Critics and insiders have long called Hannibal Buress comedy’s next big thing, but it’s only recently that those predictions have started to wonderfully come true. Working largely off-camera until just a few years ago, Buress is now a regular on four different comedy series and might soon get one of his own. In addition, this weekend Comedy Central aired his second stand-up special (and third hour-long set), the flawed but still very funny Live From Chicago.
Like previous Buress routines, Live is an enjoyable mixture of bizarre anecdotes, cultural commentary and uniquely Buress-ian non sequiturs. Of course, given the comic’s rising star, the biographical humor concerns topics like international travel and an encounter with Scarlett Johansson instead of shitty roommates, but none of that has dulled Buress’ signature weird edge. For example, he prefaces one bit about a palm reader and a jizzy hand with the disclaimer “this joke doesn’t connect to anything,” a line that could precede much of his vintage material.
Unfortunately, the performance itself isn’t Buress’ best. Recorded at The Vic Theatre in Chicago, Live has the comedian playing a venue twice as large as his last special’s and delivering a far more animated set. As a consequence, Buress’ act doesn’t have its usual dynamic range and he loses much of the slacker charm that makes him such a joy to watch. In Live, Buress isn’t the man Chris Rock once called “illegitimate son of Mitch Hedberg” so much as he is the illegitimate son of Chris Rock.
Ultimately, Live From Chicago is A-grade material in a C-grade package. If you’re curious about Buress’ stand-up after seeing him crush it on Broad City and The Eric Andre Show, a better introduction would be My Name is Hannibal or Animal Furnace. But if you’re a Buress fan who’s already burned through his earlier work, Live is a welcome offering from the undisputed master of rap and masturbation jokes.