Hannibal Buress Brings Live Comedy Back, Via A Rose Bowl Drive-In Show

File: Hannibal Buress attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema's Tag at Regency Village Theatre on June 7, 2018 in Westwood. (Jerritt Clark/Getty Images)

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Hannibal Buress had a spring like a lot of folks during the pandemic. The comedian/actor/writer spent his time playing a lot of video games, as well as pursuing one of his newer interests, making music. But now he's back doing stand-up, including bringing a giant drive-in comedy show to the Rose Bowl.

He hadn't been doing a ton of live shows even before the pandemic, but the thing that's hit him hardest was just not being able to live his life.

"Home is for coming back to, it's not meant for being there for the full 24," Buress said.


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Buress started an outdoor, socially distanced tour this summer with a friend, musician Open Mike Eagle — who also happened to the resident adviser in his college dorm. At the drive-in shows, including this Rose Bowl show, people have to wear masks and either stay in their cars, get on top of their vehicles, or watch from a trunk or truck bed.

"The energy's weird," Buress said. "I'm like, do I have to make a video, 'If you want to rent a pick-up truck, you might have a better experience?'"

It's harder to feel the crowd's response, so one way Buress is handling that is using a live band during his own set. It's not necessarily the standard for a comedy show, but it's part of making the show play to a stadium, as well as giving Buress his own test audience whose responses he can actually feel.

"I feel comfortable saying it won't ever happen again in this type of setting," Buress said. "Me and Thundercat doing a drive-in parking lot show — I feel comfortable saying this is one of one."

He's filming this show as well, using the same director as his last comedy special.

"It's not going to look like anything else I've shot, from a stand-up perspective," Buress said.

The comedian released a stand-up special on YouTube during the pandemic, promoting it via video calls.

"Doing television from home feels weird," Buress said. "There's a lot of energy that comes with those type of things ... and afterwards, too, where you get in the car, you go up to Midtown or you might grab a bite to eat. So to do it, and then you're just in your crib, wired."

Buress has also made a number of appearances as an actor, but he's taking a pass during this part of the pandemic.

"I didn't really like acting that much before, and so to film something now seems like it would be really annoying," Buress said. "And sometimes it's good stuff, too. This is a great concept... this script is good, the characters, but I'll check that out when it's out."

He's enjoyed being out doing shows and feeling the energy — even it is is a bit weird — but he's more excited about being able to go to a concert again.

"I want to be able to actively go just see stuff — watch music, go to random stuff, and have a spontaneous 'Oh, what's going on? OK, I'm gonna check this out — I'm gonna go to this, and then this, and then that,'" Buress said.

Chicago's started to open up a bit more — Buress has even started doing some comedy club appearances again in his native city, with reduced capacity.

"The panicky energy has subsided somewhat," Buress said. But he spent the early days of the pandemic being extra worried, as he's someone who suffers from asthma (one of several underlying conditions that the Centers for Disease Control and other health experts note could increase the risk of having a severe case of COVID-19 in those who become infected).

"It was just such a fresh thing — like 'Oh, am I gonna die if I do it?!'" Buress said.

Hannibal Buress performs with Thundercat this Saturday. Tickets for the 8:30 p.m. Rose Bowl drive-in evening show are sold out, but tickets are still available for the afternoon matinee.