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A Conversation with Hannibal Burress

Photo: Marcus Price

Hannibal Buress isn’t on the payroll at New Orleans Tourism, but his bit about hosting a second-line for his cousin’s bachelor party was a hilarious five-minute advertisement for New Orleans that endeared him to the city. As he prepares for his upcoming show on Oct. 20 at the Saenger Theatre, Buress talks about some of his favorite spots in New Orleans, the best things he’s eaten here, the one thing he has to do when he’s here, and that now infamous time his uncle asked him for a “Plus 8” to one of his shows.

GoNOLA: I feel like we owe you a huge thank you – you’ve been like an ambassador for New Orleans for some time now, with some of your material, and it really feels genuine. Can you talk about your relationship with the city?

Hannibal Buress: Yeah, sure. My first time there was in 2012 or 2013 for my cousin’s bachelor party and I got the tip to do a second line as a celebration. I hadn’t heard of that before and so we did that and it was a really fun experience, so I talked about it on Jimmy Fallon and it just made for a good bit. It was one of the few bits of mine that was based on having fun and just drinkin’ and kickin’ it and having a good time and there wasn’t any cynicism or too much sarcasm in the bit. After that it, I think it did really well and kind of went viral locally and that was really helpful. When I returned to New Orleans, people were really hyped about that bit and that somebody talked about their city. That was an accidental byproduct of it. I wasn’t doing it as a pandering move. It was really just something that I enjoyed that happened to work as a five to six minute cohesive piece of stand-up.

From there, I’ve just visited the city a lot and had a good time. I’ve been there for different festivals and events over the years: film, movies, a TV pilot. Just lots and lots of trips to the city. Made a lot of friends there. It’s just been a really important place in my career over the past five years or so.

GN: Well we deeply appreciate it. Do you have any other stories based on your visits here that really stand out, but may not be a great fit for a stand-up bit?

HB: Last year, NBA All-Star weekend was here, which kind of overlapped with Mardi Gras which made for a wonderfully chaotic time. And my uncle, he comes to some of the stuff I do sometimes to show support, which is wonderful. But this particular time, he wants to come to my show, he asks for a plus 8. He wants a plus 8. Eight is an obnoxious number to ask for a plus for anything. For shows, for whatever. If somebody offers you tickets to something, I try to cap it at four, no matter what it is, four is the max, and I feel weird asking for four a lot of times. I usually just ask for a plus one. But plus 8 was a level of – I don’t know how to describe it. Plus, it was eight other dudes all in their mid-forties. So, fine, y’all can can get into my show, but as far as going to other things and parties – I’m not rollin’ around with you and your plus 8. This is a terrible idea. I can’t move around like this with me and my folks that I’m already with plus nine 45-year olds? Get the f— outta here man. We try to go to a party and it’s me plus 14. This is terrible. So I really roasted my uncle for that. Plus 8? I told his mom, my grandmother on him for that. Can you believe he brought eight dudes? What kind of trash is that? And I roasted him pretty good for that. I really let him have it on that Plus 8. So much so, that my uncle started making t-shirts that said “#Plus 8” so he branded it.

GN: Well, this was in New Orleans, right? So maybe everyone wanted to come here and hang with you since you know what’s up.

HB: Yeah. But, plus 8? No, man. I don’t want to be responsible for that many peoples’ experience on a personal level. On an entertainment level, sure. But just hanging out? I don’t want that pressure. It’s just too many people.

GN: Did you have any impressions before your first visit? Were you excited?

HB: I knew the reputation of the city. And yeah, I was excited. Definitely. I hadn’t toured here at that point. But yeah, man. It was super hype. It was my first bachelor party that I put together and at the bachelor party, it was only five of us. So imagine how jarred I was six years later trying to deal with a Plus 8. It was a great place to be able to put something together on the fly.

We went to Little Darlings and scouted dancers for the party, and I had made a playlist just for the dancers and one of the dancers didn’t like my music at all. She just shut it off. And I had painstakingly put together a playlist called “the Bayou Classic.”

GN: Is that on Soundcloud?

HB: It’s not on Soundcloud. It might still be on my phone. I want to find the playlist just so I can tell you at what point did she bail. But I can’t.

GN: I’m just going to imagine it had the Carpenters and Yacht Rock, sprinkled with some Lil Wayne.

HB: Yeah. There was definitely some Wayne on there.

GN: When you work on a film do you get a chance to explore a city you’re in? Or are you too busy?

HB: Nah, you get a chance to explore. Because there’s a lot of downtime, depending on the schedule. So there’s some time to really check out a place.

GN: And when you came back to shoot here. Were you kind of like the expert? Were your co-stars asking what should we do, where should we eat. Did you kind of take that role on?

HB: No. Not really. Because it was Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. So they probably filmed here multiple times at that point, and were in a different place in life. Just being dudes in their forties with kids that have done lots of movies. So they’re not looking to me for what to do.

GN: Right. “Hey, let’s go hang with Hannibal.”

HB: Hey, let’s go to Siberia, Hannibal! Let’s go to Lost Love Lounge! So yeah, that wasn’t really happening. Everybody was cool though but that wasn’t what was going on.

GN: Speaking of Siberia and Lost Love Lounge, do you have a favorite place or places that you like to hang out when you’re in town? Or do you always try to find something new?

HB: I hit up Blue Nile a lot. I just like the energy there, man. Out of all the clubs, jazz clubs and all that. There was always something just about the vibe at Blue Nile that just felt right. That felt more like a party more often than the others. And a lot places feel like a party but I connected to that spot more than a lot of others.

GN: I read an interview where you referenced enjoying BBQ oysters at Red Fish Grill after you had stopped drinking and had plugged into your senses more. Are there any places you really like to go to eat – any other places here where the food has been amazing for you? A favorite meal that you’ve had here? Like the best thing you’ve ever eaten?

HB: There’s a BBQ guy around Frenchmen that’s always selling barbecue plates outside. I wouldn’t say that’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten but it’s always on point. But those oysters are amazing. The fried oysters man. I already talked about them once, but I’m willing to double down on them. The fried oysters there (at Redfish Grill) and that chicken at Willie Mae’s – that’s amazing. And then I don’t remember my other meals because I was probably drunk.

GN: Do you still drink?

HB: No. I stopped.

GN: Can you talk a little bit about how that affects your approach to a visit here?

HB: I’ve only been once since I stopped drinking. I was there for Wrestlemania (34). You just have to be more thoughtful about how you spend your time. I can’t just say, let’s just have a drink. Let’s just stop in here to have a drink, which was always an option. But now you gotta think of something to do. That’s it. And I think that’s good. You have to be more creative with your time. That’s all.

GN: But there are options here beyond drinking.

HB: Yeah, absolutely. There’s lots of options. I think when you’re in a certain zone, like I’d said in the bit – I couldn’t imagine living there cause I’d just drink and throw parades. That’s where I was at that point in my life – where I couldn’t imagine not drinking in a city like that – or anywhere. So yeah, I’m excited to just really explore from that perspective too.

GN: Well if you need any tips or suggestions, please let us know, but is there anything on your radar right now that you definitely want to check out when you’re here?

HB: I’mma go on ghost tours! All those ghost tours I drunkenly walked past on the way to the casino, I’m gonna stop on Canal and say, “Hey what time is this ghost tour?” I’m gonna learn Voodoo. I’m gonna actually buy some art you know, around the Quarter. Maybe actually buy some art instead of just walking past it. And go to auctions.

GN: That’s awesome. That’s a full itinerary.

HB: Yeah man.

GN: Do you remember the band you hired for that second line and do you stay in touch?

HB: Yeah. I forget the first band, but then the next time, this tuba player Jon Gross kinda helped me out. Usually I’ll check out some of Khris Royal’s shows. We did a show together when I did a pop-up show at a small music club uptown. I believe it was the Maple Leaf.

GN: Have you ever been here for Jazz Fest or Mardi Gras?

HB: I’ve been there for Mardi Gras.

GN: What was that like?

HB: It was just the city on steroids. Just very active. A lot going on. The party starts pretty early and goes. So yeah, it was dope. At that point – the first time I was here for Mardi Gras – at that point I had been to the city a bunch of times already so it was cool to see that energy. Because I enjoy the city on just a chill regular weekend, so to see it all amped up, that was kinda fun.

GN: Yeah. It’s definitely something to see. So, just a couple more questions for you. Are you a Saints fan? Or a Pelicans fan?

HB: No. Just cause I enjoy your city doesn’t mean I take on your local sports team’s fandom. No. I’m Chicago all day.

GN: Really?

HB: Yeah. I’m from Chicago.

GN: I thought everybody loved the Saints.

HB: Yeah. I’ve been to L.A. I lived in New York for eight years and I didn’t take on any of their teams. I’m not just buying jerseys (because I visited or lived somewhere). I have been to Pelicans’ games though and enjoy them. It’s a good environment.

GN: Have you ever thought about moving here?

HB: I thought about it at one point. A few years ago. I was doing a little house searching but I don’t think now that would be the right move for me. But yeah, for real, at one point I was really looking at spots. I met with a realtor and went and looked at a couple spots but didn’t pull the trigger.

GN: What do you think it is about the city that draws people in?

HB: Yeah, it’s just a great energy, man, you know. The people are just lively and there’s a pride in the city and it’s very welcoming. At least that’s what I felt. The food is amazing. The nightlife is great. Just a great energy. Just being able to walk around and you never know what’s gonna happen. Just being able to go out without a plan and be able to have a lot of fun. That’s what I connected to.

GN: What’s the one thing you can’t leave New Orleans without doing first?

HB: I was about to Dad joke it out right there. You know what I was gonna say? You can’t leave New Orleans without giving your ID and boarding pass to TSA. (laughs). Dad joke style! That’s where I am in life now! (laughs)

GN: Are you a dad?

HB: No. I’m not a dad, it’s just a format that I’ve mastered (laughs). But yeah, the one thing you can’t leave New Orleans without doing? Are you talking about me personally?

GN: You personally. Is there something on your list that you’ll be disappointed if you don’t do before you leave?

HB: CRAWFISH! (laughs) Yeah, get that good bayou crawfish! (laughs)

GN: Alright. I hope it’s in season. That’s great. This has been fantastic. Thank you. And can I get a plus 8 for your show?

HB: Plus 8! Gotchu! (laughs)

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