It was a surreal experience walking into The Tivoli Theatre (5 December), lines of white faces sat upright and motionless facing the stage as DJ Tony Trimm DJd.
Behind him, a screen displayed a series of video edits that were cut in time with the glitches of his mixes. Jeff Goldblum with Chance The Rapper, dog aerobics and Lil’ Wayne, Crocodile Dundee vs. Rae Sremmurd.
It brought to mind Doug Lussenhop’s video editing style, which helped make 'Tim & Eric' successful and is pivotal to 'The Eric Andre Show' where Hannibal Buress made his name as co-host.
Throughout the whole night Tony stayed at the back of the stage, ready to trigger whatever audio or video was necessary on demand.
Al Jackson was Hannibal’s stand-up support of choice for his Australian tour, and was the perfect guy to get a crowd warmed up. Being a teacher of 12-14-year olds before becoming a comedian gives him more than enough source material to draw from, but as his career has continued, his sources have become more varied.
Whether he’s talking about buying legal weed in California, 'The Walking Dead’s inaccurate portrayal of Atlanta or a DJ misreading his Instagram address, he delivers it all with an infectious enthusiasm. His use of colourful imagery draws you into each of his stories completely. It’s always a good sign when the support act’s set finishes and you’re left wanting more.
Though Hannibal needed no introduction to the audience, he walked on stage to a montage of his talk show appearances, film roles and other assorted footage.
After the applause died down, he launched into some Australia-specific material, philosophising about the one punch that resulted in the lockout laws. With a combination of laughter and “ooohs”, it was a good test to see how far he could push the audience.
Hannibal’s delivery is so loose that you’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s making it all up on the spot. He alternated between talking to DJ Tony Trimm at the back of the stage and talking to the audience in front of him, with the dry yet brazen confidence that made it feel as though this was how it’s always done. That’s just what Hannibal does. He goes out of his way to confound expectations, using his mastery of the dead-pan delivery to normalise whatever he says.
As the set progressed, some more elaborate set pieces worked their way into the proceedings. Some notable ones were his attempt to buy a pregnant lady’s baby in the audience, delivering sporadic lines over pre-recorded previous sets he’s performed as inspired by a half-assed set from Riff Raff he’d seen and an exploration of his favourite rap openers culminating in playing a sample of Nelly humming on repeat.
Despite the Hannibal Montanabal Experience title, there was very little flowing narrative to the show, rather a series of subjects that Hannibal wanted to talk about. As he put it himself when criticising the preacher’s performance at his uncle’s funeral, if you deliver something that falls flat, you follow it up with some killer material.
It’s easy to tell why Hannibal’s popularity is continuing to grow based on this performance; he has a masterful control over the audience, unafraid to dwell on long pauses and take risks. It gives everything he does an edge of excitement that other comedians struggle to emulate.
My only criticism would be ending on an American football anecdote that flew over most people’s heads. Though even without fully understanding what he was talking about, his delivery was so good that I still ended up laughing.