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ATX SXSW 2014
My Name is Hannibal

Comedian Hannibal Buress discusses new stand-up special and expanding horizons

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Comedian Hannibal Buress performing Stand-up
Comedian Hannibal Buress discusses his new stand-up special and where he goes from here. Photo courtesy of Comedy Central

In between the big names of the 2014 SXSW Film, there was a different kind of premiere. Hannibal Buress: Live from Chicago, the rising comic's third stand-up special, chose to debut in Austin before the Comedy Central premiere airs to the general public on March 29. Already a popular stand-up comic, who is expanding further into acting and writing, Hannibal Buress has a lot to be proud of in his still fairly young career. During a busy schedule, Buress took a breather to talk with CultureMap about the days leading up to the premiere and what the future holds for him.

 "Just try to constantly create and just see what hits — and be willing to fail." — Hannibal Buress on comedy. 

"This is a very different [visit] for me," says Buress, "because I’m premiering my special. I can’t really think of anybody premiering their stand-up special [at SXSW]. I flew my folks down. My dad told me he’d never been to Texas before, so I’m excited to have them here."

A hip-hop fan, Buress didn’t have much time to take in the music showcases around town due to a busy promotion schedule, but he did get a chance to spend time with an old friend breaking out in a new way. "I introduced Childish Gambino [Donald Glover] at the mtvU Woodie Awards, which was really cool because we started out doing stand-up together in New York. I’ve been on shows with him when it was 20 people in the crowd."

Career beginnings serve as an important element in his new special, which was filmed at The Vic Theatre in Chicago. "I’m from Chicago and I started doing comedy in the city. Just doing [the special] in Chicago is a big deal for me. Chicago is a huge comedy town and The Vic is an historic venue for music and lots of comedians have done shows there. So to be able to sell out The Vic a few times and have my special there is amazing."

Sure, the hometown crowd serves as a friendly audience, but recent years have shown Buress can win over pretty much anyone with his routines. And it’s not just audiences that Buress is winning over. The comic has several writing credits under his belt, including NBC’s 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, and he’s gained even more exposure with his recurring role on Comedy Central’s Broad City. Just last week, word began spreading that Comedy Central was set to order 10 episodes of Buress’ own series, Unemployed.

Each project has allowed for Buress to work with familiar collaborators in the comedy industry. "I did Broad City when it was a web series, and I knew [the cast] just by being out and about at the clubs and the UCB Theatre. It’s more fun to work with people that you already know, instead of just coming in as a day player," says Buress. "I want to do well, but it’s a different level of comfort when you come into a project like that."

Buress also feels comfortable with his goals for the future. "Now it’s just to be the lead of my own show and try to write a low-budget movie project where I’m the lead." Some of his inspiration for that comes from the model of other comedians who self-produce their own work.

"Seth Rogen is an inspiration because he’s been able to pave his own way because he produces his own projects and writes them. He’s doing it on a huge scale but that’s kind of the model. In comedy that’s the way to do it — make your own stuff." Just looking at last year alone proves how comedians can find success with self-produced projects, whether it’s the Broad City web series by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, or podcasts by stand-up comics like Pete Holmes or Marc Maron.

"A lot of things come from people just doing their own shit, and then they build their base like that. And then the corporate folks take attention and become a part of it, so that’s the way to do it now." It's the new model for breaking into comedy, and it's simple advice for aspiring comedians.

"It’s just putting your content out there. I mean putting your good shit out there — don’t put out videos of you bombing. But if you have an idea for a podcast or web series, it’s just about putting it out there on your own, and don’t wait for anybody else … Just try to constantly create and just see what hits — and be willing to fail." 

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Hannibal Buress’ new stand-up special, Hannibal Buress: Live from Chicago, premieres Saturday, March 29 on Comedy Central. You can also see him live at the 2014 Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival on Wednesday, April 23.

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