Full disclosure: I was hungover when I spoke with Hannibal Buress. But before you hurl accusations of unprofessionalism my way, know this: it was a very last-minute interview opportunity, and the Foo Fighters played an epic three-hour show in Toronto the night before. So, yes, I had the shakes. And the sick irony of it all was that a chunk of the interview was about Buress’ recent sobriety. That was the good chunk — before things went south.
I didn’t forsee this turd-shaped interview hitting the fan in such spectacular fashion. It seemed like we started off on the right foot, talking about the comedian’s recent foray into kickboxing, his need for a breather after starring in summer comedy TAG, his affinity for weed edibles, and today’s rap scene. But somewhere along the line, my brain tapped out. I blame it on my electrolytes being at abnormally low levels, or my excessive dry mouth. Whatever the case, I eventually found myself hackily trying to goad Buress into sounding off on Kanye West, hoping to get some bit of quotable material out of him. It did not go well — he saw right through my attempt. All I got was roasted.
On the bright side, even when angry, Buress is funny as hell. He managed to heckle me and somehow maintain his famous lackadaisical stoner energy, cracking up whilst taking jabs at my journalistic integrity. It may well have been the most casual lambasting I’ve ever received. Not to brag or anything, but in a Drunken Master sort of way, asking Buress stupid questions was the smartest thing I could’ve done — it allowed him to really flex his comedic muscles. I almost wish his publicist hadn’t stepped in to mercifully end the interview. Almost.
And to think I was going to bring up Bill Cosby next…
What’s up, Hannibal?
I’m in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Cool. What’re you doing there?
We’re just chilling in Chiang Mai, taking a break from Muay Thai training in Phuket.
It’s pretty intense man! It’s a crazy workout. You know, I wanted to take a vacation after doing all the promo for TAG and everything, because it’s a lot and it can get kinda repetitive. So I wanted to do a reset. But I’m a bad traveler; if I don’t have gigs, I don’t make the most of my time. So, I started looking up martial arts retreats just because I thought it would give my days some sort of structure. So yeah, I picked this place Sumalee boxing gym. I’m a week into it. It’s heavy cardio, a lot of pad work. I’m still working on my roundhouse kick game — it needs some tweaking because I’m bowlegged, so I don’t get the full extension that somebody who doesn’t have bowlegs would get.
Is this a new sort of health kick you’re on? Have you started working out more?
Yeah man. This past few months I’ve been working out more. I stopped drinking this year, so you gotta do something with the time.
Why’d you stop drinking?
Just because I’ve done enough drinking! It was enough drinking. And I’ve had a lot of negative situations happen because of it, so I wanted to just, for the new year, give it a try to see what my life would be like if I didn’t drink — see how it’d affect my productivity, activity levels, overall health, relationships, finances, work, all of that. So, it was just more of a challenge, because it’s around all the time in entertainment, especially in comedy. And it’s poison!
What kind of negative situations did it get you into?
All kinds of stuff, man! Missed travel, getting arrested. I’ve had situations even before I was famous or doing comedy because of it. Everybody who’s drank has a negative drunk story. I don’t care who it is. Everybody can say, “I got drunk and this fucked up thing happened.” Everybody.
Oh yeah, we’ve all been there. Do you still smoke weed, though?
A little bit. I’m more of an edibles person — like a small dose of edibles. But I don’t really need it. Actually, I didn’t bring any over here, so I haven’t really smoked. I had a little bit of an edible earlier in my trip a couple weeks ago, but yeah, not too much.
Are you a fan of working out high?
Yeah, sometimes it’s good for repetitive activities. I have these weed mints that I like and I’ll take one and work out sometimes. Definitely for a cycling class or treadmill stuff, a small edible is pretty great. It’s only 5 milligrams; I wouldn’t take a 20 milligram — I don’t take ones that strong, anyway. But I wouldn’t advise a high dose, not that I’m some type of weed sommelier. I guess it’s all up to the person’s tolerance, too. I’m a lightweight with edibles. I’m sure there are some people who can take 25 milligrams, maybe even 30, and still have a productive workout, but I don’t have those kinds of aspirations.
Are you trying to get into movie star shape?
Not really. It’s not for that. It’s just more to push myself and just for personal challenge. The movie thing is not a huge motivation for me, or else I’d do more of them. I’ll do some, but I prefer just doing standup and podcast and working in real estate and I’m starting to get into the startup space a little bit. So, between all of that, it takes up enough time and I keep myself busy.
How has fame been for you? How has it impacted your life?
It’s impacted it in lots of different ways, obviously. Having a higher profile allows me to command a certain fee for shows and people will come see me do standup because of that. But it’s almost like I’m operating in this alternate universe, where people recognize you and just going out is a choice where you have to be prepared to have lots of interactions with strangers. But it’s mostly been positive. It allows me to meet a lot of people and see a lot of things and travel the world.
Is there a bad side? What’s the worst part of it?
You know, sometimes people can be obnoxious, and it makes them approach you with an entitled energy where they’re like, “We’ve got to take this picture!” I’m a stickler for phrasing. Or people will just interrupt certain situations. I get that I’ve picked a public job, but I don’t necessarily think the tradeoff should be having people be rude. But yeah, there’s some privacy that you give up. I’ve had people find my number and fake like they’re calling me from my parents’ number, just to get me to pick up. Shit like that. Or if I’m in the news, people will call my parents’ house trying to get them to comment. This is my gig, so when other people are involved because of me I don’t really appreciate that.
Is that why you don’t want to do as many movies — you don’t want to get too famous?
It’s just not — I don’t know. I think acting in general — maybe if I started to write my own stuff it would be more interesting to me. I just enjoy standup more — it’s what I started doing, so that’s that.
What about rapping? Are you gonna do more of that?
We’ll see. I do that kinda for fun. We’ve talked about releasing more music. I’ve put out a handful of tracks. I don’t know how far that’s gonna go, as far as how far we’re gonna push that. I just enjoy goofing off and freestyling and making songs sometimes, so even if I did put out something, I don’t know if I would start touring my music. I think I would just kinda put out stuff for fun.
What are your thoughts on the rap scene these days? Do you fuck with trap?
Um, that’s like two different questions. I like rap. I like all kinds of rap music and there’s a lot of great artists out. I like this new track by Smino, it’s got kind of a weird name: “Coupe Se’ Yern”? He’s out of St. Louis, but he’s collaborated with a lot of Chicago artists. The rap scene is great, man. I’ve never been one to say, “Oh, I [don’t like] the way hip-hop is now!” There’s always great music out — you just have to look for what you like. You might have to put in a little bit more effort but the quality is there constantly.
Do you like the new Kanye album?
I haven’t really sat with it that much. There’s a couple joints in there. But it didn’t really stick. I was thinking about that, how they rolled out all those albums back to back to back. I wonder if that didn’t really give each album its time to marinate and resonate with people. I gave all of them just one or two quick listens, from the new Nas album to Kids See Ghosts to Ye. I didn’t really sit with them over and over. That may be more of streaming thing now, too. I mean, there’s been good albums where, because of streaming, you listen to it but you end up going on to something else and don’t even come back to it. It’s not even a diss to that album — you just have a billion songs at your fingertips.
A lot of people wrote off Kanye’s album or refused to listen to it because of all his comments about Trump and slavery. Do you feel that made you pay less attention to it?
I listened to it when it came out, but I think that definitely made me less excited about it. Sure. That probably will pass with time, but you know, if somebody does a good interview or great promo or commercial before their album, then that makes you excited to listen to it. If somebody says something wack before they release it, then that makes you not as excited. If a movie has a wack trailer, you don’t wanna see the movie. Or if you do see the movie, then that movie has to work harder to win you over than if you were already hyped.
In a way Kanye released the worst trailer possible for his album.
What would you tell him if you could talk to him?
That’s not for me… I don’t wanna say it. Because y’all are gonna make the Kanye thing the headline. That’s the one thing — I don’t like to talk about other artists in interviews. I mean, it’s what I think, but while I’m doing it I’ll remember y’all will always turn it into, “This is what he said about Kanye!” Like, we talked about Kanye for 30 seconds. But the fucking editors just want to get clicks. It’s really corny, but it is what it is. If I went into that, y’all would have gone into that wack shit: “Hannibal says Kanye should’ve…” But that’s the business.
Ha yeah, clickbait. I guess that’s happened to you before, where you’ve had your words—
IT JUST HAPPENED RIGHT NOW! You tried to make it happen!
[Laughs.] Fair enough, fair enough… Um, yeah, like, what do you think about the Internet? Is that kind of—
What’s up with your questions, man? “What’s up with rap music?” “What’s up with fame?” “What’s up with the Internet?” [Laughs very hard.] What’s up with you?!
I dunno. You know…
C’mon man! It’s four in the morning in Thailand and you just said, [in nasally voice] “What’s up with the Internet?”
Well yeah, I mean, what is up with it?[Publicist interjects asking me to wrap up the interview.]
Ok. Yeah man. Well, I just bombed this interview. So, tell me about the worst time you’ve ever bombed. Maybe I can glean some wisdom from your experience…
The worst comedy set I’ve had? I’ve had a few. But I did an Apollo-style show in college. It was a terrible setup — they didn’t have a microphone or sound system. I was doing my set and somebody heckled me. I didn’t know how to handle the heckle at the time — I’d only been doing standup for a year. The Apollo has a Sandman who dances you offstage when people boo you. But the Sandman at this place, he decided to escalate it. He actually put me on his shoulder and carried me away from the people. It was the only time that ever happened there. I still despise him to this day. And that’s why I’m learning Muay Thai. If we cross paths, I’ll get my revenge.