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Hannibal Buress: Comedian, actor and writer, this guy does it all

Hannibal Buress is bringing his standup act to Spokane’s Knitting Factory on Friday night. (Kellen Norsdstrom)
Hannibal Buress is bringing his standup act to Spokane’s Knitting Factory on Friday night. (Kellen Norsdstrom)

Friday night at the Knitting Factory will not be, as Hannibal Buress puts it, super-produced like a “goddamn Beyoncé concert.”

But it will be more than him on stage talking about where he is in life. “We’ll have some extra stuff goin’ on.”

“Extra stuff” just might be away to describe Buress’ career. He hosts a podcast called “Handsome Rambler.” He was a writer for both “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock.” He’s had three hour-long stand-up specials, the latest of which, “Comedy Camisado,” is available on Netflix. He has a recurring role on Comedy Central’s “Broad City” and has dropped in on “Bob’s Burgers,” “Bojack Horseman,” “Adventure Time,” “The Jim Gaffigan Show” and “Children’s Hospital,” among many others.

Then there are the movies: “Neighbors” and its sequel, “Daddy’s Home,” “The Nice Guys,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “The Angry Birds Movie,” and last year’s “Baywatch” reboot and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Most recently, he played Frank in the hit comedy “Blockers,” and in June, he’s co-starring in “Tag,” the film based on the epic game of tag started by a bunch of former Gonzaga Prep students.

Lots of “extra stuff.” But for Buress, it’s all part of the same whole: entertainment.

“I started only doing standup, and the other the stuff came as a byproduct of it,” Buress said in a recent phone interview from Las Vegas. “I’m an entertainer that focuses in standup comedy but who is willing to do other stuff.”

It seems he’s following in the footsteps of his comedy idols from his youth. Ask him to talk about the comedians he liked when he was coming up, he names several multi-pronged performers: Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. That he also named “the lady who did ‘Lamb Chop’s Play Along’ ” and his brother David, who would add commentary to TV nature documentaries – “He would do voices for the animals, and it always made me laugh” – gives one a sense of Buress’ off-kilter personality.

(Before our interview, Buress’ publicist indicated there was one iconic comedian he would not discuss: Bill Cosby, who was convicted of sexual assault shortly after we spoke. In a 2014 show surreptitiously filmed by an audience member, a Buress joke reminded people of the long-simmering rape allegations against Cosby. After the video went viral, authorities revisited the charges, and additional women came forward with more stories. It resulted in two trials, the second of which saw Cosby convicted on three counts of sexual assault.)

For now, Buress is touring his newest standup show, and his tour brings him to Spokane for a show at the Knitting Factory.

“Rock clubs, they’ll have a different energy, even for the comedy show,” he said. “The energy will be a little bit live-er. It’s definitely a different vibe than a theater. I’ve done shows at 200-seat comedy clubs, 3,000-seat theaters, 500-seat spots on this tour, so it varies. It’s fun to see how the different spaces work out.”

And although he’s playing his first gig the Lilac City, he comes armed with the knowledge of Spokane’s correct pronunciation. (“They should have taken that ‘e’ off and everything would have been just fine.”) He also, rather inexplicably, can rattle off the stats of former Gonzaga point guard David Stockton.

Once he hits town, he hopes for some time to explore downtown, check out the restaurants and “maybe pick up a joke or two.” He knows, as most comedian do, that local fans love the local references, even if they aren’t the mostly finely crafted jokes.

“It’s good to do that, just to break it up. Also those jokes go over easier than your real material,” he said. “You just have to kind of mention a restaurant and street, and go ‘What’s going on with that?’ ”

‘Tag,’ Buress is it

Buress has a role in the upcoming film “Tag,” which is based on the story of a group of friends from Gonzaga Prep in Spokane who as adults play the most epic game of tag known to humanity.

The film co-stars Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Jake Johnson and Isla Fisher. We asked Buress a few questions about the film, which opens nationwide on June 15.

Q. Was it a fun shoot?

A. It’s fun when it’s more of an ensemble. You get to kind of riff on each other, so there are a lot of improvised parts of the movie. It was cool to just see everybody had a different kind of style and approach. You know, I doubt we’ll all be in the same thing again, so it was cool to work with everybody.

Q. Obviously Ed Helms and Jon Hamm, you yourself and a lot of the other actors are well respected as funny people. Renner is an action guy. Is he funny?

A. Jeremy is pretty funny. It’s a silly movie, just to be the best in tag is pretty ridiculous anyway, so he handled that pretty well.

Q. And with broken arms? Didn’t I see that he broke both arms early on?

A. Yeah, early on. That might have been the second day of shooting. It was very early. He still shot. We didn’t lose any days of production, which would have been understandable, because if I broke my arms shooting a movie, I’m shutting that (stuff) down. (He begins riffing) “You gotta get a stand in or something. I’m a human being first, guys. My arms are broken! Warner Bros. can cover this. I don’t want to work today. My arms are broken. Give me a couple weeks, shoot some other stuff, and we’ll figure it out but I’m not working. I’m using my days.”

… But maybe it keeps your spirits up to be back at work? Now that I think about it. It’s good to be back at work versus being at home. You think you want to be at home, but your just at home with broke arms. At work, you can motivate yourself and be productive. You say, “If I can work with broken arms, I can do other stuff. I can do anything.” So he made a good choice.


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