Because you go into an interview with Hannibal Buress hyper-aware that the comedian is known for dropping bombshells — like, say, Bill Cosby rape jokes — you may think you’re well-prepared not to let anything he says take you by surprise.
Then he unfavorably compares your sexual history with that of former Utah Jazz center and Fred Flintstone tattoo enthusiast Greg Ostertag, and, well, that theory is pretty much out the window.
And so, David Byrne-style, you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”
Though he’s said before that he eventually comes to have a unique relationship with every city in which he performs, he concedes that he and SLC have more of an awkward, morning-after-a-one-night-stand kind of thing going on.
“Salt Lake City — it has its reputation. You know more about it than I do! I’ve only spent six to seven days out of my entire life there,” Buress said in a phone interview from CinemaCon in Las Vegas. “So I can’t get into specifics — outside of [Michael] Jordan shooting over Byron Russell! That’s really all I have.”
Actually, Hannibal, it’s Bryon Russell.
That said, the Bulls fan was eager to discuss and learn.
Buress called a day after the Jazz had taken a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and as an individual who counts “going to basketball games, going to fights, going to concerts and watching YouTube” as his hobbies, he was particularly keen to pick a local’s brain about a certain young Jazz guard.
No, not Donovan Mitchell.
David Stockton. Really.
“I mean, should David Stockton be in the NBA? He’s on the playoff roster! They tried to sub him in yesterday. Is he a human victory cigar?! He averaged 7 [points per game] and 4 [assists per game] his senior year at Gonzaga!” Buress said, his usual drawl growing animated at the perceived nepotism. “Michael Jordan’s kids aren’t in the league! Why aren’t Michael Jordan’s kids in the league?! Where’s Karl Malone’s son? His son has to be waaay better built than John Stockton’s son!”
Told that Malone’s son K.J. is indeed a physical specimen at 6-foot-4 and 303 pounds, but that he’d chosen football as his sport and just signed a rookie-free agent deal with the NFL’s Houston Texans, Buress remained undeterred in his search for a legacy progeny apparently more deserving.
“OK, Greg Ostertag’s kids — what about his kids?!”
Which is how we went down that one particular explicit, profane and hilarious rabbit hole.
Of course, such trips are not new for Buress.
Though he had already been an established comic for years, Buress became a household name in 2014 when a portion of his set — in which he pointed out the hypocrisy of Cosby as a moral authority given the long-if-then-underreported history of sexual assault allegations made against him — was recorded on a smartphone, posted on a Philadelphia-area publication’s website, and spread like wildfire.
“He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up, black people — I was on TV in the ’80s! I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom!’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches,” Buress told the disbelieving audience. “… When you leave here, google ‘Bill Cosby rape.’ That s--- has more results than ‘Hannibal Buress.’ ”
Though he would rather not talk about Cosby these days, Buress still has a knack for making news.
A recent performance at Loyola University Chicago, a private Jesuit research university, got in the headlines when his mic was cut off midshow for making a joke about sex abuse by Catholic priests and thus violating “the mutually agreed upon content restriction clause in his contract,” according to a statement by the university.
Buress seemed more amused by the coverage of his set than upset at it being temporarily shut down. (After momentarily leaving the venue, he said, he was soon asked to return and was allowed to finish.)
“The whole situation is pretty silly. The coverage of it is pretty silly! I finished the set! … The energy around the news and the headlines made it seem like someone carried me offstage. Or I was berated. But the mic was just cut off, and I don’t even know who did it,” he said. “I did the jokes, and then they cut the mic off, which is silly ’cause I was done doing those jokes! That was the end of those. I wasn’t gonna say that anymore, and I already said it.
“So they cut the mic, and the funniest part to me was … I’m backstage, and I’m not really that mad, ’cause I got paid already,” Buress added. “ ‘I only did five minutes of work and I got my full pay? Great!’ ”
Of course, Buress’ work is not all big-picture social commentaries. He has a recurring role on Comedy Central’s “Broad City.” He’s played supporting roles in various movies, including the upcoming ensemble film “Tag,” co-starring Jeremy Renner, Isla Fisher, Ed Helms, Annabelle Wallis, Jon Hamm, Rashida Jones, Jake Johnson and Leslie Bibb, among others. Then he’s got his “Handsome Rambler” podcast, which features guest appearances by comedians, actors and musicians, as well as “unfiltered observations on sports, sex, wrestling, relationships, philosophy, books, watches, other podcasts, bottled water reviews.”
Meanwhile, his standup material has long been known for including wry personal observations and for spinning caustic witticisms out of life’s everyday innocuous inanities, things most people wouldn’t think twice about but which somehow tweak his unique worldview.
“If something happens and it feels interesting to me and something I want to expand on and talk about to an audience, then I’ll try it out and see if it connects in a genuine way,” Buress said. “… It’s just, s--- happens in life, and I try to process it and say it in a way that’ll make people wanna pay $35 to see it!”
Speaking of which, when asked what Utah fans who attend Saturday’s show can expect, Buress promised tasty takes and delicious material.
“It’s all about different soups,” he deadpanned, straining to stifle a giggle. “It’s basically a soup personality test, where I take the different soups that are out there — minestrone, tomato soup, chicken noodle soup, miso soup, gazpacho — and then I take those soups and the different personality types we have as humans and connect them. And then everybody leaves and goes home happy.
“And,” he added, “there will also be a meet-and-greet package for sale where fans can bring their soup … into a room … and eat soup next to me.”
When • Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where • Rockwell @ The Complex, 536 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $34.50 advance, $40 day of; Smith’s Tix (show is 21+)