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Hannibal Buress Tells Us Why He Still Tries New Material At Beat Kitchen

By Gwendolyn Purdom in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 6, 2016 3:23PM

Hannibal Buress (Marcus Price)

Before you see him take the Chicago Theatre stage Sept. 14, you might spot Hannibal Buress doing a surprise set at Beat Kitchen in Roscoe Village or Cole's in Logan Square. The 33-year-old comedian and Chicago native said he's been spending a lot of time visiting his old stomping grounds lately, maybe even more time than he's spending in his home base of New York.

"It’s always feels good to be home, and it feels good to see old friends and it’s nice to drive around without GPS," Buress told us over the phone while he was in town in August.

Spending time with friends and family must also be a nice respite from the busy schedule that's been driving Buress' rise from quirky stand-up comedian to household name over the past few years. In addition to his tour, "The Hannibal Montanabal Experience," Buress has showed up in Comedy Central fan fave Broad City, as well as Neighbors and Neighbors 2, co-hosts Adult Swim's The Eric Andre Show, lent his voice to The Secret Life of Pets and the Angry Birds movie, has his third stand-up special streaming on Netflix, and will appear in the upcoming Spiderman: Homecoming and the Baywatch big screen remake. If anybody doubted that Buress' time in the spotlight would stretch past the national firestorm he helped launch by bringing up sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby's in a bit that went viral in 2014, they've long been proven wrong.

Even with everything Buress has on his plate, he says he still makes time for his favorite Chicago things: hanging out in Logan Square, stopping by The Promontory in Hyde Park for a quick show, eating Mexican food at Allende on Lincoln Avenue. While his TV and movie career mostly took off from New York, he says places like Zanies and the now-closed Lakeshore Theater, where he'd often perform when he was on break from college at Southern Illinois University, helped him work his way up the comedy ranks as well.

So, after all these years does performing in front of a Chicago crowd feel any different? Not really.

"For the most part, a crowd’s a crowd, so if you’ve got a good room, you’ve got some people that want to see comedy, it doesn’t really depend on the city," he said.

Of course, some rooms are better than others—Beat Kitchen's Chicago Underground Comedy show, for instance, where Buress performed a set last week:

"That’s an audience that’s savvy and in tune with the process," he said. "They're open to seeing some weirder stuff, they know when a comedian is working on new material and that type of thing."

Moving from the comedy club stage to the movie screen seems to have been a pretty smooth transition, too, though the transformation doesn't go quite so far as to having Buress running down the beach in a skimpy bathing suit in Baywatch, which is set to be released next spring. Instead, his character will provide some comic relief, Buress said.

"I don’t think the world is ready for that yet," he said. "Despite all the diversity and opportunities, there’s still not a place for a man that looks like me with his shirt off in a blockbuster movie."

Fans can expect to see Buress go all out at his September "Hannibal Montanabal" show, though. When asked what audiences should look out for at the Chicago Theatre show, he emphasized pyrotechnics.

"I’m spending all of the money on pyro, breaking even," he deadpanned. "A lot of lights and flash and explosions. I want to have graphics up, a screen that shows how much I spent on pyro at that point of the show."

Joking or not, we have no doubt Buress will be lighting up the stage as usual.