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Hannibal Buress Has Joined a ‘Live Your Truth’ Fight Club
The comedian talks about his new comedy tour, life without alcohol, and his evolving mental health
How do you solve a riddle like Hannibal Buress?
The answer may not be what it once was: there was a time when the key to his heart was a strong drink, a smoke and a night out. But as of late, the comedian is on a journey – a journey of self discovery, reflection and refinement.
Buress has been on a wild ride these past few years. His stand-up career began in 2002, but the past six years have seen him propelled from the stage to both film and television screens. On top of his comedy, he is now known for his roles in television shows like "The Eric Andre Show" and Comedy Central's "Broad City," and roles in motion pictures including "Blockers," "Tag" and "Spider-Man: Homecoming."
On the road for his newest comedy tour, in New Orleans this Saturday, Oct. 20, Buress talked with me about the changes he has noticed in himself, his work and his relationship to the Crescent City itself.
Topher Balfer: What is it about this show that you think is going to resonate with your audience?
Hannibal Buress: It's a funny show, it's real. You got some long stories in there dealing with some specific situations. That sounds like a vague way to say it, right? I'm talking to you like you're a cop. (laughs) We’ve got some cool visuals in there, and this would be the first time we incorporated visual with the audio. So it's a fun show, just keeping people on their toes a little bit, I think.
TB: You once said that you stay away from politics and current events in your shows so that the content is evergreen. If that’s the case, what fuels the comedy whenever you're writing a show?
HB: I think I've talked politics a little bit, but for the most part, I don't do that. I mean, there's a couple bits in this show that… I don't know if they'd be political bits, but they're about the political situation a little bit. We'll see when we record if it makes the final cut for the special, but generally what fuels it for me is what I'm interested in, and if there's something I can't stop talking about, or thinking about, then that's what makes it, man.
TB: What are some of the things on your mind right now?
HB: I talk about stopping drinking…I'm not one to try to sell a show or topics too much, but it's just a fun time.
TB: On the note that you've stopped drinking, you once appeared on Jimmy Fallon with a love letter to New Orleans about how you love the city because you can walk around with a drink in your hand. Do you think your connection to the city is going to change now that you aren't drinking? Have you been back since?
HB: I have been back since. I was back in April for Wrestlemania, and it was like…How will I hang in this city that I've visited so much and drank so much in, and a lot of my time was really based on that? And it was different for me. I think at that point it was only a couple months of not drinking. And Wrestlemania is long as fuck too…that’s a drunk activity.
HB: But yeah, man, coming to New Orleans sometimes, just the drinking by itself was an activity versus doing other things. I'm interested just to revisit the city, and I think I'll probably learn that there's a bunch of other stuff that I skipped over because I was really focused on just drinking and only watching music. But there's definitely other layers to the city, and some other stuff to dig into. The one thing that I've found is that you just got to be more thoughtful with your time, unless you want to be really bored or go crazy, when you're not drinking. You just have to really pick better activities that keep you engaged. Right now, it's just not enough going to a bar on its own. That bar better be dope or have some arcade games. I just try to find more exciting ways to spend my time.
TB: Have you picked up any new hobbies or any other vices?
HB: Vices? I'm into heroin now. (laughs) Heroin, I'm in a Fight Club…
TB: (laughs) You can't talk about that.
HB: That really… (laughs) well, it's a different time now. It's a new version, it's more of a transparent, inclusive version of Fight Club. The motto is “Fight Club: You Know, Share Your Truth.” Share your truth, Fight Club.
HB: I also work out a little bit more. I actually weigh more than I did, on average, so that really helps to just relax in general. You know, what I've learned is that some things that really… You show stuff, some behaviors, some activities that you attribute to drinking, and then some stuff is actually just who you are. So, I still fall asleep in my clothes a lot, stone cold sober. I still sleep on the couch, fully clothed. I don't know what that is, I don't if it's just, maybe I like to be uncomfortable?
TB: Have you noticed any changes to your mental health? I know you mentioned physical health, but are you feeling better mentally?
HB: Yeah, man! Yeah! It's nice to have a fair amount of clarity. If you're hungover a couple nights out of the week, then that's at least a few hours out of those days that you're spending on pure recovery and just trying to get back to normal. So when you're not doing that, you're going to have to use this time that your brain is working optimally most of the time. So it's been really good for being creative and coming up with ideas easily. And yeah, I feel I used to have those mornings where you wake up, you're just thinking of shit you said the day before, you're getting anxious, you start having lots of drunk, hungover Sunday mornings and afternoons, just texting people or calling people needily. Just, you get in a weird space in a hangover, so I don't have those days anymore really.
TB: That’s awesome, and you had a big year on-screen. You did "Tag," "Blockers," and you're about to wrap up "Broad City." What can we expect to see from you next on screen?
HB: I think that's it, man. (laughs) I didn't really take on anything. I set myself up for at least a pretty dry first quarter in 2019. I’m going to film this special in December, and really focus on that in the first quarter. I’m going to shoot it myself, and then we'll see how it goes from there.
Wherever he might go next, one thing is certain: Buress is on an upward trajectory, and he is showing no signs of slowing down. His podcast, Handsome Rambler, has already featured several notable guests like Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, and Lizzo and, most exciting for me, he is slated to reprise his role as Buddy in "The Secret Life of Pets 2."
You can catch Buress sharing his truth – and definitely not breaking any rules of the Fight Club – at the Saenger Theatre this Saturday at 8 p.m.
For more information and for tickets, visit hannibalburess.com/calendar