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Hannibal Buress at Soho Theatre

Accolades and endorsements are much sought-after commodities in comedy and right now there is one person who’s hogging the lot. That person is Hannibal Buress. He’s been heralded as a future leading light by some of comedy’s biggest names – Louis CK, Tracey Morgan and Chris Rock are all fans. He also possesses a short but sweet list of well extolled writing credits, having worked on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. On top of this, it was announced late last year he was developing his own sitcom project with Superbad’s Jonah Hill. But while his superstar support and writing may be second-to-none, how will he fare when he steps on stage at the Soho Theatre? Perhaps unsurprisingly, he does pretty damn well.

In London with his first UK shows since his ‘Best Newcomer’ nominated run at Edinburgh in 2011, he makes an interesting start. Opening with some quick gags about the incompetence of British police before segueing into a routine on air travel is usually to be left in the compartment above your seat marked ‘American-comic-abroad material’ (Use Only In Case Of Emergency). However Buress is able to build a story and anecdotalise in a way that many can only dream of and it’s a quality that stands out throughout the evening.

There’s certainly no great plot, theme or message to his stand-up, just a collection of simple tales well told. What he has in his favour is a chilled-out attitude that belies some meticulously crafted material. On paper they don’t look like topics that are going to set the night on fire – the clichéd things that people say, trying to get a girl he meets in Edinburgh back to his apartment, a J-walking incident in Montreal. There are comics who would take this potentially lumpy subject matter and serve it up cold, but Buress can spark it into life and create something really captivating, seemingly possessed by the ever-questioning slacker spirit of Mitch Hedberg.

But it can’t possibly be all so perfect, can it? Well, occasionally he falls back on material from his 2010 album My Name Is Hannibal. Not a grand criticism – it’s excellent stuff and doesn’t disappoint – but those who have been following his career, especially since that album marked him out as a name to watch, will have been pretty familiar with his pieces on YouPorn and the fact he shares his first name with a very famous, fictional serial killer.

He’s certainly a different proposition to his major name cheerleaders and his delivery and demeanour are in no way as sharp as some of his contemporaries like Aziz Ansari. This is a man who has perfected his writing and lets the delivery just go with the flow. Some comics are rightly lauded for making much of their material seem totally improvised. Buress isn’t much different, only his skill is making us feel like he’s so laid-back that he doesn’t really care – he makes it look like an art form. However his audiences certainly do care and he can add tonight’s crowd to his ever-growing army of fans. Whether it’s as a writer or performer his name’s going to be known for a long time to come, and for all the right reasons.

(Originally published on spoonfed.co.uk)

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A Good Year (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1 of my 2010 comedy Top 10, you can read it here (or just scroll down the page a bit, whatever) but now for positions 5-2.

 

5. Lizzie & Sarah

Something very different now and something that, for many, went completely unnoticed. Written and starring the brilliant Jessica Hynes and Julia Davis, this shamefully never got further than one episode. A twisted revenge comedy it followed two put upon housewives who, having endured nothing but misery from their respective husbands, set about getting even. Was it an easy watch? Not entirely and ultimately its dark subject matter probably didn’t help when dealing with a broadcaster treading on eggshells over offending viewers. Dark as it may have been it was also searingly funny, challenging but criminally buried away from audiences without so much as a peep of publicity. Go find and ‘enjoy’.

 

4. Louis CK

There are few comics in the world right now whose stock is as high as Louis CK. His second major TV show, Louie, stepped away from the traditional sitcom style of Lucky Louie into a realm of realism where he plays a recently divorced, working stand-up, looking after his two daughters. It may be a little soon to start referring to it as the new Seinfeld but the similarities are there and with a second series already been confirmed it could just be a matter of time. Not a man to forget his onstage work, his stand-up gets better year after year, his skills lying in the ability to delve into the controversial without crossing into the downright nasty…too often. His career can only get bigger and better. An inverse Frankie Boyle if you like.

 

3. Four Lions

While we’re talking offensiveness in comedy it’s time to mention Four Lions. The reviews were a little mixed but then a comedy about jihad was always going to divide opinion. The most recent production from Chris Morris and his first full length movie, interestingly it was also the first time Morris had ever really embarked on any type of press campaign. Unusual as this seem it allowed him to pre-empt and deal with any grievances before they became Brass Eye-esque shitstorms. In comparison to previous work some of Four Lions targets were arguably a little scattergun but nonetheless this was a fantastic film full of satire, slapstick and pathos. And if nothing else it was just good to have the work of Chris Morris back on our screens.

 

2. Bo Burnham

At this year’s Edinburgh festival it was hard to find anyone who wasn’t talking about Bo Burnham. Having made his name through his increasingly popular youtube videos, the question was whether his act would transfer to the stage. It was a question he answered with an emphatic yes. Stylistically a goofy younger cousin of Demetri Martin, Burnham proved he is a fantastic writer and performer – just effortlessly funny. He was rightfully lauded throughout the festival and while he missed out on the main Edinburgh prize – despite being a hot favourite – there seems to be no chance of that slowing him down.

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