Flavorwire Interview: Hannibal Buress on ‘Live From Chicago,’ ‘Broad City,’ and Prince

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Everything is coming up Hannibal Buress. After some writing stints on both 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, Buress has been keeping busy with a memorable role on Broad City and lending his distinct voice to shows like Bob’s Burgers and Chozen. With a weekly show at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory, a role alongside Zac Efron and Seth Rogen in the upcoming movie Neighbors, and a Comedy Central pilot that may or may not have gotten picked up, 2014 is primed to be Buress’ best year yet. Hannibal Buress Live From Chicago premieres on Comedy Central Saturday at midnight (but can be purchased for only $5 from Comedy Central Direct). I spoke with Hannibal Buress about his new special, his multiple TV roles, and Tumblr GIFs.

Flavorwire: First, I just want to say that we all really enjoy Broad City at Flavorwire, and on Thursdays we’ll often talk about last night’s episode.

Hannibal Buress: Oh shit, it’s watercooler TV! I didn’t know that existed anymore.

How did you get involved with the show? I know you were in the web series.

I was in an episode of the web series, and when they were doing the pilot, they just asked me to do a version of the character in the TV show.

And you’re friends with Ilana and Abbi?

Yeah, just from doing standup. I’ve known them from back in like, ’09, ’10.

Do you do any writing on the show? Or ad-libbing?

Ad-libbing and, yeah, some writing. On set we keep it kind of loose, so I’ll ad-lib some of my stuff. Or even if one of them has a scene, like a series of lines or dialogue, we’ll pitch lines to each other like, “Maybe she’ll say this or say this.” So yeah, there’s a lot of ad-libbing.

Are you aware of how loved Broad City is on the Internet? I’ll scroll through Tumblr and just see GIF sets of you.

I’ll see it sometimes. I’ll see when the Broad City Tumblr or Comedy Central post stuff.

Is it weird to see yourself as GIF?

It’s fun. It’s weird. Actually, someone posted a stand-up GIF of mine from an older joke from a few years ago.

Was it the apple juice one?

Yeah, the apple juice one! It was just weird to see it like that. That’s an old joke and y’all are just now getting that shit? Also, play the audio! … They just got me walking back and forth. I don’t know if that’s the best way to take in that joke. But it’s cool. I’m glad that people like the show and that they share it however they share it, whether through GIFs or linking to the show or telling people about it and posting about it on social media. That’s good that people want to get the word out.

Which TV shows have you been watching?

I haven’t been able to get into a show in a while, not because of the lack of quality of shows but because of time, travel, and getting into video games. I watched Orange Is the New Black. I watched the full season of that. What else am I watching? I watch a lot of sports, and I DVR a lot of the talk shows and then pick out which ones I wanna watch based on the guests. I DVR [Jimmy] Fallon and Seth [Meyers] and Arsenio [Hall].

Arsenio just had Prince on for a whole episode. That was pretty cool. It was weird just because Prince is known for being elusive and mysterious, and it was also [weird] to see him perform, but he had this moment where the audience was asking questions. It just felt weird to watch Prince get asked questions from the audience. Like, “Prince, what are your pet peeves?” Prince shouldn’t have to answer that shit! “Prince, dogs or cats?” Just people asking Prince inane shit. That was a weird one.

Speaking of talk shows, I love The Eric Andre Show and often have a hard time trying to explain it to people. How did he pitch that to you?

He had been doing live versions of it in New York back in .. ‘08? He was doing different live versions and pitched it like, “I’m doing this thing and I want you to play the co-host,” and then we shot it. He sent it to me and it looked weird, and it was funny. Then some time passed and nothing happened with it. I would always joke with him, like, “Hey man, what happened to that one thing we shot that ain’t nothing?” I wasn’t mad or anything, but then it ended up getting picked up by Adult Swim. But yeah, he just pitched it as this weird talk show and we shot it in this abandoned bodega in Brooklyn.

But it was cool man. And the show has done really well. I forget how he pitched it to me. I think he just said to me, “I’m shooting this thing, can you do it?” and at that point I was just shooting whatever people asked me. I wasn’t shooting much. I wasn’t working that much. So yeah, I’ll do that. Let’s do it.

Are you working on the third season?

They’ve started production, writing and stuff. We start shooting in May.

You also do a voice on Chozen. Do you have a preference between voice acting, The Eric Andre Show, and live action?

Voice acting is cool just because it’s very quick and you can get to see your character get animated, which is a real weird thing to just watch, and [you get] to see a story come together like that. They’re different. I mean, out of everything I like doing stand-up. But acting is cool just to see how people connect with stuff. People obviously connect with live action in a different way than animated characters for the most part. I enjoy both of them, but I’d have to go with live action over animation just because it’s more fun.

Animation, you’re just by yourself in a studio and you might make these people in your headphones laugh, but it’s hard to get the energy to go off of. It’s more, say these lines a few times and then move on to the next line, but there’s nobody to play off of. In a studio set, even on set at a TV show, you have the energy where you can just try to make the camera guys break or somebody break, or try to throw them off. That’s the difference: you have somebody to play off.

And stand-up is your first love, above acting?

Yeah, I like stand-up a lot just because I have control, I can do what I want. It’s just fun to have my ideas and my thoughts and be able to put them [together] in a way… and have people want to pay money to hear it.

I really liked your special, Hannibal Buress Live From Chicago, and especially how you incorporated side bits like the Riff-Raff bit and the music cues so it’s not just straight stand-up. Was that to keep the energy up?

I talk about rap lyrics, and there’s a lot of things we weren’t able to keep in because of clearances, but it’s just fun to have different energy. For me, too, because then it’s not just me talking for an hour and a half. I have some other sounds or some other voices coming on speakers and something else to react to. It’s just a way of giving me something else to react to, and the audience something else to react to.

Will you do more of that in the future?

Yeah, I think so. It’s just fun. On my next tour — which I don’t know when that will be, maybe late this year — [I want to] try to figure out ways to incorporate more video and other things into the stand-up.