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Three Words With Hannibal Buress

Since Flagpole last spoke with 33-year-old actor and comedian Hannibal Buress in January 2015, he has had possibly the busiest year of his entire life. Ahead of his three-night stand at the 40 Watt Club, we asked Buress to choose three separate words to describe how his career and his life have changed in the past 365 days.

1. “Nomadic.”

This is how Buress describes the state of his personal life for the past year. A national tour, a comedy album/Netflix special and a series of film and television roles dominated his schedule for nearly all of 2015. Now that it’s a new year, and he’s embarked on a new chapter in his career, Buress still doesn’t have the time or the desire to be at home.

“I don’t really know how to feel comfortable in my apartment anymore,” he says. “I just got back from being gone for a couple of months, and last time I was here, I stayed for maybe a day and a half. I feel more comfortable in hotel rooms now. Mostly because they’re actually clean and don’t have clutter all over them, or baggage from my past relationships.”

Buress is about to embark on another tour that will last the rest of 2016. In preparation, he is doing a set of “warm-up” shows that will mostly consist of him doing three-night stands in some of his favorite clubs and locations around the country. Athens, one of his first stops on tour, is a place Buress has gained a lot of love for over the last few years.

“First off, I’m a fan of the 40 Watt,” he says. “I’ve been there a lot recently. [It’s] kind of a legendary place. It seemed like a good place to kind of help get the show together, get into the flow of things.”

As for why all the three-night stands, Buress says, “I enjoy not having to travel every day. When I get into the groove of the tour, I’ll probably be doing a different city every night. So it’s nice to kind of camp out somewhere for a few days early on. I can chill out and relax. I’ll see the city, enjoy the food, enjoy the nightlife.”

2. “Growing.”

This is how Buress describes how his stand-up career has changed for the better since his last appearance in Athens. In late 2014, Buress gained national attention after one of his routines reminded the public of the largely buried rape allegations against Bill Cosby—which led to one of the biggest news stories of the decade. Since then, Buress has been routinely hounded by reporters asking him inane Cosby questions, and many have attributed his recent success to that initial routine.

While it’s undeniable that those news stories led to a somewhat increased profile, Buress was already well on his way to being one of the most popular comedians in the country, and his stand-up work in 2015 shows that he has more than enough charisma for his name to stand completely on its own.

“I’ve had a solid fan base for a while,” says Buress. “But it’s definitely been growing for the past year. People are still discovering my work, mostly thanks to Netflix. We’ve got all my new stuff, like the Comedy Camisado special and my documentary, Hannibal Takes Edinburgh, on there, but we’ve worked out a deal to get all my old specials on there now, too. So casual fans have the ability to look up my name or something else I’ve been in and find my entire body of stand-up work. It’s a valuable thing to have people stumble across your material like that.”

Buress is one of Netflix’s biggest names in its ever-growing comedy pool of original series, movies and specials. For Buress, signing a deal with the streaming service was a no-brainer.

“When you’re putting out different projects, you get offers from a lot of different networks,” he says. “Netflix was one we were interested in right away, and we kind of approached each other at the same time. We had offers to put my content elsewhere, but ultimately Netflix seemed like a good spot for me because it’s worldwide and people can access it on pretty much anything, anywhere.”

3. “Surprising.”

With a laugh, this is how Buress describes his thoughts on his increasingly prolific career as a film and television actor.

“I enjoy it. It’s never been my main focus, and it’s not something I really push for a lot in my career, but I have a lot of fun doing it,” he says. “It’s wild to just… be in movies. To go from stand-up to being in a lot of movies, like five or six this year alone—it’s cool. I’ve been able to learn a lot from people and to work with people I admire and whose movies I’ve watched and loved. It’s pretty fucking crazy.”

In particular, Buress beams with excitement about May 20, when he appeared in three big summer movies released all at once: Angry Birds, The Nice Guys and Neighbors 2. In addition to the animated Angry Birds, Buress will appear in the upcoming The Secret Life of Pets.

“It’s kind of crazy working on animated movies, because you’re so disconnected from the creative process,” he says. “You say your lines, but the animation and the story, you’re not really a part of it. So you go record your lines and do it, then you kind of forget about it after a while. I think my first meeting for Angry Birds was in late 2013, and my first session for Secret Life of Pets was early 2014? There was another project, I don’t think I can say the name, it was supposed to be a huge animated movie, and they just ended up scrapping the whole thing. It’s a long, complicated process. I’m just glad that as of today I haven’t died yet and I’ll finally be able to go see these movies with my nieces and nephews.”

As for Buress’ future, though he has a few notable film appearances coming up—including a minor role in the new Baywatch movie that he says he specifically took to work with the film’s star and his childhood hero, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—he’s mostly focused on furthering his stand-up career by touring consistently.

“Stand-up is the only thing I can guarantee for my future,” he says. “But even looking back just a few years ago, I would have never predicted I’d be doing all the stuff I’m doing with my life and career right now, so who knows. Whatever happens, I’m just gonna try to have fun in everything I do.”