When Hannibal Buress stopped in Raleigh almost two years ago, he took the stage of the cozy six-hundred-seat Fletcher Opera Theater. But since then, the thirty-three-year-old comedian has risen to national recognition on Adult Swim's absurdist late-night talk show, The Eric Andre Show, and on Comedy Central's Broad City, where he plays Lincoln Rice, the sweet, grounded boyfriend of the outrageous Ilana. Buress's stand-up career has enjoyed a complementary boom. He's put in plenty of work sharpening his sly, laconic humor, and when he returns to the Duke Energy Center on Friday night, he'll be in the 2,277-capacity Memorial Auditorium instead of Fletcher. We recently spoke to Buress about his growth spurt as a comedian—and his early retirement plan.
INDY: It seems like touring as a comedian and acting would each be enough to keep you really busy—how do you balance doing both?
HANNIBAL BURESS: Acting is not a constant thing for me as much as stand-up. Acting kind of pops up. I'll do something or someone will offer something I like, or I do something on Broad City, but that's just ten days out of the year. It makes it look like I'm super busy on a lot of stuff, but it's not as time-consuming as it looks.
Broad City has gotten pretty huge. What are your thoughts on how big it's gotten?
Yeah, it's crazy to see it grow. They brought me on board when it was a web shoot, and to see it go from a small web series with three or four people on the crew to a hit on Comedy Central—people go crazy for them when they see [Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson] out and about. It's been dope to see that, and see characters that people are fond of and connect to.
How does your approach writing stand-up differ from how you've written for TV?
Well, for one, I haven't written much for TV. But the thing with stand-up is you can always try whatever. I could think of something today, or read the paper right now and come up with a couple of ideas and then try them later tonight at my show. But for TV, you've got to think of other people's voices, and you have to have it kind of polished already, and it has to ultimately be in its best form before you get it to the actors.
With comedy, you can start out with an idea or a premise and try to figure it out from there. It's more personal to me. You can write stand-up without putting pen to paper. I have some stories that have been staples of my act that I never wrote down word by word, because it started out as me telling a story and holding it from there.
But when you write for television, you have to actually write that shit. You can't just say, "You guys say this, and you say this, and then you say this." With stand-up, I don't have to show nobody, outside of a late-night spot when you go to Colbert and you have to tell them what you've said. Besides that, when you're doing a gig, you never have to get approval and say, "This is what my set is going to be." I'm doing the Chicago Theatre tonight, and there's usually three thousand-something people there, and I don't have to turn it in to anybody. I'm just going to do a good job at stand-up.
This year has been a rough one for everybody in general. How do keep your head up and write comedy when so much of the world seems not funny anymore?
[Sarcastically] I'm kind of desensitized to all the horrors that the world has to offer, so I can keep my head down and focus on my ego-fulfilling goals and keep my eye on the prize.
You try to just have fun. The world has always had fucked-up things going on. You can look at any year and say, "Man, that was a rough year," if you really do the stats. There's no year where you are like, "That was fun, that was really nice and everything was peaceful." There's going to be war, there's going to be people dying, and there's going to be horrible things happening constantly. Do your best; if you have the resources to help in some way, then do. You try to ultimately just focus and do what you can.
What do you see happening for yourself in the next five years?
I want to buy a bunch of real estate and work a lot in stand-up and set myself up to be retired by forty from entertainment. Like a soft retirement, when I don't have to do it for money anymore. That's what the next five years is for me: just trying to make moves and get opportunities that set me up to be financially secure at forty to just relax.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Lincoln Continental"