Hannibal Buress is full of surprises — just look back to this past February. The comedian made a special unannounced guest appearance at Dave Chappelle’s show in DeVos Performance Hall, then upped the ante by headlining his own pop-up show the next day at the Pyramid Scheme. And to make matters more interesting, he did all of this in the midst of a snowstorm.
“Pyramid Scheme was a dope venue and Grand Rapids came through that night,” Buress said. “It sold out, and it was horrible outside. It was crazy snow and messy conditions, but that don’t really stop Midwestern people, so it was a fun couple of nights we had.”
Of course, that’s nothing out of the ordinary for the 33-year-old comedian, who has a habit of popping in out of the blue for last-minute shows.
“Sometimes it just happens where we travel to a city or we’re close to a city and we say, ‘Let’s just do a show. Let’s do something. I don’t want to be bored,’” Buress said. “That’s the good thing about social media now — if you’re doing an event last minute you can promote.”
Even when he’s not performing on stage, he still manages to pop up in unexpected places. He hosted the 2015 Webby Awards, provided voices for characters in The Secret Life of Pets and Angry Birds and even makes an appearance in the upcoming Spider-man: Homecoming, along with a whole slew of other shows and movies.
Kalamazoo State Theatre
404 S. Burdick St., Kalamazoo
Sept. 18, 6:30
$25-$65, kazoostate.com, (269) 345-6500
Buress wasn’t always in such big productions though. He recalled back to a time in college when he was first trying out his acting chops in friends’ student films (none of which ended up online).
“You weren’t really going on the internet to watch videos back then,” Buress explained. “I’m grateful actually that I went to high school and college in a more relaxed internet era, because me and my friends definitely did some embarrassing stuff.”
Years later, the internet would play a key role in Buress’ rise in popularity. In 2010, he appeared as Lincoln Rice on the web series Broad City, which would later go on to become a successful show on Comedy Central. Buress continues to play his role on the show and even manages to add in some of his own jokes from time to time.
“It’s probably 80 percent scripted and 20 percent improvised,” Buress said. “I don’t know, I also might be making that up.”
In 2015, he even struck out to create his own series on Comedy Central. The resulting show, Why? With Hannibal Buress, featured Buress’ oddball humor in a blend of sketch comedy, interviews and stand-up.
In addition to appearing on live action shows, Buress has lent his voice to multiple animated projects, including guest spots on Bob’s Burgers and Adventure Time. Buress says the whole experience can seem a bit surreal, and cites the completion of the short-lived FX series Chozen as a prime example.
“I got high and watched one of the first episodes and I was like, ‘This is too much. I can’t handle this,’” Buress said. “I was like, ‘Oh, shit. This is my voice, but that’s not me, that’s a cartoon!’ I couldn’t handle it. But I also can’t handle a lot of stuff when I’m high.”
With all of his work in television and movies in recent years, it seems quite feasible that Buress could quit stand-up and take up acting full time. To him though, the thought of quitting stand-up is unfathomable.
“I enjoy doing acting in other people’s projects,” Buress said. “But when I’m doing stand-up, that’s me unfiltered for an hour and some change, and it’s my audience that’s for the most part familiar with me and my work, so that’s a fun thing.”
When it comes to writing new material for his stand-up gigs, Buress takes inspiration from personal experiences and molds these stories and ruminations into a full, cohesive set. He also tries not to think about whether anyone will be offended by his jokes.
“You can’t really worry like that, because if you worry like that, you can’t really create at your peak,” Buress said.
His latest tour, dubbed The Hannibal Montanabal Experience, is bringing him to the Kalamazoo State Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 18. Audience members can expect some of Hannibal’s signature low-key, conversational comedy as well as some new additions to his set.
“We’re incorporating a little more multimedia stuff and just talking about the world,” Buress said. “Whenever I do a new hour, it’s more about who I am and what I’m thinking about at that time.”