Two Drink Minimum is a comedy-based column by Vague Visages staff writer Jacob Oller.
Four days before Kanye West attempted to retain relevance by riling people up with his “BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!!!!” tweet, the man who we have to thank — in a roundabout way — for how we think of Cosby released a comedy special on Netflix. Hannibal Buress, the man who’d sheepishly admit how his damning 2014 joke about Cosby’s sexual assaults “got out of hand,” doesn’t shy away from ironic comments about the loads of “consensual sex” his newfound fame has brought — even as he jokes that the news coverage described him as “broke-ass comedian, Hannibal Buress.” Always quick to find hypocrisy and absurdity in our lives, Buress’ comedy understates its way to greatness.
Disarmingly low-key, the new special filmed in Minneapolis, Comedy Camisado, defines his style both past and present. Launching camisados, or sneak attacks (usually when the enemy is sleeping — stay woke, folks), under the quilt of easy-going stoner jokes, allows the amiable stand-up to touch on the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality while poking fun at his own celebrity. He feels weird denying a cop a selfie, not just because it’s uncomfortable being confronted by your own fame, but because a black man should always think twice before telling a police officer “no.”
An innocuous encounter mainly brought up for its odd mix of emotions becomes much more through Buress’ rambling scrutiny. He weaves absurdity and high-mindedness like the antithesis of a Coen Brothers film: his aloof strangeness, rather than complexly amounting to nothing, drills down into the deceptively commonplace to find meaning. To bring back the Kanye connection, he compares his sex life to the Yeezus album. He’s not great the first time, but he grows on you until he’s one of your favorites.
But it’s not all quiet circumnavigation. Buress, moreso than in his previous efforts Animal Furnace or Live From Chicago, develops his punchlines into taglines, mining callbacks from diverse elements. These moments burst from his set, his sleepy energy erupting in bombastic repetition as contemplative jokes about checking into a hotel without ID are punctuated with declarations of the concierge being a “maniac.” Here the Def Jam, Bernie Mac-esque power pushes the punchlines past his carefully maintained persona — until he cracks himself up by lightly teasing a crowd member.
In a world where the Super Bowl halftime show echoes the Black Panther Party, artistic rebellion like Chi-Raq shouts for recognition, and not a day goes by without a protest, it’s hard for anyone to remove themselves from politicization. Buress, typically non-confrontational, slips his subversive humor in slyly, a submarine beneath an inky sea. Then he launches his comedic torpedoes. His mic drops come unexpectedly, encased by the observational, sexual, and introspective. But his blackness, he reflects, imbues his material with intrinsic politicization. What does it mean for a black man in 2016 to say/think/feel these things? With a delicate touch, Buress evokes what it’s like to need to make people “feel comfortable” (even wearing fake glasses at one point) in the modern world while bubbling under the surface, throwing out range-finding jabs as he preps his camisadoc uppercuts.
From AAA TV to Z-movies, Oklahoma City-based critic Jacob Oller (@JacobOller) would like to bring the world together through entertainment, writing about it for publications like The Guardian, the Oklahoma Gazette, and his own blog. He’s a decent impressionist, semi-decent karaoke participant, and terrible dancer, although you’ll have to get a few drinks in him first.