Hannibal Buress: Chicago's oddball out front

Plus, which side would he choose: Ruff Ryders or Roc-A-Fella?

August 27, 2013|By Ernest Wilkins, @ernestwilkins | RedEye

Hannibal Buress is a busy man. Between his writing gigs, stand-up performances all over the world, doing commercials and music videos and hosting a weekly comedy show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, the Chicago comedian still managed to find time to appear on the inaugural Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival coming Saturday to the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater in Tinley Park. RedEye caught up with him to talk the similarities between rap and comedy shows, live comedy acts you should check out and how it feels opening up for Dave Chappelle.

You realize that you’re going to a part of history leading into this festival appearance, right?

Nah, I didn’t. Am I?

Yes, you’re going to be performing on the same stage Kanye West received his Roc-A-Fella chain on.

Really?

Yup!

Wow. That’s crazy. (Buress then sings the entire verse that Kanye recited upon getting his chain, as documented in the “Through the Wire” video)

It’s crazy you remember that whole thing. Know what’s funny? He probably rehearsed that verse for like weeks leading up to that moment then came out all confident…

...and then nobody listened to any of it because they were cheering? (Laughs)

Exactly! Speaking of, if you had to compare the Oddball Comedy Festival to a legendary rap tour, which one would you choose?

I don’t know, man. That one with the Ruff Ryders and Roc-A-Fella? [The 1999 Hard Knock Life tour, as chronicled in the documentary “Backstage.”]

Ooh, yeah! I get that. You get the big names, the up-and-comers that have street cred … it makes sense. Now, here’s the question: What side would you be on?

(long pause)

Wow. Man, I don’t know. That’s tough … Roc-a-Fella?

CORRECT ANSWER. You know, I’m noticing a strong musical tie to this lineup. Flight of the Conchords obviously, Demetri Martin has some music stuff in his act, you’re out here still hitting the streets with “Gibberish Rap” (A late 2012 track of Buress spitting random ad-libs over a Clams Casino beat.) Worth seeking out.)

Yeah, I have to figure something out since the venue is so big. I think I might have to add some music stuff to my set. I already have sound cues and stuff like that built in anyway, so I think it won’t be too hard.

A lot of people don’t know what to expect from this show.

Man, I don’t even know what to expect. I don’t know when the show is starting. Well, I mean I don’t know who is going up and all the times and stuff yet. I know when it starts. [Laughs.]

Artists like Busta Rhymes have built a legacy on having a live show that is never boring or formulaic. You never really think about comedians having a crazy live show but there are definitely some who need to be seen to be believed. Who are some live comedians that audiences should definitely try and see live?

There’s a dude named Sam Simmons out of Australia. He has a crazy live show; it’s not just straight stand-up. He’s got a backing track playing and a lot of other different [bleep]going on. He’s really good. A lot of the people on the tour are amazing live, obviously [Dave] Chappelle. Lil’ Rel is awesome, of course. Chicago’s own. He does his thing.

For those folks who don’t have much knowledge about the performers during the tour after you, Chappelle and Flight of the Conchords, can you break down the other acts for us a little bit?

Al Madrigal is the man. He was on “The Daily Show.” Kristen Schall is a weirdo, she’s really great. She was on “The Daily Show” too and “30 Rock.” Been all over the world. I’m not sure if Chris D’Elia is on this specific Chicago show (Ed. note: He's not) but he’s great. I wouldn’t want to follow him. [John] Mulaney is awesome. Jeff Ross is doing some dates, the Roastmaster. He’s cool. Brody Stevens is another weirdo but he’s a really funny dude. Man, this is going to be great.

How does it feel opening up for Dave Chappelle?

It feels awesome; I’ve done some shows with him in Nashville and Montreal. His audience is sharp and so I feel like my style of comedy goes over well with them. Doing shows with him exposes me to a way bigger audience. It’s awesome.

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