Comic Hannibal Buress brings his quirky humor to Israel

The ‘Broad City’ star and stand-up comedian plans on getting a sense of Israelis and their culture before his June 29 performance

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

American comedian Hannibal Buress will appear in Tel Aviv on June 29, 2016 (Courtesy: Hannibal Buress)
American comedian Hannibal Buress will appear in Tel Aviv on June 29, 2016 (Courtesy: Hannibal Buress)

When comedian Hannibal Burress lands in Israel next month, he’s expecting to see legions of armed guards, lots of them. And 18-year-olds with guns.

“They’re hanging out or something,” said Buress, speaking from Los Angeles. “Everybody has to join the military and go out to the desert, or some shit like that.”

Admittedly, Buress’s view of Israel is that it looks chaotic sometimes, but he gets that “that might be a skewed view,” he said.

Skewed views, of course, are Buress’s speciality.

The stand-up comic, known for his quirky humor and a slow drawl that sometimes seems too drawn to be real, is perhaps best known for his supporting role as dentist Lincoln Rice in “Broad City,” a sitcom created by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, now in its third season and developed from their web series that first premiered on Comedy Central.

Burress is also the co-host of Adult Swim’s “The Eric Andre Show,” which will air its fourth season later this year.

He plays Officer Watkins in the new “Neighbors 2,” starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, a sequel to “Neighbors,” and he will be lending his voice to the animated films “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Angry Birds.” His third stand-up special “Comedy Camisado” is currently streaming on Netflix.

But it’s the art of stand-up that has always been at the heart of Buress’s particular brand of comedy.

He’s been touring around the United States for the last few months, reaching the smaller towns and larger cities where he hones his humor and act, making contact with his audiences and hearing what they like best.

“It’s kinda the same everywhere,” he said. “I’ve focused on hitting the smaller cities over the past year, and people are excited because people can’t tour there all the time. It’s fun and people show up and it’s exciting. People are the same everywhere; they just wanna laugh and have a good night.”

Touring, said Buress, is something he doesn’t have to do anymore, but still enjoys. It’s how he, like so many other comics, got started, when he was still in high school in Chicago, and first discovering his own inimitable voice and humour.

“Doing movies is fun too, they feed each other,” he said. “I keep it sharp by doing stand-up. And I bring that energy into movies and voiceovers. Fans might want to come see my stand-up because they’ve seen my movies. It keeps it creative.”

Like many of his fellow comics — Jimmy Fallon and James Corden come to mind — Buress has also brought in sound effects and musical jokes. He even travels with his own DJ.

But what may have inadvertently brought him the most fame was his now-famous 2014 bit about the sexual assault accusations against Bill Cosby.

He said that he wanted to make it weird for people to watch reruns of the famed “The Cosby Show,” the elder comedian’s perhaps best-known and most popular show from the 1980s, in which he plays a pediatrician and father of five.

That famed bit, in addition to the TV and movie roles, have brought Burgess accolades for his humour and delivery. But while he’s considered a prime-time comic, he hasn’t yet crossed into starhood. Critics have pointed out that he’s not politically or racially provocative, and is far more likely to poke fun at himself or societal habits and quirks.

Take social media, for example, and the vantage point of Facebook messaging, which often plays a role in Buress’s jokes.

Buress said he doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter much, commenting that “sometimes I don’t have anything to say, anything to post.”

“I kinda wish I could delegate it to somebody,” he said. “There’s a lot of noise that comes in, it can be energy draining.”

But it’s also a source of material, whether poking fun at himself for coming off as a pedophile when he accidentally Facebook messaged someone (see the clip below), or connecting with fans and friends on his own Facebook page, and hearing what they’re thinking about.

He also has a knack for examining situations in life — whether it’s the eight bottles of speciality apple juice he’s buying and his contemplation of the reaction of the cashier checking out his purchase, or his own genitalia and how it fails him at times — that offer layers of hilarity and a sense of everyone’s personal obsessiveness.

Buress said that he looks at life that way most of the time, although he does wonder whether situations are really that ridiculous, or whether the people around him are “just trying to get into my act.”

“It’s hard to know sometimes,” he said, relaying a particular incident with an Uber taxi driver’s take on singer Kanye West that just didn’t seem plausible at the time and will probably become fodder for his act. “If something happens really sticks with me, or I don’t realize it’s that funny and I tell a friend and they laugh, then I know it’s worth working on.”

TSA, the US agency handling transportation security, and the art of getting through airport security without being traumatized, is another subject Buress can talk about “all the time,” he said.

“I talk about it in three of my specials, just because it’s a big part of my life,” he said. “One time, they reprimanded me for a security breach. They have this thing, a TSA precheck, that you pay $80 for five years and you don’t have to take your shoes off and they don’t scan your genitals.”

He’s hoping for far gentler treatment from Israeli airport security when he gets here next month.

“They profile?” he asked, when told about the Israeli security system. “Hey, that works.”

Buress, who’s never been to Israel before, had always talked about visiting with his ex-girlfriend, who was born here. He said he’s planning on landing a few days before his June 29 appearance, to “try to focus in on the culture,” he said. “I like to get in and get a feel for the place and go from there.”

He will perform at Tel Aviv’s Opera House, just two months before comedian Louis C.K., who’s appearing in Jerusalem in August and added a second show, after the first sold out in minutes.

Buress is looking at some other possible dates in Europe, and possibly the UK as well. But for now, he’s working on something to do with Israel’s armed guards and 18-year-olds schlepping guns. Let’s hear what he does with that.

Hannibal Buress will perform on Wednesday, June 29 at 8:30 p.m. at the Tel Aviv Opera House, NIS 234 per ticket.

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