Talking to Hannibal Buress About ‘The Eric Andre Show’, His Comedy Central Pilot, and ‘Broad City’
Comedian Hannibal Buress just keeps getting busier and busier. This year, he returns as co-host on Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show (which just started airing its second season), while voice acting on China, IL and going on tour with Funny or Die’s recent Dave Chappelle/Flight of the Conchords-fronted Oddball Fest and The Eric Andre Show Live next month. Next year will see the debut of Comedy Central’s Broad City (on which he has a big recurring role), his new Comedy Central hour special, and FXX’s Chozen, another animated series he’s lending his unique voice too. On top of all that, he’s creating and starring in his own Comedy Central pilot.
I recently had the chance to chat with Hannibal Buress about the new season of Eric Andre Show, his role on Broad City, and why he likes to goof off and make things weird whenever he does a local morning show.
How’d you first meet Eric Andre?
I met Eric in 2006 when I was in New York, just doing standup. Then, we worked together on The Awkward Comedy Show. Yeah, I’ve known Eric about seven years.
What was The Awkward Comedy Show?
The Awkward Comedy Show was a special put together by Victor Varnado. It’s hosted by Marina Franklin. It’s me, Victor, Eric Andre, Marina, and Baron Vaughn. We filmed in it New York. Victor put together a movie on his own and sold it to Comedy Central.
At what point did Eric ask you to be his co-host on The Eric Andre Show?
He asked me in ’08 or ’09 when we we filmed the first pilot. That’s when he asked me to do his show. I was like, “Yeah, whatever.” It took a long time for anything to happen with it, and I used to mess with him about it. I didn’t think anything was gonna happen with it. I wasn’t mad about it. It was just, “That was fun. It was weird.” I didn’t think anything else would come of it.
Were you surprised by how weird and crazy the show was when you first started doing it?
A little bit. There was some thing where he was spitting in my face. I wasn’t that cool with it. It was a lot of weird, just goofy, crazy shit. It was fun. It was funny.
Do you have a favorite bit from the show ever?
Sinbad was on. He spun this game show wheel, and then we just cheered and then the wheel keeps on spinning and he gets mad and stops the wheel. That was a pretty good moment. “Doc Chicken” was a lot of fun. Killer Mike with the opera singer was a fun one.
You’re credited as a writer on the show. Are you involved in planning bits, or is most of it just improvised as the show’s going on?
I write bits, and I suggest things, and yeah, while the show’s going on or I feed Eric lines.
What was it like being there for the Lou Ferrigno interview from the new season?
I haven’t seen what it looks like. It was just kind of not funny. I don’t know if he was legit angry. I think he might have been trying to be funny. I don’t know. But that’s all I was thinking while it was happening. I wasn’t scared or whatever. I was just thinking, “Man, this isn’t funny.” Maybe they cut it together in a way where maybe it plays funny, but it didn’t feel funny.
It seemed like he was legitimately angry about paint getting on his shirt.
Oh really? We film so much and film for so long that practically until we air the show, I forget a lot of the stuff that happens, like the specifics. Even the things that I said because a lot of it is improvised, so a lot of times when I see the show, it’s a surprise to me. It’s Eric’s show, so he’s involved in the editing process and all that, but I’m basically just an actor and writer on the show. The end product is a surprise for me, so it’s cool. I get to watch it like a fan.
Do you have a dream guest for the show?
I don’t know. I mean, there’s people that I think are awesome, and then there’s people who would be great on the show. You don’t really know the overlap. It’s very specific. Like, Mel B from the Spice Girls— she was funny as hell on the show. Just real quick and game and unexpected. She actually watched the show. Sometimes, you don’t know what to expect and then you try it. She was real fun. If Chris Rock came through and did the show, that’d be awesome. Some athletes. Blake Griffin might be funny on the show.
You have a Comedy Central pilot in the works. Have you started working on that yet?
Actually, if all goes through, it looks like we’re gonna have the guys that directed Eric Andre Show, Andrew Barchilon and Kitao [Sakurai], direct my pilot also. I’m excited about it. I don’t really want to talk about the idea. We have the idea, but it’s not set yet. I don’t wanna give it out, but it’s going well. We already started filming Broad City with Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. That’s been going well. I play a character named Lincoln on there.
How big a part do you have on that show?
I mean, I’m in most of the episodes as Abbi’s sort of on-and-off-again fuck buddy.
You were in one of their web videos before they had a show. What’s in been like to work for them in a video and now on their TV show?
I mean, I only really did that one day of work with them [for the web video]. But it’s really awesome to see the progression. They got a TV show from doing a web series. They put out their own project, and it’s become a TV show. They wanted me to be a part of it. It’s awesome, so I’m really happy.
And you’re working on a new hour special for Comedy Central, right?
Yeah, hopefully, that’ll film in January or February.
How do you get ready for an hour special? What’s your preparation for that?
It’s just jokes. I’m coming up with fresh material, but it’s also stuff that — since the last one, it’s been almost two years. So it’s just material and stuff that’s happened and these stories. I try to have a few big stories or big jokes that kind of anchor the special. I don’t really have a specific process. It’s just about coming up with funny stuff, trying out a bit I think is funny, trying to make it funnier, and then I hope that I don’t bomb.
On The Eric Andre Show, has Eric ever tried to get you to do those hidden camera segments with him?
We did one, actually. We did one that was pretty funny in New York. It involves paintings. I don’t want to blow the bit. I don’t really like messing with people and doing crazy shit. I don’t do that much of the man on the street stuff. Actually, one of the ones that I wrote last year was “Who can hold the most strangers’ babies stuff?” Walking up to strangers and trying to get them to let us hold babies. I wrote that. I was over in the room writing before the season started. Everybody’s pitching stuff. Sometimes you write stuff, not thinking that it would get on. And they’re like, “Yeah, let’s do this.” And then when we get out there, like, “Wait a second, I don’t want to walk up to strangers and ask to hold their babies. I don’t feel comfortable doing that. Even though it was my idea, I don’t like it.”
The Eric Andre Show is a riff on talk shows. Would you ever have an interest in being involved in a more traditional late night talk show?
I don’t know if that’s the format for me right now. It might change. I think it’s great. Just to put out a show every night and the amount of material that is churned out and being able to get into topical stuff and talk about current events is probably fun. I enjoy talk shows, but I don’t think it’s something for me right now. Maybe when I’m older and don’t wanna travel as much, it might be an option.
I saw a video online of you on a morning show in Charlotte. That was a super funny appearance. How often do you do shows like that?
If I’m doing a club and they book me, I do ’em. I had done them before, and it was just too bland. It was a real interview. My job is to try to sell tickets to my show. You know what I mean? So I don’t think I’m at that level of fame where people are just happy to see me on TV and they go see my show. It’s just funny when you do one little thing to get them out of their comfort zone, like stand behind them or something. It’s fun to go on those show and mess around. I’d rather be weird. I still do sit-down bits, but when I do those shows, I do it half weird and half [normal]. You wanna be funny and also be memorable and sell tickets too, man. I sell tickets. It’s my job.
Do the hosts ever get weirded out? Like, if you’re talking to them afterward on set, do they say anything about it?
No, ’cause I don’t think I was doing anything mean-spirited. Just kinda goofing off. I wasn’t being disrespectful or being foul. I was just trying to throw them off. I think it makes for fun TV.
How’d you end up in a Nike commercial with Kevin Durant?
The director, Jonathan Levine, I think he was a fan and somebody at the ad agency was a fan, and then they offered it to me. What’s funny is another comedian, Jermaine Fowler, actually sent me this [casting] breakdown for the commercial. It said, “Streetball game. You’ll play the MC. Late ’20s, early ’30s. Not particularly athletic. A Hannibal Buress type.” What the fuck? I hadn’t heard about this yet. [Laughs] “You want a type? You could just get me!” But I think they wanted to cast just in case I didn’t want to do it or something. “What? I’m a type? Get me, you don’t need the type.” That was my first commercial. I was a bit nervous, but it did well. I hope I could do some more stuff like that.
The Eric Andre Show airs Thursday nights at 12:30 on Adult Swim