Hannibal Buress talks success, Chicago roots and his start in stand-up

Comedian Hannibal Buress has a sharp eye for life's absurdities.

Buress sat down with "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Anthony Mason to talk about his recent leap to the silver screen, his start in comedy and about that one riff in Philadelphia three years ago that brought him so much unexpected attention. 

Buress said that growing up in Chicago, you had to be quick.

"You have to be. It's just where I come from in Chicago. You had to be funny to be around," Buress said.

Buress went to Southern Illinois University to study business, but had trouble in Carbondale with a class called finite math.

"Finite math was insane. And I took it twice. I failed it the first time and took it again. And then I said, 'I guess -- I guess business isn't for me,'" Buress said.

What's finite math? Buress still doesn't know. 

He'd make his first stand-up appearance in college at open mic night. 

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Comedian Hannibal Buress

Netflix


 
"I remember gettin' off the stage and sittin' down and just -- my leg was shakin' from adrenaline. I just remember this leg, I was sittin' down and it wouldn't stop shakin," Buress said. "It was just, it was addicting and I just wanted to do it all the time. And from there I just researched everything I could about comedy."

A savvy self-promoter, he alerted the college paper, the Daily Egyptian, whenever he got a big gig.

"Who else gonna do it, for a comedian that's a year in?" Buress said. "They need stuff to write about in Carbondale. You just tell 'em what's going on, and they're like, 'Sure!'"
 
Buress slowly developed a following in Chicago.  And in 2008, he moved to New York, performing at the Knitting Factory.

"It's kinda where I really built a fan base in New York," Buress said of the Brooklyn venue. 

He worked on his routine, at times doing five or six shows a night. In 2014, Buress set off a different kind of bomb with a riff about Bill Cosby's fatherly image.  

Recorded on a smartphone, the clip went viral and became a flashpoint, as rape allegations engulfed Cosby. It was not the kind of attention Buress was after. 

"The bad is, I have to talk about it in every interview," Buress said. "It's not really about me. And it's weird that it's made about me."

Buress has moved on from the controversy and recently launched a podcast called "Handsome Rambler." 

"It's made me study interviewing more, study interviewing techniques - made me a better listener," Buress said.
 
This summer he has small roles in "Baywatch" and as a gym teacher, who presides over a detention room, in "Spiderman: Homecoming."

"It's still weird to me that I'm in big movies, where I'm like, 'What?'" 

Buress says he balked when his agent first sent him scripts. 

"And I say, 'What are you talking about? I can't -- I can't act.' I still believe that to some extent," Buress said. 

Despite everything he has going on, Buress says he doesn't feel like he's at a turning point.

"I'm just trying to stay consistent, and work enough to maintain a quality of life that I have now. I'm pretty good with it right now so I don't need things to go crazy. If I have five years of lateral movement, I'm pretty cool with that," Buress said.

"I'm comfortable, man. So, you know, I don't wanna fall off. If I just kinda coast right around here -- I'm good with that."