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Sean P. Means: Comedian Hannibal Buress says he's more of a 'weirdo' than an 'oddball'

Published September 4, 2014 3:17 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Comedian Hannibal Buress is getting to be famous — and that's not always a good thing.

"It's interesting now, people recognize you, and people can be kind of rude," Buress said in a conference call recently. "They don't care if you're out and about with your girl. People will yell at you, or interrupt a conversation, just so they can get a picture to post on their Facebook."

Buress is getting to be recognizable all over the place. On TV, he's a regular on Comedy Central's "Broad City" and Adult Swim's "The Eric Andre Show," was a voice on FX's animated rap comedy "Chozen" and has appeared on "The Late Show with David Letterman," "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" and other talk shows. In movies, Buress appeared as a less-than-helpful cop in the comedy "Neighbors." And he's been a stand-up comic and comedy writer for about 12 years.

Buress is one of the headliners coming to Utah for Funny or Die's Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival — along with major comics such as Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, Aziz Ansari, Chris Hardwick, Demetri Martin, Jeff Ross and Whitney Cummings. (The show happens Saturday, starting at 5 p.m., at Usana Amphitheatre in West Valley City.)

"I wouldn't describe myself as an oddball," Buress said. "I like 'weirdo' better than 'oddball.' "

Playing on the Oddball tour — which has a shifting lineup at stops around the country — is a different vibe than playing comedy clubs, he said.

"There's less room for error in doing shows for bigger crowds like that. If I'm performing in a comedy club in New York, or if I'm headlining on the road, most of the people there are going to be familiar with my stand-up. This is a big tour. If there's 15,000 people, there might be a couple of hundred who are fans of mine."

Buress has found his delivery changes. "I'm a little more animated [in an arena show]. I try to just make it into a bigger set," he said. "I'll be back in New York Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and I'll be yelling in the comedy club because I was yelling on the stage. It's not really necessary to yell in the club, because the microphone picks it up."

That different vibe is one of the reasons he likes watching the other acts on the Oddball tour. "It's always nice to just see how everybody adapts to performing in this set," he said.

Despite the reputation stand-up comedians have for schadenfreude, that's not how it really is, Buress said.

"I want to do really well. I don't want anybody else to do horribly," he said. "When somebody does destroy before me, I don't get mad but I can get nervous. They set the bar to a high level, and I want to exceed that. That's just in the best interest in the show."

That's a challenge when the lineup includes people who have their own TV shows — like Louis C.K. ("Louie") or Ansari ("Parks & Recreation") — or, like Silverman and Cummings, have had their own TV shows.

Because of that disparity, Buress is sometimes called a rising star or, worse, an up-and-coming talent.

"I don't like being called an 'up-and-comer' anymore," he said. "Usually if you're not like Louis C.K. or Kevin Hart or Chris Rock, you're an 'up-and-comer.' I've been doing it 12 years, and I'm still up and coming? I don't really enjoy that term anymore. I guess I equate 'up-and-comer' with having a day job."

Those days soon may be over, as Buress becomes increasingly well-known.

But, as I said, becoming better-known has its downside.

He tells one story, about when he was using the restroom in a Best Buy store: "The hinge on the door was loose, so when I stepped out, the door just fell off of the hinge. I was in the bathroom by myself, I was washing my hands and hoping to get out of there. Then a dude pops in the bathroom, says, 'Yo, what's up? It's Hannibal Buress!' I had to get out of there quick, before he noticed the door was broken and I did it."

Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at http://www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket. Email him at spmeans@sltrib.com. —

Oddball Comedy Fest

P The Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival 2014, presented by Funny or Die and featuring comedians Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, Aziz Ansari, Chris Hardwick, Demetri Martin, Hannibal Buress, Jeff Ross, Whitney Cummings and DJ Trauma, plus a second stage emceed by Brody Stevens.

Where • Usana Amphitheatre, 5150 S. 6055 West, West Valley City

When • Saturday, starting at 5 p.m.

Tickets • $35 to $79.75 at Smith's Tix