Every once in a while, a comedian comes along who is a true original and forces you to take notice. Chicago's Hannibal Buress is that kind of comedian. Though his style and approach could conceivably be traced back to a collection of influences (among them Louis C.K., Chris Rock and Bill Cosby), he synthesizes and filters them all out in such a way that he ends up sounding like no one else. He has a deadpan delivery and absurdist worldview that combine in an unexpected way. He comes across as the smartest guy in the room, but won't stop being self-deprecating long enough for his audience to realize that. And though he loves and embraces the odd in his comedy, it never feels like strangeness for the sake of strangeness. You're never quite sure what to make of Hannibal Buress, and that makes his comedy interesting and exciting.
Buress has been establishing a name for himself in comedy for a few years now (it doesn't hurt have your own spot on Comedy Central, several high-profile festival shows and a writing gig on SNL), but his debut album My Name is Hannibal (recorded at Chicago's now-defunct Lakeshore Theater) is probably the biggest declaration of the young comedian's arrival we've had yet. It races along from deadpan bit to deadpan bit, offering his skewed take on everything from rap videos to video games to the only time it's appropriate to say to someone "You want a cookie or something?" to, of course, men and sex. To Buress's credit, that last bit is more a deconstruction of that kind of bit than another tired retread of the same jokes from the '80s club comics.
Like a lot of comedians who traffic in the absurd, Buress gets a whole lot of mileage out of applying logic to circumstances where it does not apply. Often times (perhaps too often) on his album, the jokes amount to a basic and unpretentious distillation of exactly what should be said in a given situation (when someone says something ignorant or stupid that is otherwise widely accepted, Buress suggests the appropriate response). Some of Buress's best material will appeal mainly to English nerds: it's a George Carlin-esque run on language, including jokes about onomatopoeia and the way certain words (like 'trials and tribulations' or 'rape and pillage') seem to only appear in conjunction with one another. He creates a terrific combination of smart and silly in a way that's entirely his own. When Buress goes too far with the silliness -- like a run near the end about how he wants to kick a pigeon -- it doesn't work as well. It's missing the same real-world context that his best material has.My Name is Hannibal is very joke-and-bit driven; Buress never engages in real long-form comedy (save for one somewhat extended segment near the end involving a medical emergency), which is great for audience members with short attention spans but may disappoint those who like their comedy to really build and go places. The observations and bits on Hannibal come rapid-fire, revealing his unusual and original take on the world minute to minute. It's not a perfect album, but it is very funny and shows the promise of greatness for Hannibal Buress. This record is something special.
- Album Release Date: 7/27/10
- Label: Stand up! Records