Hannibal Buress has built a body of work that includes acting credits (Broad City, Neighbors), sold-out live performances across the country, and a slew of late-night appearances, including on Fallon, Letterman, Kimmel, and Conan. Now he’s ready to put the whole Bill Cosby thing to rest.
It was Buress who, during a Philadelphia stand-up performance in October 2014, told a joke that rekindled years of hushed accusations that Cosby had sexually assaulted a number of young women throughout his career. Buress finished the bit by telling the audience to go home and “Google ‘Bill Cosby/rape.’ ” A grainy video of the performance went viral and, well, long story short, Cosby has since been charged with sexual assault and has seen his legacy as a groundbreaking comic and actor mostly destroyed.
Near the end of his latest stand-up special, Comedy Camisado — available February 5 on Netflix — Buress moves from crowd work into what he hopes will be his final say on the subject of America’s Favorite Dad turned accused serial rapist.
“Is this a setup? Did Bill Cosby send you?” he asks an audience member. The crowd hoots in anticipation. “Well, that situation got outta hand,” he says, deflecting any hint of provocation. “I was just doing a joke at a show! I didn’t like the media putting me at the forefront of it. They were sly, dissing me in the news: ‘Unknown Comedian Hannibal Buress…’ ”
“I got a lot of flak for that,” Buress continues. “I had people writing me awful things: ‘Bill Cosby’s not a rapist, Hannibal, you are.’ What? That’s not how that works!”
A quick callback, and he lays the subject to rest with a note of irony. “Who knew that an offhand joke about Cosby raping would lead to me having amazing consensual sex across the country?”
“I think I’m a better comic than I was a couple years ago,” he says today. “It’s just knowing how to not be satisfied with a bit getting laughs — even if it does all right, knowing it can still be improved. That’s been my approach with telling stories: trying to figure out the way to word it, have good jokes within and make it punchy.”
Offstage, the 33-year-old Williamsburg resident has had a busy couple of years: He recently starred in the Will Ferrell–Mark Wahlberg comedy Daddy’s Home, and this summer he will be heard voicing animated characters in two films — an adaptation of the popular game app Angry Birds and The Secret Life of Pets. But Buress has always known that high-profile paychecks would have to remain secondary to his own writing.
And what about the title of his new special? “Camisado,” it turns out, is a military term that describes a surprise nighttime attack. Asked about the choice of words for the title, Buress shrugs. “I like how it sounds and what it means. I almost named it Twat Waffle Camisado. I’m glad I didn’t do that.” (We’ll leave it to you to find that definition on your own.)
This month, Buress’s prior specials Animal Furnace and Live From Chicago have found new real estate on Netflix (“I might watch them,” he says, “to see how much angrier and sweatier I’ve gotten”), and he’s now hoping to give television another go. Twenty-fifteen Comedy Central series Why? With Hannibal Buress suffered from vagueness of concept and was canceled after the initial eight episodes. “The show got better over the course of the season,” Buress says, “but I don’t think that format really fit me. I think my next will be a narrative or something similar. It could be Netflix. I don’t know about the network itself, but whatever it’ll be, it’ll be as an actor versus as a host personality.”