High energy, laughs galore

Comedian Hannibal Buress brought a DJ and dancers to perform with him in a high-energy performance at Mr. Small’s Theatre. (credit: Xiyu Wang/) Comedian Hannibal Buress brought a DJ and dancers to perform with him in a high-energy performance at Mr. Small’s Theatre. (credit: Xiyu Wang/)

“Why don’t we eat penguins?”

It’s a question that is not often asked, but one that comedian Hannibal Buress asked nonetheless at a performance last week at Mr. Small’s Theatre, where he claimed he would pay $500 to wrangle a penguin and eat it.

Buress is a Chicago-based comedian who has written for Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. He has also been featured on Comedy Central programs and has appeared on various talk shows, including the Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

Mr. Small’s Theatre, where the show was held, was a very colorful venue. Converted from a church into a performance space, the theater has an interesting atmosphere and interior, although there was not enough seating for a comedy show. The venue is usually used for concerts and musical performances, which was clear from the fact that nearly all the seats were folding chairs.

The show started off with a bang. Buress came in after a grand introduction and ran around the theater, mingling with the crowd. Through most of the hour-long set, he was able to maintain that high level of energy.

The show, mostly composed of observational and absurdist humor, seemed rather experimental. Buress’ conversationalist, off-the-cuff delivery is very sharp and adds greatly to his jokes. Some memorable moments include jokes about Mitt Romney’s proposed changes to the TSA, Will Smith’s death, the practice of podiatry, domestic violence in the context of Kobe Bryant’s career, and Buress himself being the victim of a failed robbery.

Another memorable joke involved Buress’ trip to the emergency room after a car accident: He describes a nurse who chastises him for cursing in the emergency room. “What? Does my cursing ruin the emergency room experience of the other patients?” he asked.

Although the variety of the subject matter kept the audience interested, some of his jokes could have been more connected by a narrative. For instance, Buress made plenty of jokes about his experiences in London, but they were far too spread out.

Another less-than-satisfactory part of the show occurred when Buress riffed on ridiculous rap lyrics. The particular jokes he made, like those about Big Sean’s lyrics in the Kanye West song “Mercy,” were not very insightful or original. Where Buress did make original commentary about certain lyrics, however, he redeemed himself somewhat.

An interesting aspect of the performance was that, unlike many stand-up performances, this was not a one-man show. Buress had a DJ accompany him as part of the show, playing music where appropriate. At the end, Buress also had ballerinas and someone dressed in an Elmo costume dancing with him on stage.

Buress’s comedy is pretty original, and he is very talented as a comedian. For anyone interested in stand-up comedy, it’s an act definitely worth checking out.