I expected Hannibal Buress to be funny, of course, but I didn’t expect that he’d be great to have a conversation with… and a little tricky to interview.
Silly, funny, and kinda sly, the merry prankster treated me to an interview that had me laughing pretty much the whole time. Before our call, Buress had actually googled my name, and began by interviewing me. Although somewhat disarming, Buress was also charming and authentic as we talked story through a wide range of topics, from hecklers and how to pronounce “Hawai‘i,” to how the City of Chicago impounded his car.
On Saturday, Buress will take to the stage with Lil Rel Howery, who acted in Get Out, for a night of hilarity. The gifted comedian, who has an eclectic range of professional activities from standup to movies, and TV shows to a podcast, has earned a deep respect from his peers and his fans for his offbeat humor and prankish antics.
The Chicago native doesn’t do much press, so enjoy. I did.
Lantana Hoke: What brings you to Hawai‘i?
Hannibal Buress: How did you say it?
LH: Well, it’s technically Ha-vai-i, though many say Ha-wai-i.
HB: So the family’s coming out, and I’ll be there for a little bit, on vacation for New Year’s and to relax and just enjoy. I was just there in January actually, I booked a show after I did Honolulu last year, then I added on Maui. So I’m excited to do it. I hope the theater setting helps people relax. I did Mulligans on the Blue and people like to yell a lot of shit during the show. It was dumb stuff that interrupted. Is that common in Hawai‘i at comedy shows?
LH: At Mulligans on the Blue you’re going to get a lot of drunk tourist types. I’ve never seen that at the Castle Theater. I would be surprised if anyone yelled. And the docents will shut them down hard if they do. I hope that didn’t leave a bad impression.
HB: No, it was just like, what’s going on? When it happened on Maui I was like, are people just… I don’t know. Maybe it was tourists just super faded.
LH: People from here are usually pretty respectful.
HB: Is it island fever? What’s it called when you don’t get off the island for a bit?
LH: Well, it might be called methamphetamine.
HB: Ha! I was surprised to find out that Hawai‘i has a meth problem. Meth and tropical island vibes don’t mix together on paper.
LH: You wouldn’t think. So, when people do go to your show, what can they expect?
HB: ‘The show is so action-packed and the crowd is involved from beginning to end. It’s such a weird energy – not in a bad way though…’ I’m just kidding, I was just reading Tech N9ne’s answer to your question.
LH: [laughs] You’re a slippery one .
HB: There are musical and video elements, I weave in stories, I tell jokes obviously. Silly jokes, stories. Hawai‘i jokes.
LH: America is a big place. Have you noticed that certain jokes land better with certain crowds?
HB: Yeah, it depends on the places you’re visiting and if you get to spend some time to really soak it up and get a feel for a place, hang out with the locals, then you have some stuff to draw from when you’re up there. You get points for your research and get a certain reaction that makes people feel comfortable, they’re open. You can kick back and talk about the place for a few minutes. Baddabing, baddaboom, everybody’s happy.
It shows that the show isn’t the exact thing you did in Cleveland. Mix it up a little bit, and it keeps it fresh for myself; mixing up the order and sometimes you find a natural connection to some local material and you’re able to weave it into the set, and you’re able to connect it. That’s always the most fun, because it gives the show something that you didn’t expect.
LH: What’s been inspiring you lately?
HB: Anything can get my brain into write mode – just watching a movie, or listening to someone else’s podcast, can remind me that I have an old story, or a joke, about something. It’s almost too easy to be inspired. I guess it depends on how you express it. For me, just going to different environments and talking to new people and hearing different ideas.
LH: You didn’t show up at the Spiderman premier last year, but you sent a look-alike?
LH: And he looked nothing like you. How did that come about?
HB: I wasn’t available! I couldn’t go. And it’s the Spiderman premier, you know?
It’s a huge movie. Huge franchise, huge character, Stan Lee. But yeah, in my mind, because I was filming Tag at the time, I found out I wasn’t going to be able to get out of the shoot to make it, and so my immediate thought process, was, oh, I gotta send someone else in my place. I just can’t not have any presence at all. And what is a premier anyway, you hit the carpet, it’s the same questions over and over that you repeat, and take some pictures, so that part of is necessary but a little bit tedious. So I sent somebody else to do that and I got more attention than I would have ever gotten just by actually showing up. I’m at a lot of premiers, and you never hear about it, when I go. I’ve done red carpets before, you don’t find out about that shit, unless you follow EW or Entertainment Tonight. You don’t see my red carpet interview for Secret Life of Pets. You didn’t see my interview I did about the process of playing Grif on Daddy’s Home. I went to the Daddy’s Home premier, I did the interviews, I took all the pictures. You don’t see that interview. But when I don’t show up, look at that.
LH: Everybody hears about it.
HB: It was really for fun. A fun, quick little prank. I like those. You know, there’s some people who recognize me and if you look at my face, it will be familiar to you, but you might not know why. They might think they saw me someplace or that we went to high school together. And I can talk people out of it, that’s the level of fame I have. People will be like, are you Hannibal Buress? And I’ll be like, naw that’s not me. Or sometimes people will be like, ‘you’re not him, but you look like him,’ and I’ll be like sure. I’m not going to work you through it. If you’re uncertain, I’m not here to guide you through this shit.
LH: Well, you might be getting more recognition. You’ve been doing more movies lately.
HB: Standup, to me, is way more fun than movies. The process is a bit repetitive. Eventually, I’d want to try directing some shorts, or some type of something, just to get the feel of it, because when you’re directing on a set, it’s so active, because you’re dealing with the actors, the camera, the script, lighting, you have to wear a lot of hats as a director and deal with a lot of people, whereas acting you can sit around for a few hours. Obviously you can use that downtime. When we were filming Tag, we were having down time, and I went by Jack Johnsons’ trailer, and he was building an exercise machine. You’re in here building shit? Because that’s how much time there is on a movie. You can build shit. Build complex puzzles, and crafts. If you’re productive, it may be a blessing: Learn a language, hire someone, and send them to the Spiderman premier.
LH: Is there anything else you want people to know?
HB: Lil Rel Howery is co-heading with me. He’s my good friend, he was on Get Out, he’s on the show “REL,” and he’s hilarious. I’ve known him forever. At my second show ever, he was on it. And we’re hoping to be full. Not just for the money, but because I’m hanging out on Maui for a few days afterward. So if I have an empty show and I’m on vacation, it’s going to be weird, if someone is like hey man, how’s it going? And if I’m like, ‘Were you at my show?’ and they weren’t, then it’s going to be weird. So to make it smooth, it should be full.
Hannibal Buress and Lil Rel Howery
Maui Arts and Cultural Center
1 Cameron Way, Kahului
Saturday, Dec. 29. 7:30pm
$35 plus applicable fees