Dessa's Doomtree Blowout night at First Ave in 2011.

Vita.mn caught up with Buress to talk about working with Seth Rogen, beef in rap music and his daily motorcycle routine.

Q: I saw that it was your birthday yesterday, correct?

A: Nah, man. Fuck Wikipedia - my birthday's today [Feb. 4]. I don't know who put that on there and I don't change my Wikipedia page, so, I don't know, change it.

Q: Well, how are you going to celebrate your birthday outside of doing this interview?

A:
This is it, man. I kind of just scheduled a bunch of interviews today, so I get to talk about myself on my birthday, which is pretty cool. I'm going to play some video games and eat a sandwich or something. Thirty-one is kind of boring, right?

Q: So, then what's a typical day like for Hannibal Buress?

A: A typical day, I wake up, hop on my motorcycle, indoors, ride my motorcycle to the bathroom, brush my teeth, wash my face and then just chill out.

Q: Are you brushing your teeth while on your motorcycle?

A: No, I ride the motorcycle from the bedroom to the bathroom, get off the motorcycle and brush my teeth, wash my face and then I don't use that motorcycle again until the next week.

Q: Is the motorcycle still running?

A: No, no no. That's reckless. I got about seven and I just ride them and they're my bathroom-to-bedroom motorcycles. I just chill out, read some scripts and turn down movies. I've turned down a lot of big movies that I kind of regret. I was supposed to be the lead in "Wolf of Wall Street," but I turned it down and Leo got it.

Q: I think you would've been a better fit.

A: That's motivating. I would've been more believable and I would've put more heart into the character.

Q: Well, you have been doing a lot more acting lately. You have a recurring role in "Broad City." When you first auditioned for roles like that were you worried about whether you could act?

A: Well, "Broad City" I didn't audition for. It was just I knew some of them from doing standup and doing some of the same shows, and they asked if I wanted to be in the pilot, and then I ended up being a recurring character in the show. A lot of the projects that I've gotten I haven't gotten through auditioning. Three-to-five percent of the roles I've gotten, I got through auditioning.

But I'm still trying to get better at acting and getting comfortable at auditioning and going into an audition with a good take on the character. I'm still learning all those different things that are separate from standup.

Q:
You're going to be in "Neighbors" with Seth Rogen and Zach Efron. What was it like working without those guys?

A:
That was cool, man. I only shot three days or so but it was in L.A. during Eric Andre's show. It was real cool. It was my first movie, but it was cool to have some actual scenes and I could improvise on set. It didn't feel stressful even though it was a big-budget movie, it didn't feel high stakes or anything. It was real loose on set, it didn't feel high pressure. Seth is a real chill dude and he's worked hard.

Q: You recorded your upcoming special in Chicago and I know you're from there. Are there any other reasons you decided to record there as opposed to doing it in New York again?

A: I just like being at home, you know? It's like cheating. You have home-court advantage. I get to go home and people know me in Chicago. I get better press and it's just fun to be all over there. I did at The Vic Theatre, which is this historic venue in Chicago. It was fun, there was a lot of energy on the show, it was packed. It didn't take too long for the shows to sell out. It was a fun time, I'm glad that I did it there.

Q: Well, what can your fans expect from this special that they maybe didn't hear on "Animal Furnace" or "My Name is Hannibal"?

A:
I think it's just development as a person and it's grown up. Same vibe but I've been doing comedy ... I've been doing theaters for about two years now. There are a lot of longer stories, some short jokes. But mostly stories and I'm much more comfortable on stage and have more to talk about.

Q: You're a big rap guy. Who are you listening to right now?

A: Dom Kennedy ... hmm. I just bought a couple of Redman albums. Yesterday I bought "Dare Iz a Darkside" and "Whut? Thee Album." Yeah, I picked up some old Redman but there are a lot of people killing it. In Chicago there are a lot of guys like Chance The Rapper, Open Mike Eagle, Jean Grae.

Q: I was just listening to that first Method Man album "Tical."

A: Yeah, I haven't heard "Tical" in a while. I don't think I've ever owned that album, but "Blackout" is great.

Q: Hannibal, if you were a famous rapper who would you start beef with?

A: I don't know ... if I was a famous rapper there would be no need to start beef. If I felt like someone said something I didn't like or tried to diss me then [I'd get after them]. There'd have to be a reason. Just unprovoked beef ... that's for guys who are just dwindling or are uninspired, that's when you do that.

Some rappers will be like, "Oh, I'm not that famous, I'm going to make a diss track dissing Eminem because people will listen to an Eminem diss track." People will put out diss records hoping the guy will respond because if they respond you get more attention.

But it is fun watching people making beefs because they're more just for the time. They're fun in that moment, but you won't really go back and listen to a song from the 50 Cent and Ja Rule beef. They made a lot of songs about that. You won't go back and listen to the 50 Cent and Ja Rule beef and be like, "Let me hear the fourth response from ..."

You won't want to hear that now in 2014, but back then it was fun. Some rap is so reference-based where you go twenty years from now and some rapper mentions something that happened on some reality show and you're just like, "What the hell is he talking about?"

Q: Anything else you want to tell the world before I let you go, Hannibal?

A: The world? [Laughs]

Q: Yeah, everyone's going to read this.

A: Well, in that case I just want to tell them, "Be good, be nice to your friends and your family and take care of yourself and exercise for at least three minutes a day."