It says something about Hannibal Buress’ confidence that he doesn’t call out the elephant in the room until almost halfway through his latest special.
Even then, it’s only in passing. “Did Bill Cosby send you?” the comedian shout-asks an imagined adversary. Then he stops, smiles, and backtracks: “Well, that situation got out of control.” Buress spends a few minutes running through what it’s like to accidentally trigger an icon’s long-deserved downfall, including a Facebook death threat from someone with whom he somehow has one mutual friend, with a line that absolutely, definitely, positively should not work: “Who knew that offhand joke about Cosby raping would lead to me having amazing consensual sex across the country?”
The joke lands perfectly.
Comedy Camisado, which arrived on Netflix today, is a reminder that underneath it all — the unlikely firestorm, the talk show that didn’t quite work out, the unbelievably endearing Broad City persona — Buress is one of the best stand-ups working today, with a relaxed, beta-male vibe that belies his near-total unflappability. Last spring, Vulture highlighted Buress as one of the key figures in a new wave of “black male nerd comedians,” a group that includes Buress, Ron Funches, the Lucas Brothers, Wyatt Cenac, and Eric Andre, for whom Buress serves as sidekick on The Eric Andre Show. And while it’s certainly true that Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, and other stand-ups who came up through traditionally black clubs don’t go on extended riffs about brunch or their Xboxes, Buress also has a security in his own charisma that’s often missing from the acts of his more openly neurotic contemporaries, like Pete Holmes (who has compared himself, at length, to a youth pastor) or John Mulaney (“I look like I was just sitting in a room, in a chair eating saltines for like 28 years and then I walked right out here”).
How else could he open his hour with the admission that he’s taping the special in Minneapolis partly because “four years ago, I had a threesome here, and every time I return I chase that moment”? Or claim that “my dick has to grow on you like the Yeezus album,” thereby comparing himself to possibly the most self-confident man of all time? Or, on the non-sexual front, admit he only knows about Jimi Hendrix “because Hulk Hogan used to walk out to his music”?
Hannibal Buress is a comedian who can sell all these lines without resorting to self-deprecation as a rapport-builder, which is to say Hannibal Buress is a comedian at the top of his game. Comedy Camisado largely doubles down on the silly, yet sharp material that’s made him so popular; like his chilled-out demeanor, Buress’ signature, slow-and-steady delivery is somewhat deceptive, making jokes that seem clearly and carefully constructed on paper sound almost offhand. Absurd hypotheticals like giving a triplet away — “I can’t handle three of the same baby”; also, “I’m the type of guy that leaves the top newspaper at the newsstand. It just seems like it’s got something on it, you know?” — or a Microsoft customer service rep so impressed by a destroyed Xbox he’s desperate to join the crew sound like late-night monologues from your most lovably perma-stoned friend, until you realize the care and intelligence that go into their seemingly spontaneous momentum.
Buress is primarily an observational comic, albeit one with oddball impulses that may manifest themselves mostly in projects like The Eric Andre Show, but occasionally make their way into his standup. (Comedy Camisado kicks off with Buress cycling through not one, but two pairs of fake glasses, which he then tosses into the audience after confessing he’s gotten Lasik.) Politics are mostly reserved for when he can’t avoid them, like the Cosby situation he rightly doesn’t want to define him, or when a police officer awkwardly admits he’s a fan. Mostly, however, Buress sticks to analyzing the everyday weirdness he encounters on the road, whether it’s a fellow plane passenger who went out of his way to download episodes of Wipeout or an unprofessional coworker who also happens to be a baby.
Mostly, Comedy Camisado feels like a reset button — not just from the Cosby scandal and the ensuing tidal wave of media scrutiny, but also from side projects both successful (Broad City ) and not (Why? With Hannibal Buress) that sometimes made it easy to forget Buress’ main event. The new special isn’t a thematic or stylistic breakthrough for the comedian so much as an ideal showcase for what he does best, both for fans who’ve missed his act since his last special, which Comedy Central released almost two years ago, and viewers who didn’t know he had one before one fateful, viral video. Both will find plenty of reasons to keep paying attention even after the firestorm’s fizzled out.
Comedy Camisado is now available to stream on Netflix.