As long as he can stay out of Canadian jail, Chicago-born comic Hannibal Buress is on course for one of the best years of his professional life. At the 2012 Comedy Awards, he was anointed best club comic, and the former Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock writer just released a hilarious stand-up record/TV special called Animal Furnace.
He’s currently on an extensive North American tour called “Still Saying Stuff,” which brings him to Edmonton, Calgary (for the Sled Island Music Festival), Winnipeg, Toronto, and London, Ont., this week. Then in July, he’s scheduled to appear at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. This is where things get a tad dicey.
For a bit on Animal Furnace, Buress tells this story about an unpleasant brush with the law he had while visiting Montreal and, even now, it brings his blood to a moderate boil. “I got stopped for jaywalking man, and it was a safe, nice jaywalk,” he exclaims. “There wasn’t any cars coming, it was a good move for getting somewhere quickly and they stopped me and I couldn’t believe it. It was very crazy to me.”
It does seem outrageous, seeing how the freedom and scofflaw stride one exhibits while jaywalking leads to one of the best feelings in the world. Buress was so indignant about the lofty fine he received, he refuses to pay it to this day.
It’s quite a stand, but isn’t Buress concerned that by so wantonly breaking our sacred laws and besmirching our Canadian identity, literally jaywalking all over us, he could be jeopardizing his ability to come and go from Montreal as he pleases?
“What’s up with your tone first of all?" he asks. "Second of all, it’s all good; it’s just a jaywalking ticket. They have sent notices, like, ‘we’re gonna suspend your driver’s licence for this jaywalking ticket.’ First of all, I’ll never live in Quebec, second of all, that’s dumb. So, we’ll see what happens when I’m back man.”
On Wednesday, June 20, Buress performs at Sled Island in Calgary, and it’s the kind of setting he’s grown used to. There’s been this trend in recent years where larger music festivals are booking comedy stages and Buress has already played sets at Bonnaroo, Bumbershoot, Pitchfork and Sasquatch, among others. “It’s a lot of fun to do those festivals; I like them a lot because you get to hang out with your peers and also get to watch a lot of music for free.”
Beyond the fact that they have PA systems and large gatherings of people, Buress has a reasoned take on why stand-up has been so embraced by forward thinking music festivals.
“It’s a break from the music for one," he explains. "It’s something different and, if you gonna be at a festival all day, it might be tough to find eight hours straight of music you wanna watch. Also, the comedians have followings of their own so there’s a lot of crossover there. It’s a good break from the music and you get to laugh and engage your mind in a different way.”
An avowed hip-hop fan, Buress has other musical interests and heroes as well, though some of them might surprise his fans. “Paul McCartney,” he says, beginning a list. “Lisa Loeb. Lenny Kravitz. Postal Service. Little Dragon. Uhh – Lisa Loeb. So nice, I had to say it twice. It’s all about the glasses man. No, I feel like more than 95 per cent of bands or musicians have at least one song that I would really like. I just need to have the energy to find it.”
As for Buress, he’s got his own hits to keep on making, but he has some modest plans for the future.
“Just doing comedy and trying to be a true artist and let Jesus shine through in my comedy and really drink a lot of alcohol and eat a lot of fast food and occasionally smoke clove cigarettes. That’s coming up next. Oh, and every Canadian lady that buys a ticket to my show will get – exactly that.”
To hear our full interview with Hannibal Buress, including some exclusive content, you have two options. You can download it here if you just right-click and “Save target as” to grab the MP3. Or to stream it instead, just press play.
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