Q&A: Comedian Hannibal Buress Talks Voiceover Work, 'Chozen' and 'Bob's Burgers'
Hannibal Buress has done it all in world of comedy. The former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” scribe left the writer’s desk behind to focus on stand-up in 2010. His 2012 Comedy Central special, Animal Furnace, helped bring his off kilter and altogether hilarious witticisms to a wider comedic consciousness. With two recurring TV roles, ample opportunities in the voiceover realm and a still-rising star, Shepherd Express spoke to Buress about his work in “Broad City,” “Chozen” and “The Eric André Show,” as well as his upcoming special and a particularly bad Milwaukee comedy condo before he takes the stage at Turner Hall Ballroom Sunday.
I guess we should start with ‘Broad City.’ It’s only four episodes in, but it’s really funny and seems to be a well-liked show. What has the overall experience been like working with Abbi [Jacobson] and Ilana [Glazer]?
They’re cool and smart girls and the show is really fun. I’m happy to be a part of it. It’s a real little set. I improvise a lot on set and they kept a lot of that in.
Your character, Lincoln, is in eight of the episodes this season, right? Is there anything you can preview for viewers for your remaining four episodes?
Maybe I murder everybody. What if I killed everybody and the show ‘Broad City’ consists of only one awesome season? There’s never been a murder to end a comedy series, so maybe that’s it.
Yeah, it’s unexpected. I guess you never know. On the subject of unexpected shows, ‘The Eric André Show’ is really unique. You never know what to expect, even if you’re ready for just a wild, weird time. With the growing popularity of that show, has it become more difficult to book guests now that they know it won’t be the usual interview?
The second season, I think we got people that were actual fans of the show. People are on board just to do something different than just a traditional interview. I’m interested to see what we get for season three, if it’s just fans of the show or if we try to catch people off guard.
Was there anybody who didn’t wind up reacting that well? It seemed like the Mel B. [“Scary Spice”] episode with you guys feeding each other Funyuns, and the Lou Ferrigno episode, he seemed like he was really irked as well. Was there anyone who ended up not enjoying their experience there?
I didn’t get to talk to Lou Ferrigno afterward, I mean, he kind of got thrown off a little bit. He seemed a little uncomfortable with it. We had another version of the Hulk there and it didn’t seem like Ferrigno enjoyed that at all.
Has the recognition been odd with people walking up you and saying “Ranch it up!” and “Hannibal’s hands”? With the growing popularity of the show, has it been happening more often?
Nothing crazy. I had a tweet a while ago about when I was leaving a hotel in Chicago and a big wedding party started yelling “ranch it up” at me. It’s interesting what I get, but for the most part, it’s been good recognition.
Is Eric that insane in real life or is he ramping it up for the show more than anything?
No, Eric is a pretty chill dude. He is crazy, but the show allows him that type of character. He’s a very funny dude, but he’s not that crazy.
I’ve also noticed you’ve been doing a lot of voiceover work recently with your new show, ‘Chozen,’ and ‘Lucas Bros [Moving Co.],’ ‘China, IL’ and—unless I’m wrong—I recognized your voice on an episode of ‘Bob’s Burgers’ this season. What are some advantages to doing voiceover work opposed to acting itself?
It’s cool to do it because you get to see a character with your voice and then see how it comes together. Being a part of that process is really different. ‘Bob’s Burgers’ is different because you get to record with other people in the booth. There’s a bunch of people there. Everybody was there from the cast: Jon Benjamin, Eugene Mirman, everybody. With ‘Chozen,’ I’m able to record all my lines and improv a little bit, and it works out. You do it, then I’m able to watch the show like a fan because —I mean, I know the story because I have a script, but—I get to see how the words come to life in the animation. It’s different getting to watch a show like that.
It seems like your number one priority with what you do is still on stage, doing stand-up. Since your last special, Animal Furnace, everything has seemed to really blow up. What has it been like to be playing larger venues and have more people at your shows the last year or two?
It’s been good, man. It’s been nice to have people come around and see my comedy. That affects the vibe and affects my energy because I started out on the road, but people might’ve not necessarily been coming to see me. A lot of people just come to the comedy club to see whoever is at the comedy club. Now, with more people coming to the show, it’s exciting to just come to a city where sometimes shows sell out weeks in advance. To have that happen is awesome. It’s a good energy and when I hit the stage, I just try to put on the best show that I can.
At the end of next month, March 29, you have a new special airing on Comedy Central. I don’t want to ask you to spoil it, but what are we to expect? Any different style or new themes?
It’s just a new special. It’s a progression. It’s my third album and second special. It’s just some new material dealing with different experiences and I just hope people enjoy it, that’s pretty much it.
Lastly, I noticed that you were asked about the grossest or most awkward amenities you’ve ever had after a show and you mentioned Milwaukee’s Comedy Cafe. What was so gross or awkward about their condo situation?
Yeah, I don’t know what they do now at the Comedy Cafe, but the condo there was horrible. It was across the street from the comedy club. But you know what was funny, is that was one of the first places I was working on the road, and I was still living with my parents, so I thought it was great. I thought, “I get to go to Milwaukee and get to work at this comedy house.” I had been there several times, happily, not knowing how bad it was until after the fact. When I look back like, man, that place was a piece of shit. That place stunk! I’ll tell you—I don’t know what they have now—but that was one of the worst comedy condos in the country. I haven’t stayed at that many comedy condos, mostly hotels, but that one was garbage. It was a garbage place and I didn’t even realize it at the time, just because I hadn’t been working that much. That place was insanely horrible.
Hannibal Buress performs at Turner Hall on Sunday, Feb. 23. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are still available for $25.50.