Buress’s Banter Consistently Delivers
Matt McMahon | Monday, March 31, 2014
Hannibal Buress has been having the year of his life. The writer, comedian and actor currently stars in two critically-acclaimed cable series (“Broad City,” “The Eric Andre Show”), has a role in the upcoming Seth Rogen movie “Neighbors” and may have his own pilot picked up by Comedy Central this spring. It is among these dizzying surroundings that Buress follows up his previous two excellent stand-up specials with “Hannibal Buress: Live from Chicago.” Despite his extensive work in the industry, in “Live from Chicago” nothing seems to faze his notoriously collected comedic demeanor.
Hannibal Buress takes all his jokes at a very even level, treating the absurd and mundane equally, finding humor in each. Sometimes he restrains his more absurd stories with rational analysis, once out of the moment. It sounds like a backwards premise, to present comedy beginning in the absurdity and gradually scaling back to look at it sensibly, but Buress’s ability to discover practical reactions in his very relaxed façade is it’s own kind of ridiculousness. The best way to describe his comedic style might come from Buress’s own words, as he explains his thought process when he’s high: “When I’m on weed, I over-analyze everything.” Though probably not to the exaggerated extent as when he’s under the influence, you can tell Buress really breaks down and examines all of his talking points.
This course of direction lends itself heavily to Buress’s story-telling-centric brand of stand-up. He dissects his life experiences, mining the minutiae — including scrolling through Facebook and interacting with fans on social media — for little, common ticks on which to riff. In so, a lot of Buress’s funniest moments on “Live from Chicago” come from dialog-based punch lines resultant from his experiences; he previously worked as a writer on “30 Rock,” and his voice, though not as outlandish, sometimes parallels the show’s tone in having the perfectly fitting witty response for seemingly everything.
Other standout bits have Buress confronting a bar owner about a rat in their bathroom and explaining how in New Orleans you can hire a band to walk around the streets behind you. “That’s the best iPod ever,” he claims as he elaborates that you would quickly find yourself in your own parade, with people just joining your police-aided route around the city. His analysis is quite logical and, as a result, his realizations are as funny as the jokes he tells while getting to them. His total deconstruction of professional boxing’s procedural nature compared to viral videos of impromptu fights, for instance, intertwines the two aspects completely. In some cases he even dissects his own jokes after or as he tells them — which, rather than detracts from, heightens their effectiveness.
Though these conventions comprise most of the “Live from Chicago” special, Hannibal Buress mixes in a couple unpredicted, inventive gags in between. Varying from standard storytelling, Buress sets a punch line to a musical cue and lip-synchs one of his own bits, as homages to rappers and performers who hype their own pre-recorded music at concerts. There may be something to say about the infatuation some stand-ups have with rap, or perhaps even parallels to draw between the two mediums, but as these bits stand, they are simply clever, admiring pokes — and really funny at that.
In his closing material, Buress details his personal experience with a commonly covered premise, the timeshare presentation trap, to slightly underwhelming results for a finale. Still, his insight and calm delivery never falter. Just as in his best material, his apt conclusions make it so that you just want to hear whatever it is he has to talk about — mesmerized by the unpredictable, yet reasonable, things prone to come from his brain.
The uncut and uncensored special “Hannibal Buress: Live from Chicago” is available for streaming and download for $5 at direct.cc.com