Comedian Hannibal Buress Brings His Hannibal Montanabal Experience to House of Blues

When comedian Hannibal Buress came through town earlier this year, he played a surprise pop-up show at the Nash. This time around, he’s graduated to a bigger venue for his current tour, dubbed The Hannibal Montanabal Experience. He plays House of Blues at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.

With a distinctive slo-mo delivery that makes it seem like he’s perpetually stoned, Buress has gotten some good gigs recently: His third hour-long special, Comedy Camisado, is currently streaming on Netflix; he’s a regular on Comedy Central’s hit show Broad City, which just aired its third season; and he serves as the co-host of Adult Swim's The Eric Andre Show, which is currently airing its fourth season.

He recently phoned us from a Chicago tour stop to talk about his upcoming appearance here.

You performed in Cleveland earlier this year at the Nash. What was that like?
It was fun, man. It was last minute thing. I forget exactly where I was coming from. I was a couple of hours away. I think I was in Buffalo and maybe we did Syracuse. We were not that far away and decided to put together a last-minute thing. [Local comedian]Ramon Rivas helped us get it together. We got it packed last minute. I’ve been finding that there’s something to the immediacy and energy of a last-minute show versus having something on sale for months. I’ve had shows that I’ve done last minute that sell out right away and have bigger numbers than the shows that have been on sale for a long time. Whether that’s venue or pricing or just the energy, I don’t know. It was fun. It was weird but there was good energy in there. I have to eat my words. I said LeBron coming back wasn’t going to cut it this year. And then Cleveland won. I remember talking shit about the Cavs and somebody was going hard heckling back, but the Cavs did it. I came off kind of stupid.

It didn’t look like they were going to win when that series started.
Not at all. I thought OKC would win. I went to Game 6 in Oklahoma City when they were up 3-2 and I thought OKC was going to close it out and they were going to party.

You grew up in Chicago. What was that experience like? Was it good?
Yeah, sure. I’m in Chicago and it’s a fun spot. Every big city has it issues and different things. I love being from Chicago and I love coming back home and it’s dope place.

What drew you to comedy?
I wasn’t into it until I started doing it and feeling that energy and wanting to chase that and having fun trying out material and being able to say my thoughts and observations on stage and having people relate to them and be entertained. That buzz is amazing.

What was your first-ever stand up show like?
It was an open mic. There were a few other comedians. It was called the Big Muddy Room in the basement at the University of Southern Illinois in Carbondale. It’s where they had a lot of shows. I saw Kevin Hart perform in the same room. He wasn’t doing an open mic, but that was in '03. I saw Bill Burr in that room. I performed at an open mic. It went alright. It was a supportive crowd. It wasn’t a hostile environment. You get polite chuckles and laughs and it was enough for me to fall in love with it and keep going from there.

Did you have the same type of delivery?
I think over time, I’ve gotten more skilled with it. I’ve gotten more dynamic. You just learn how to work and do different things. Once you play all types of rooms, you learn how to use your voice in different ways. I know how to carry a show and have big energy at some points and be monotone in other spots and vary it throughout. Earlier on, it was more straight monotone. I know how to use that when I need to use that and I can go to higher peaks.

Did people always think you were stoned?
They still do. It’s just part of it. People constantly think I’m high on television. You can’t change what people think. I’ve gotten away from trying to correct people. There ain’t no point in trying to correct people. If I corrected everybody, I’d go crazy. That’s the thing. Social media lets you into people’s weird ass thoughts and you have to decide whether to react to them or not. Beyond whether or not I’m high, people just write shit like “I dreamt this about you and you were driving a car and fucked my girlfriend.” They write about their weird ass dreams that I didn’t need to know. I don’t pull up Twitter for a few days and try to use it to get information out. I try to be better about not looking at it all the time for my mental health. It’s for positive and negative. You don’t need to be looking at your phone all the time and see motherfuckers jerking you off all the time. That’s not healthy either.

Is that story about smoking weed in Amsterdam true?
Yeah, I just got really high. I got really high out there. That’s an interesting environment to be high in. I tweaked out a couple of times in Amsterdam. We were filming this series for Showtime in Amsterdam. Russell Peters was hosting. Bert Kreischer did a travel show. We were all talking and I smoked something — I don’t know if it was weed or hash — and I got so paranoid that I forgot these camera guys were with Bert filming his show. Bert got in his car. I was in the van with the camera people and I didn’t know why they were following him. I kept telling them they needed to chill out. I kept thinking I’m the cause of him being stalked. It was this whole high spiral that I went through. It was a mess.

I think you made your network TV debut on The Craig Ferguson Show. Was that a big break for you and help your career?
No. It was cool to do and it was a great moment. It was my first domestic television appearance. Nothing in the career world came directly from it. Actually, I do remember the fire SUV bit was in that set. That clip got play amongst the firefighter community. They just liked that joke. I remember getting booked for some firefighter charity gig in Michigan just based off that bit. I guess it did help. I got a couple of bookings. The main thing was doing Late Night on Jimmy Fallon and that got me on SNL and then 30 Rock and things moved from there.

I liked your performance as Griff in Daddy’s Home. What was it like to be on the set of that movie?
It was different, man. That was the first movie where I was on a set for a while. We worked in New Orleans for a month and a half. I was in New Orleans. My first scene was with Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell. It was early in the morning. I just did a gig in West Palm Beach the night before. I flew in right after the gig and got a couple of hours of sleep and went straight to set. It was jarring to go from less12 hours of doing standup in Florida and then acting with a couple of the biggest movie stars in the world. The set itself was cool. They asked for my input and I could improvise some lines. The movie did really well at the box office so I was appreciative to have such a large part in it.

Talk about the acting gigs you have in the works?
I got the Spider-Man movie coming out and Baywatch.

What’s the deal with the Baywatch movie?
The Rock is in it and Zac Efron is in it. that’s pretty much it. It’s going to be action with guns and girls and swimsuits. I haven't seen the movie yet.

Is it funny?
I just said I haven’t seen the movie. The parts I did felt funny. Yes, it’s going to be funny. It the Rock! It’s Zac Efron!

Talk about the current tour. Does it feature new material?
I think it’s just darker material and cynical. I talk about my life and my perspective and how I feel about things. I’m just telling true stories. A lot of people think my stories are made up. They thought the New Orleans thing about the parade was made up. So I posted a Vine of me doing it. Writing up a story and making up shit and making it funny is tough. Telling what happened is way easier. You just put yourself back there and remember it. Kudos to anyone who can freestyle and come up with a crazy ass story but it’s not in my skill set at all.

Anything on the upcoming presidential election?
Ah, I used to joke about Trump potentially winning. I don’t think he is anymore. I haven’t been following what he’s been saying lately. It’s almost pointless. I hate listening to him and watching him. It’s not like all of a sudden he will say something amazingly brilliant. This dude is a crazy person. It’s a different type of crazy. You have your friend who might be crazy. But to go this far with it. I don’t think he wants to be president either. It’s gone much further than he wanted. He has too much ego to back out. It’s a theory that I and lots of other people share. As far as the basics of a presidential campaign, he doesn’t follow it all. He depends on social media and rallies. He hasn’t sent out people to do the dirty work. He’s not going to win but he has ignited and excited some horrible people. I kind of hate the fact that without a doubt, I share supporters and fans with him. It might not be a huge number but there’s a mobile app in there. There are people who like Trump and Hannibal and that weirds me out. Such is life. I met this girl at a show when I had a night off from filming Baywatch. I did a show and I asked who was going to vote for Trump. This one girl raised her hand quick as fuck so I asked her why she would vote for Trump. She said it was because he has balls. I was like, “What are you talking about? That’s a characteristic you look for in a security guard or something and not a president.” She was adamant about it. I think part of it is people not wanting a woman to be president either. She’s going to win and I know it’s going to be weird. I know it’s going to be weird for Bill Clinton. I can imagine him saying, “I’m back at this shit?”

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About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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