The historic Saenger Theater sign twinkled, and ceremonial spotlights crawled the cloudy Hattiesburg skies as stand-up comedy fans assembled in a lengthy que to make their way into the theater for Hannibal Burress’ show Oct. 19.
Burress has risen to what he describes as “medium celebrity status.” This may hold true to his stature of fame, yet Burress has become a heavy-weight among contemporary comedians.
The New York Times called Burress one of the most “supremely gifted and respected” comics around. His rise to notoriety has been comprised of stand-up specials and small-roles that have led to larger and recurring roles. His most notable being a fixed cast member on the Comedy Central hit series ‘Broad City’. Burress is also recognized for his co-host spot on ‘The Eric Andre Show’ of Adult Swim. He hosts the podcast ‘The Handsome Rambler’ and has worked alongside established stand-up greats like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle. Along with performing his routines, Burress has written for Saturday Night Live and NBC’s show 30 Rock and has been used for voiceover work in the animated movies ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ and ‘Angry Birds’.
In the early minutes after 8 p.m., the theater began to fill as late arrivals pardoned their way into their seats, music blared and bumped throughout the venue, and Tony Trimm, Burress’ DJ and cohost of The Handsome Rambler podcast, played trendy rap music that coincided with a video display. Ten minutes into the music Trimm then interrupted the music stream with a hyping welcome to the crowd and brought to the stage the opening act, Kamari Stevens.
Stevens, a young comedian who hails from New Orleans, carved out laughs throughout his 25-minute set. His views on trendy rap music, internet antics and shady pizza deliveries along with other follies of New Orleans’ 9th ward were well received.
Hannibal Burress came onto stage at 8:35 and filled the Saenger Theater for the next hour and a half with constant laughter from the audience. From on-set movie happenings and next-level fan experiences to crooning the crowd with an auto-tuner and using a video display to show recent situations of his personal life made public, Burress killed it from beginning to end and all in between.
Senior broadcast journalism major Crystal Tolible had a chance to interact with Burress when the comedian probed the crowd with questions.
“It is now one of my top five favorite moments in life,” Tolible said. “He was absolutely hilarious, and I didn’t expect any of that to happen.” The banter session highlighted Burress’ quick wit.
“Hilarious! Hannibal Burress delivered,” Peter Kelly of Hattiesburg said. Kelly, who attended the show with a small entourage of friends and family said he was appreciative of Hub City Comedy for bringing quality entertainment to the local entertainment scene.
Jamie Arrington, mover and shaker in the comedy game and founder of Hub City Comedy, was responsible for bringing the comedy powerhouse to Hattiesburg. “Comics like coming here because people are really appreciative,” Arrington said. “Hannibal has been here three times already, and this will be his fourth.” Arrington has reeled in talent to Hattiesburg with a list that reads like a who’s who of popular comics. Big names like Frank Caliendo, Tig Notaro, Kyle Kinane,and Tom Segura just to name a few. Following the show, the Hub City Comedy Facebook page published a post that reads, “Another huge show announcement coming soon.”
Event Coordinator for the Saenger Theater Zach Newsom said, “We were actually approached after the Tig Notaro show by Hub City Comedy. They mentioned he might be interested in playing, and it developed from there.” Burress’ rise warrants larger venues for his shows, and Newsome said, “We were happy to accommodate.”
Hattiesburg native Alex Martin said, “I bought tickets the day they came out.” Martin mentioned how much she enjoyed stand-up performances and was out on the town for date night with boyfriend Steven Sly. The couple has seen several shows, most recently Kevin Hart.
“After seeing Kevin Hart in August, I was wondering how [Burress] would live up to the bar Hart set, and I have to say Hannibal did just that,” Sly said. The couple are hopeful for more ‘big-name’ acts to continue to grace Hattiesburg.
For more information on upcoming shows in Hattiesburg, visit Hub City Comedy on Facebook.