Hannibal Buress brings his standup act to The City. (Courtesy Marcus Price)

Hannibal Buress eases into comedy world

Horror stories abound of comedians’ first forays onstage. Jokes bomb, crowds are indifferent, angry drunks heckle mercilessly — it’s all part of the growing pains every comic must experience.

Hannibal Buress managed to avoid those nightmarish scenarios. He didn’t cut his teeth in hip Los Angeles night clubs or trendy New York City comedy cellars. His career took off in the sleepy college town of Carbondale, Ill., and he knew exactly what kind of one-liners to feed his captive audience.

“I would talk trash about the cafeteria and campus police and boring lectures,” said Buress, who appears at The Masonic in The City on Saturday. “The jokes weren’t that funny or anything. But people could relate to them, so I got some chuckles.”

A Chicago native, Buress wasn’t enraptured with the art of comedy as a youngster. There were no transcendent performances he witnessed that changed his life forever. It was only after he began attending school at Southern Illinois University and attended a few open mics that he considered making a career out of his natural ability to make people laugh.

“Seeing that open mic demystified things for me,” says Buress. “When I was getting into comedy, in 2001 and 2002, YouTube wasn’t really around for you to watch regular comedy performances. The only time I saw comedy were these huge specials on television, and that just didn’t seem like something I could do.”

With a foot in the comedy door, Buress’ career steadily grew, buoyed by scene-stealing cameos in shows like “30 Rock,” in which he played a homeless man with strangely sage advice, and movies such as “Neighbors.”

He eventually landed a full-time role in “Broad City,” portraying the on-again/off-again boyfriend of Ilana Wexler, the main character played by show co-creator Ilana Glazer.

Perhaps most significantly, Buress’ comedy act attacked the hypocrisy of Bill Cosby, bringing new light to the level of serious sexual assault charges levied at the legendary comedian, and playing a galvanizing role in the burgeoning MeToo movement.

Buress has shifted away from talking about that pivotal moment. Instead, he’s discussing other projects he’s working on, including the creation of a new community center in Chicago.

Despite receiving increasingly more exposure and fame — he had roles in multiple movies this year, including a leading part in the comedy “Tag” — Buress wants to focus more of his time to giving back to his hometown. He’s filming a comedy special during his current two-month tour, but after that he plans to take it easy for a little while.

“I want to take a step back and focus on things outside of entertainment,” says Buress. “I still plan on laughing and having fun. I just don’t need to be up onstage the whole time.”

IF YOU GO
Hannibal Buress
Where: Masonic, 1111 California St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 8
Tickets: $45
Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.sfmasonic.comBill CosbyChicagocomedianComedyHannibal BuressMasonic

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Navigation shelter resident tests positive for coronavirus

Homeless advocates repeatedly warned about an outbreak in congregate settings

CCSF taps first Asian American woman to lead as interim chancellor

City College reached a settlement with former Chancellor Mark Rocha after an abrupt departure

Plummeting Bay Area bridge traffic finally levels off

All told, weekday Bay Area traffic volumes are down by half, which has remained consistent from March 23 through this week.

Burger Boogaloo moved to Halloween weekend

Annual music festival hosted by John Waters to feature Bikini Kill, Circle Jerks

Newsom says face coverings can help, but California won’t mandate for now

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that face coverings are beneficial in grocery… Continue reading

Most Read