Everybody was waiting for him to talk about it. But then again, they weren’t.
After all, comedian Hannibal Buress is known for more than calling Bill Cosby a rapist.
He’s a millennial darling — as evidenced by his mostly young, white fan base who came out to see Buress’ latest stand-up show, “The Hannibal Montanabal Experience,” Saturday night at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia.
Buress has just over 1 million Twitter followers. He’s a favorite on the late-night circuit. He hosts a popular podcast, “Handsome Rambler.” He’s a cast member on the Comedy Central series “Broad City,” and has appeared in the films “Daddy’s Home” and “Spider Man.”
But some may only know the 35-year-old Chicagoan for his take-down of Cosby that many believe set the wheels in motion for Cosby’s two sexual assault trials. During a late-night show at The Trocadero Theater in Oct. 2014, Buress went in on Cosby, an American icon and Philadelphia native, saying he had the “smuggest old black man public persona that I hate.”
“He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up black people, I was on TV in the 80’s! I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom!’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches,” Buress said.
Someone in the audience recorded the bit, the video went viral, and suddenly, the scores of women who for years had accused Cosby of drugging and assaulting them were being believed. As the public pressure mounted in the weeks that followed, Cosby cancelled some public appearances, and he declined to discuss the allegations in a Nov. 2014 interview with NPR’s Scott Simon by shaking his head no.
Last month, Cosby was found guilty on three counts of aggravated sexual assault for a 2004 encounter with one woman, Andrea Constand. The entertainer faces up to 30 years in prison; his sentencing is set for September.
Buress’ infamy has been a mixed blessing. While many more people know him now, he conceded that his legacy will probably be forever entangled with Cosby’s.
“I ain’t being a part of nobody’s stuff no more,” he vowed in an interview with the Breakfast Club, a syndicated radio show in New York. “It was a gig. I wasn’t on TV or the radio. Somebody filmed it … That’s something I can’t really control.”
But at his Philly gig Saturday, Buress did everything in his power to make sure his material would not be hijacked again.
He granted no interviews and barred the media from recording the show. Each audience member was asked to put their phone in a special lock pouch, with no access to it until after the show was over.
As for acknowledging the elephant in the room that was Cosby?
“He has to acknowledge it,” said Mike Dennis, a Mt. Airy filmmaker, before the show. “This is Philly.”
During his act — which felt like it ran well over an hour, although it was hard to tell since nobody had their phones — Buress’ bits referenced things the millennials in the room understood all too well — Uber rides, Airbnb and property values, Kanye West and his love for Auto-Tune.
He also roasted himself for incidents that were chronicled via social media and posted them on a big screen behind him. One, when a kiss-and-tell fan wrote about a one-night rendezvous with Buress on Twitter, and another when a police body camera recorded Burres’ 2017 arrest for disorderly intoxication in Miami.
Then came the kicker.
“They put me in a cell next to a guy with smelly feet,” Buress said. “The guy said, ‘You look familiar … Ain’t you the mother f—— who snitched on Cosby?”
It got a laugh, but it wasn’t the biggest laugh.