Hannibal Buress on Minneapolis threesomes and calling Cosby out

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Comedian Hannibal Buress is intimately familiar with Minneapolis. So much so that the 32-year-old has a bit about Minny in one of his comedy specials. But we’ll get to that later.

“I was always goofing off, even in grade school,” he says of growing up in Chicago. “I liked attention, and was a weird, funny kid.” He never imagined his sense of humor would lead to writing gigs for Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, land him on television series like Broad City and The Eric Andre Show, and get him cast in supporting roles in movies like Sleepwalk with Me and Neighbors. Then again, Buress didn’t take to any career other than comedy. “I never had a ‘job job,’” he says. “I’ve never worked long enough somewhere where you would associate me with that place.”

Buress clearly found his calling in comedy. Sometimes crude, sometimes erudite, his shtick includes strange sexual situations, sports, colloquialisms, and critiquing an interview he did with a college newspaper. What thrust him from lesser-known funnyman status to a household name, however, was calling Bill Cosby a rapist during an October 2014 performance at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia. A clip of the joke went viral, leading some to credit Buress with bringing the scandal to light.

But Buress doesn’t necessarily see comedy as a vehicle for social responsibility. “I do stuff that’s interesting to me and makes me think,” he says. “Social responsibility is up to the individual.”

Another of his bits that has had a positive impact is from his 2014 Live From Chicago special. In it he describes visiting New Orleans and throwing a five-person parade for himself. He has since been approached by fans who were inspired to do the same thing.

“I think some of the locals might hate it, but the fans love it,” he says. “There’s different things you can do with comedy, but that’s a great joke when people say, ‘That sounds like fun. I want to do that.’”

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These days, Buress gets his kicks from stunts, like appearing last-minute on Jimmy Kimmel Live in Austin during SXSW, and enjoying celebrity perks, like courtside basketball seats. Finding out that artists he admires are also fans of his is another highlight of his newfound fame. “Like, ‘Holy shit, the music I listen to is made by people that I’m cool with?’” he says. “That’s kind of crazy, the dynamic of fucking somebody while listening to your friend’s music playing in the background.”

Bedroom activities aside, Buress stays busy with the multitude of projects currently on his plate, including his own Comedy Central show, Why? With Hannibal Buress, which recently wrapped its first season. He’ll be on the big screen this Christmas with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in Daddy’s Home. He also lent his voice to animated characters in next year’s Angry Birds and The Secret Life of Pets movies.

“All those things help bring people to my standup, and those jobs come from my standup work,” Buress says. “It’s why I was able to meet these people and why they want to put me in stuff. I enjoy all that: standup, movies, TV, voiceover work, even dabbling in music. It’s fun to do creative work and always think of different ideas and see how it fits.”

Working on his own show — which entailed a combination of comedic monologues, people-on-the-street interviews, and sketches for an eight-episode run — taught Buress how to further hone his talent. “Over time, I’d find out, ‘This type of joke is a good joke on paper. It’s a structurally sound, funny joke, but it’s not a Hannibal joke.’ It sharpened my eye, to see that right away,” he says.

His live performances have also benefited; Buress says his act has evolved thanks to repetition, and he now has more elaborate jokes and better stories than he did when he started out. “You just learn tricks and how to generate new material faster,” he explains.

Buress’ appearance has also changed, though he insists it’s not related to any onscreen standards. Gone is the gap-toothed smile (he now has veneers), as are his glasses. “If I’m auditioning for something and they say, ‘Okay, that was cool. Let’s see it without glasses,’ I’d take my glasses off, I’d squint, and I looked stupid,” he recounts with a chuckle. “It made sense to get Lasik because you can fake like you can’t see, but you can’t fake like you can see. If I need the glasses, I can throw on fake glasses, but I can’t act like I have perfect vision.”

For his three-night stand in Minneapolis starting Wednesday, Buress will bring a DJ onstage to kick the proceedings up a notch. The shows will also be filmed for his next special, tentatively titled Comedy Camisado. “It’s a great comedy city,” he says. “I’m from the Midwest, and I played Minneapolis a lot coming up.” He chose the Varsity Theater because he thought “it’d be cool to play a smaller place I don’t usually play and chill out for three days instead of traveling like I usually do.”

What will he do between gut-busting sets? That’s anyone’s guess. But his bit about a previous stay in Minneapolis includes a cocaine-laced threesome.

“I didn’t think a threesome was gonna happen, because I thought the fat one would leave,” Buress says in his Live From Chicago special. “I didn’t want her to leave because she was fat. I don’t discriminate. She just seemed not into the whole situation at first. But once the cocaine got into her, turns out she was pretty cool. I didn’t do any cocaine with her, because sometimes it can soften up your dick and the last thing I need in my hotel room is two angry, coked-out, horny girls screaming at me, ‘Hannibal, what’s wrong with it?’”

The next morning, Buress left a tip for housekeeping and went out to do radio press. When he returned, his hotel room was spotless. The maids even left a bump of cocaine undisturbed. “That’s the kind of attention to detail that gets you a five-star Yelp review,” he says.

So there’s that precedent. 

IF YOU GO:

Hannibal Buress: Comedy Comisado

7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday;

10 p.m. Friday

18+, $34

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Varsity Theater,

1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis


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