"I've amped it up in certain parts a little bit. I like to have different shifts and energy. Maybe one or two jokes is delivered deadpan, then some other jokes are delivered with a lot of energy. It's just trying to figure out the ebbs and flows of comedy."
– Hannibal Buress
Guy MacPherson: Hello, Hannibal?
Hannibal Buress: Hey, what's up, Guy? How's it going?
GM: Good! Thanks for taking the call. Are you at home?
HB: I'm not, no.
GM: Where are you in the world?
HB: Undisclosed location, Guy.
GM: Oh, it's top secret!
HB: Mm-hmm. Not really but it's more fun to say that, right?
GM: It is!
HB: Parts unknown.
GM: So how are you doing? Good?
HB: I'm doing all right, yeah.
GM: You're on tour, aren't you?
HB: Yeah, I'm on some off-days on my tour now, but yeah I'm on tour for the next couple months.
GM: So I could probably figure out where you are.
HB: Nah, you can't, actually. I mean, you could but I'm not doing any show dates right now.
GM: You're on tour but not doing any show dates?
HB: My tour's on the weekends and this week is off because of Halloween so I'm in an undisclosed location.
GM: Does Halloween wreak havoc with shows?
HB: Yeah, because it's a lot of other stuff going on. And the actual date falls on a Friday. I mean, you can do shows, you can work the road on Halloween and those days around it, but ticket sales might be affected a little bit. Definitely I'm doing bigger venues on this tour so I wouldn't want to risk going against Halloween. If I was doing a comedy club, I could maybe do it. So you know, it varies per city how people party on Halloween, but it was just better to take this weekend off.
GM: And you deserve a break anyway.
HB: Yeah, man, I do, man. I deserve nice things.
GM: I spoke to you in 2011 when you came to town.
HB: Yeah, when I did, was it the Rickshaw? No, what was it?
GM: You did the Biltmore, I believe, the first time. The second time I'm not sure. Was it the Rickshaw?
HB: It was something in a fucking horrible neighbourhood.
GM: Yeah, the Rickshaw.
HB: I went up against a Canucks game so I didn't sell as well as I should have. But it was fine. The show was fun. Both times I've been to Vancouver have been for a show.
GM: You haven't been here other times?
HB: No, just those two times.
GM: You're affiliated with Just For Laughs this time.
HB: Uh, I guess so. Is their name on it?
GM: They're promoting it. They wrote that you hadn't been to Vancouver before. I wrote them and told them you had.
HB: Sometimes people don't know what the fuck they're talking about, man. I have moments where I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about. Yeah, Just For Laughs: Canadian stronghold.
GM: When you're in Vancouver, do you just come in, do your show, and leave, or do you get to have some fun?
HB: I think the first time I got in a day early and then stayed another day. I don't think I'll be able to do that this time because I have dates right after or before but the last time I wasn't touring as heavy so when I can I like to chill out in a city and just go and do some smaller shows or just hang out and get a feel for it. But my schedule doesn't allow for it as much now.
GM: I wonder if the Canucks are playing this time around.
GM: But you're big enough now. You can withstand the hockey.
HB: I think I might be able to take the hit this time even if hockey is happening. We'll see. It's a regular season game, though, too. Last time it was a playoff game, that's what it was. It was a big playoff game. Like the conference finals or something like that. That was why it was tougher.
GM: You're on two TV shows. That must help bring fans to your standup.
HB: Definitely. The people see me on the shows, The Eric Andre Show or Broad City, and then look me up and find out I do standup through that. There's a lot of people that don't even know I do standup. Their exposure to me is just through these shows. So yeah, it brings a lot of new fans, man, that come to see me. So being on those shows definitely helps.
GM: As a standup, it's in your blood. Standups I talk to tell me they just have to keep doing it because it's their favourite thing to do. Is that the case with you?
HB: Yeah, I just enjoy saying ideas and creating different ways to make people laugh and make myself laugh and just getting better at it. So for me, I'm kinda obsessed about the idea of creating a solid overall body of work and to do that you gotta tour and you gotta write and you have to perform a lot. This will be my fourth hour that I'm touring right now and I really want to make it good. And I really want to just do good standup comedy.
GM: So one could look at it as you do standup in order to get these jobs on TV, but you could also look at it as you're doing these shows to grow your standup.
HB: Yeah, just to grow my standup audience and be able to sell more tickets and being able to have income from those shows, too, allows me to be more selective in what I do in standup, if I don't want to work or if I don't want to go to a certain place. I can be pickier with venues and things like that because I have the shows to help me out. So yeah, I do the shows and I like doing the shows and it helps build the standup audience.
GM: Would you say The Eric Andre Show is the weirdest show on television?
HB: Uh... It's pretty weird. I wouldn't say it's the weirdest. It's one of the weirder ones.
GM: What's a weirder one?!
HB: I think reality shows are even weirder (laughs) on a base level. A Housewives show or something like that is weirder to me. We're going out of our way to be weird but these people are just having these contrived situations and situations where conflict is being forced. That's more weird to me than Eric Andre breaking the desk.
GM: And your job is great. You just sit and stare and throw out these great lines.
HB: And react.
GM: Going into an episode, do you know what's going to happen?
HB: I don't always know what's going to happen. And sometimes my reaction to it is a genuine reaction. It's just me being in the moment and sometimes actually interviewing the guest even though a lot of it gets cut out. There's some interview prep and research. We don't end up using a lot of it but if it's an artist or somebody I'm interested in, I ask genuine straight interview questions and that kind of lulls them into interview mode before something weird happens.
GM: Do you model yourself after any other sidekick?
HB: No, man, I just kinda do it, man. It's just me doing a version of myself. Just a drier version of myself.
GM: A drier version of Hannibal Buress. That says something.
HB: Yeah, I'm super subdued on Eric Andre Show. My standup is low energy at points but there are moments where I'm a little more energetic than in my earlier stuff.
GM: You mean now you're more energetic than you were in your earlier stuff?
GM: Yeah, I saw you on Jimmy Fallon and you seemed more animated.
HB: Yeah. That's just through experience and doing bigger venues, too. Just performing in bigger theatres and things like that, I've amped it up in certain parts a little bit. I like to have different shifts and energy. Maybe one or two jokes is delivered deadpan, then some other jokes are delivered with a lot of energy. It's just trying to figure out the ebbs and flows of comedy.
GM: I guess different crowds could dictate a different kind of energy, too.
HB: Yeah, that, too. If I'm doing a crowd of 30 people in a small bar, I'm not going to be yelling and pacing. In front of 15,000 people or something, like on the Oddball Tour, then that pure energy on its own can kinda rev you up a little bit.
GM: Do you still do shows for 30 people in bars?
HB: Definitely, yeah. When I'm trying out new material, yeah, I do an open mic. I perform wherever, man, to try to work out the stuff.
GM: The Oddball Tour was in arenas, right?
HB: In outdoor amphitheatres.
GM: Was that a first for you?
HB: Well, this was the second year of the tour. I did last year's tour also. But yeah, last year, that was my first time performing in front of big crowds like that. It was really crazy.
GM: Crazy in a good way?
HB: Yeah, definitely. Learning to work in front of those types of crowds. For me, the bits that I would pick to do for that are different than bits that I would do if I was doing a 20-minute set at a comedy club that holds 2 or 300 people. It's a pretty different set than my set for 15,000 people at an amphitheatre.
GM: Guys like Russell Peters and Dane Cook, that's all they play is these huge venues. That would get tiring, wouldn't it?
HB: No, that's not all they play. Yeah, I think Russell does some arenas.
GM: In the States he does clubs, but the rest of the world he plays arenas.
HB: I don't know, man. It seems pretty dope to have that many people come out to see standup. Obviously it's not the ideal performance situation, but if it's set up right, it can work really well. I've done some arenas opening for Aziz Ansari. We did the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, and there were maybe 10,000 people there but it didn't feel huge. It didn't feel overwhelming. The energy felt like being in a comedy club or a theatre. So if it's done right and the set-up is done right and the sound is good and the visuals are good, then I think arena comedy can work really well.
GM: You've done all the late night talk shows. You're a sidekick on a kind of a talk show. What is the best talk show for you to do?
HB: The ones I've done have been cool for different reasons. I started doing panel this year. I've done four panel spots on talk shows. I did Conan. That was the first time doing it, just doing the shift from doing standup on a show to doing panel and sitting down by the desk. It's like, 'Oh man, this dude is really close!' It was really crazy. When I did panel on Seth Meyer's show, that one was really unique just because I worked on Saturday Night Live for a season and he was the guy gave me my job. He worked on Weekend Update and was head writer for years and now he has his own late night show. To be a guest on that was real comfortable. It was pretty cool, man.
GM: The Comedy Camisado Tour. It must be you teaching vocabulary to the masses because I don't know what that means.
HB: Camisado means a military attack that occurs at night.
GM: When did you learn this word?
HB: I learned this maybe a month before I announced the tour. (laughs)
GM: In what context did you learn it?
HB: This comedian Haji Outlaw's a friend of mine. I asked him to help me come up with tour names and to just send me over random words. And camisado was one of them. I think it has an interesting sound to it so it kinda fits a little bit.
GM: I learned a word the other day that would be perfect for a tour but I can't remember it so I can't tell you. Are you going to be wearing your jumpsuit on this tour?
HB: Ah, no, man. I got tired of the jump suit. I have to give it a break. I got burned out on the jump suit pretty fast. It was a fad. It was a quick thing. It was fun while it lasted but I think the jump suit is retired for a while.
GM: You still have it, though, I guess.
HB: Yeah, of course I still have it. I think I might frame it.
GM: Oh, the word that I learned just came to me. For your next tour, you should call it Quodlibet. It means a free ranging conversation on any topic that pleases you.
HB: Oh shit.
GM: So you write that down and you can use it next time.
GM: I heard you talking with Howard Stern about porn.
GM: You're a young guy so I don't mind hearing that. But when it's an old guy like Howard Stern talking about jacking off, I just think when's that gonna end?
HB: It doesn't end, man.
GM: I just don't wanna hear old guys talking about it, like Marc Maron or Howard Stern.
HB: (laughs) Old guys were young guys once, too, man.
GM: I know! I'm there!
HB: That's that, man. I can't begrudge him. I have to applaud him for talking openly about it, man.
GM: Have you done his show much?
HB: No, that was my first time on his show.
GM: Were you nervous? I know sometimes people think he's going to get them.
HB: I was a little bit nervous. It was just so weird, man. He's been a part of the culture for a long time. I remember watching his show as a kid when they were on the E! Network when it was a TV show. So that was always cool to watch. I remember even before I wanted to do standup, I'd watch Howard Stern and think that was fun, I would like to do that. I would like to be the black Howard Stern. I remember thinking that as an early teenager. So to sit down there and do the interview, man, it was really cool. He's got a nice studio.
GM: Surreal because this was a guy you watched as a kid.
HB: Yeah. And I listened to a lot of interviews from him. He's a really good interviewer, man. So it was pretty cool.
GM: I remember lesbian strippers or something like that on his TV show.
HB: Yeah, a lot of goofiness on that show.
GM: What's in your new hour? I know there's no theme, but what are you talking about these days?
HB: Same stuff, man. Talking about music, sports, little bit of politics. All kinds of stuff.
GM: Are you bringing an opener?
HB: Yeah, I don't know who yet, though.
GM: Do you bring them or do you choose someone from town?
HB: It depends on the town or the type of run. I usually bring somebody but sometimes I hire a local.
GM: So there will be one but you just don't know who it is yet. That'll be the surprise.
GM: Anything else you want to say?
HB: I just wanna say good luck to the people of Canada. Congratulations on everything and have a good day.
GM: I know sometimes you lie in phone interviews. Were there any lies that you told me?
HB: In this one? No! No lies; this was a straight-up interview.
GM: Sweet. What's the best lie you ever told in one that got reported?
HB: I told one journalist a few weeks ago that I write for three hours every day. That's totally a lie. I don't write for three hours a day at all. I'd have so much confidence if I wrote for three hours a day. I could do it, but I don't. I told one that the reason I started comedy was because my parents got kidnapped by ninjas and to free my parents, the ninjas required me to do a top-notch spot in a standup set.
GM: That's going to wind up on your Wikipedia page.
HB: What else? One journalist from some college newspaper asked me, the first question, Why are you touring? Which kinda put me in a weird mood when she said that. Why are you working for a living, she basically asked.
GM: And you must get, Where do you get your ideas from?
HB: (laughs) That's fine, but why are you touring? That was rough.
GM: It only goes downhill from there. Okay, man. Thanks a lot and thanks for not lying to me.
HB: No, Guy, you're a respectable journalist and you write good pieces.