APPLE JUICE, PICKLE JUICE, PIGEONS & THOSE SUSPENSEFUL, ‘TO BE CONTINUED’ RAP VIDEOS…
Esquire Magazine recently asked Chris Rock who he thinks ‘the next guy’ is? His reply: “I like this Hannibal Buress kid. Black guy. The illegitimate son of Mitch Hedberg. Get his record — you'll like it.”
Named after the infamous Carthaginian general and not as he points out in one of his bits, the fictional cannibal, Hannibal is a Chicago native, now based in NYC. He writes jokes for Liz, Jack, Tracy and Co on 30 Rock - on which you may have seen him in the reoccurring role as the ‘Homeless Guy’. Last year he released a comedy album, “My Name is Hannibal” oh, and he totally killed it on Letterman:
Hannibal was recently in Australia for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. We had a chat about his future as a rapper slash sitcom star and the importance of stand-up entrances…
CD: For some reason I get the feeling that you were never one of those comedy nerd guys, i.e, lying in bed listening to Pryor records and writing bits when you were 8 years old. But growing up, what or who made an impression on you comedically and also musically?
HB: Yeah, I didn't really consider doing stand up until a few months before I actually did it. As a kid I really enjoyed The Cosby Show. Early on I was a big fan of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, I think I've seen every episode of that show without watching it on DVD or VHS. Just from straight up watching it on TV. In high school I remember being a Silkk Da Shocker fan. I actually went to a store and bought a Silkk The Shocker album with money.
‘Let Me Hit It’ is an amazing song!! This seems like a good moment to discuss, 'Amir Natural' your early MC name. Did you ever record? My real question is: are we ever going to see the return of A.Natural to the mic?
Amir Natural was my early comedy stage name. My middle name is Amir and I was full of confidence so I thought I was a "Natural". I quickly realized that it was very cheesy and a bad choice so I started going by my given name. I did record a couple of songs in high school and college. I always enjoyed freestyling and goofing around with friends. When I first started doing comedy I actually entered a couple of rap battles just to get stagetime. I never was the best rapper but I had some funny stuff to say and every now and then I would luck into a nice flow and sound like a legitimate rapper. I recorded a song called "Headliner" with TMC, Ted Alexandro, Rob Cantrell, and Joe Derosa. When I go back to Chicago I have a friend that I record with but I won't be dropping an album soon. There's a lot of people doing musical comedy and rapping and I don't really know if I could bring something different to it, although it was exciting to have some other outlet besides stand up and writing. It really helps me to get my brain off of autopilot and think in a different way. I've been trying to get Donald Glover to let me do a guest verse on one of his songs but it hasn't happened yet.
Your 'apple juice' bit, it's stellar and it receives many props from other comics. Your material is subversive yet never crass and oft leads to unexpected punchlines. You’re a young guy, is there a particular direction you see your future material going towards, or drawing from, or something you'd like to try?
Thanks. I just try to perform the stuff that I think is funny. I'd like to do more storytelling. It isn't a strong suit of mine and it's tough to try to generate a new hour of material while only doing one minute bits. But as far as my approach, I just write stuff and then hope that it works. If it doesn't work and I still like it, then I try to rewrite it to get a laugh.
Prior to 30 Rock, you did a season writing for Saturday Night Live. I'm wondering if you view SNL as a kind of 'masters in sketch format' that was exhilarating but perhaps not for you? Does 30 Rock feel like a better fit?
Both of the jobs involved me working in formats that were totally brand new to me. SNL can be a bit more isolating because you're trying to get your own sketches on but with 30 Rock everyone is working together to make the script as good as it can be. People ask me which job is better but I enjoyed both of them in different ways and they've impacted my stand up heavily I think.
Louis CK Poker scene from episode 2 of LOUIE on FX every TUESDAY at 11pm
You popped up in my favorite scene in television last year, the poker game on Louie. We never get to see seven minute scenes on TV that are almost free form in style. Do you have any desire to have your own show? If so would having creative freedom (ala Louie) be a priority? 30 Rock absolutely works on NBC but I imagine that there are endless rules, codes and practices...
It was really great to do that scene. Louie let me know that he wrote me into it real nonchalantly. We were doing a show together and he just handed me the script like "Hey, I wrote you into this. We're shooting next week."
I would definitely like to have my own show at some point. I don't really know what it would be about. Would you like to develop my TV show Courtney? I would appreciate it a lot. Maybe we can make a show for Australian TV. Answer me Courtney.
Imma’ go home and write the pilot, it’ll be super high concept! So, I saw the clip of you at the ‘The Gathering of the Juggalos’ and & it seems like one of those things that is fleetingly fascinating in it’s uh, grotesqueness, but once that had worn off, I imagine you were like, ‘Get me the fuck outta’ here’....
The Gathering was a very interesting place to be. I couldn't imagine being there for multiple days. I was really scared before my show. I was thinking, "Why the hell am I doing this?" I thought it was going to be horrible but it ended up going really well. But yeah, it was fine to be there for a few hours, but then you have to bounce. Two days later I was doing a music festival with Wilco. It was a very different experience.
Is there one bit by another comedian that you can Youtube a million times & it never-ever gets tired?
I've been kind of obsessed with the way performers make an entrance lately. Bill Cosby did Letterman in January, a few days after me and I watched his entrance and realized how corny I looked in comparison when I walked out onto the stage. It's so great. He picked a great high energy song. He interacts with the band and owns the stage before he says one joke. I've watched this entrance way more times than I should have. I also want to make some sort of cool entrance on stage but I never do. I thought the way Chappelle hit the stage on his special "For What it's Worth" was really cool too. On Chris Rock's "Bigger and Blacker" special there was a part right before he walked on stage where he just handed his bottle of water to someone and I remember watching and thinking, "Oh that's dope.” When you're a huge comedian, you can just hand your water to someone right before you go on stage.
Nietzsche defined sacred as, whatever it is that you cannot laugh at. I’m not sure I agree but if we roll with Friedrich, what is one thing that Hannibal never jokes about?
I never joke about how much I want to talk about poop. But that's going to change soon.
Interview by Courtney D & Images by Elizabeth de la Piedra for Vice.