Meet Me In New York: Hannibal Buress

What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they’re comedians? No, that’s not it. It is a fact, though, that America’s biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York’s vibrant comedy scene. It’s called Meet Me In New York.

I’m not the only big fan of Hannibal Buress, whose rising comedy star has made him miss several of his own Sunday-night stand-up showcases in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, so he can tape episodes of a new Adult Swim “talk show” spoof with Eric Andre. Chris Rock is enough of a fan of Buress to name-drop him on national radio. Jonah Hill is enough of a fan to sell FOX on a TV deal to write a sitcom with Buress for Buress. And Aziz Ansari brought Buress along with him on tours over the past couple of years. It’s about time you found out a little bit more about him, too.

After a too-lengthy hiatus, we’re back with another edition of Meet Me In New York!

Name:  Hannibal Buress
Arrival date: September 2008
Arrived from: Chicago
When and where did you start performing comedy? I started performing comedy in my college town, Carbondale, Ill., at the Big Muddy Room in the basement of the Student Center.
What was your best credit before moving here? Live at Gotham and the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? I picked it because I’d visited NYC a few times and I really got caught up in the energy of the city. The stand-up scene has so many places to perform and it’s an exciting place to be a comedian.

How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? I was in NY for a few months in 2006 and I got a few paid gigs then. It was $20 or something.

How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from? In NYC there’s so many places to perform. You can go up several times a night. There’s lots of different types of crowds. There are opportunities in New York that just can’t happen if you’re in Chicago or anywhere else. I got called to do a set on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon the night before they needed me.  I went in and did the set and got a job writing on SNL. If I didn’t live in NYC, I wouldn’t have gotten that phone call. I may have still been able to get a Fallon spot while not living in NYC, but I definitely wouldn’t have been who they called in an emergency.    It’s definitely a tough spot to be a new comedian. The open mic scene is rough. You have to pay money to perform in front of other comedians. It’s hard to start out like that.

Do you already have an “only in New York City” moment yet? I’ve eaten from three different Halal carts in the same day.

What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here? I think if you plan on moving to NYC to do comedy, the best thing to do would be to make a few trips and check the scene out before you move. That gives you the chance to see some shows, potentially meet comedians and people that book shows. Be a solid comedian before you get to NYC. You can make it if you come here raw but it’s definitely tougher. Come to town with at least a killer 20-30 minutes. Perform a lot, write a lot, and don’t be an asshole.

Where do you see yourself five years from now? Still performing and touring heavily. I’d like to have a large enough fanbase by then to release my special online. Hopefully by then I have a TV show of my own on the air or I’m a regular on someone else’s. I’d like to do some film acting also and voiceover work for animation.

In case you haven’t seen him in action yet, here’s a clip from his debut appearance on Late Show with David Letterman.

If you’re in NYC, you can catch Buress most Sundays hosting his own showcase at the Knitting Factory in Williamsburg. Or check Hannibal’s Tumblr for his other live dates on the road.

Which NYC comedian would you like to see me style and profile next for Meet Me In New York? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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