In 10 Words or Less
From behind the scenes to center stage
Loves: Stand-up comedy, 30 Rock
Likes: SNL, Hannibal Buress
Dislikes: Race-based comedy
Hates: That The Eric Andre Show is only 15 minutes long
Hannibal Buress is one of those comics who's very well known among comedy nerds, from his writing gigs on SNL and 30 Rock and small cameos (along with a namecheck by Childish Gambino), but now he's making a move for stardom, first with his brilliantly subdued role as co-host on [adult swim]'s The Eric Andre Show, and now with his first hour-long stand-up special on Comedy Central. With an act that is universal and hugely accessible, Burress could be set for comic greatness.
In describing Buress, Chris Rock invoked the names of Steven Wright, Mos Def and Dave Chappelle, but in watching him on this special, shot in New York City in December 2011, there's a distinct element of Mitch Hedberg, if he had a full night's sleep and a five-hour energy shot. Though he can get loud at times, there's a laid-back feel to Buress' meandering thoughts about Canadian crime, church and McGriddles that makes his comedy fun and makes his "outrage" more amusing. Whether he's getting upset at a none-too-flattering newspaper profile or discussing how his cousin is an awful person, it's with more of a sense of bemusement than anger, which is great, since screaming comedy hasn't been in vogue in a few decades.
Drawing from his own work experience Buress gets the most mileage, starting with his gigs opening for bands, including a guy who put the microphone into an uncomfortable location and the resulting concerns about hygiene. A point-by-point breakdown of a ridiculous college newspaper profile lets him roll out plenty of comedic jokes, and his time writing for SNL provided him with stories about forcing Megan Fox to talk to him, mean monkeys and getting criticism from Lorne Michaels. Though the SNL stuff peters out with a bit about the elevators at work, it segues nicely to talk of his life on the road, including the problem with biscuits and passive burglars.
Buress also tackles some tried-and-true comedy topics, including relationships, rental cars, air travel and his weight, but they definitely aren't the usual gags those ideas inspire. Along the way he takes plenty of tangents, touching on rape stats, pub crawls for charity, concerts and credit card fraud. It's the rare comic who combines Odd Future's increasingly reasonable anarchy, abortion, having sex with his grandma and how apple juice can overcome racism. But it's not just the unique topics he covers, but the way he tells his jokes, with a relatively non-stop pace and a constantly present smile, sells every bit, whether it lands or not, going so far as to explain why he tells a certain joke that doesn't quite work. That kind of enthusiasm is infectious and it makes a very funny set that much better.
The 65-minute special arrives on one DVD, in a standard-width keepcase. The disc has a mildly-animated, anamorphic widescreen menu with options to play the film, select scenes, adjust the set-up and check out the extras. There are no audio options, but English SDH subtitles are available.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer is solid, delivering a clean image of Buress and the room, with decent fine detail on him, and appropriate color across the board. The black levels are nice and deep, and there are no concerns about compression artifacts. It's your standard smooth DVD presentation.
Unfortunately, for some reason, this disc sports a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track, rather than the 5.1 surround that really should be the norm by now for stand-up specials. The audio is clean and clear, and there's no distortion on his voice, but it just sits there, center-balanced in the front of the room, when an immersive experience is just more enjoyable.
There's just one extra includes, but it's the surprisingly in-depth Hannibal Buress: A Week to Kill, a 34-minute documentary of the seven days before he taped the special on this DVD. Directed by Ryan Ferguson, it's a fly-on-the-wall look at how he preps for his show, including warm-up gigs he's not very happy with, technical meetings and the last-minute honing of his setlist. There's also an unusual moment that reveals the power of a camera when it's out on the street, and it will stick with you.
The Bottom Line
As someone who knew of and enjoyed Buress before, this special just nailed down my opinion that Buress is one of the next wave of comics, thanks to a set that's unique and off-kilter, and delivered with a sense of fun. The DVD looks and sounds fine, though the audio is a disappointment by not being in surround, but the extra is fantastic, making this disc easy to recommend for stand-up fans looking for something new.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.