Published Jul 12, 2016Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.
For the most part, a comedy special exists inside a vacuum. We are presented with a single comedian on stage, usually in a theatre, performing in front of a large, very accepting crowd. In his latest special Hannibal Takes Edinburgh, Hannibal Buress attempts to break out of this vacuum by presenting his time at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where he Buress performed 26 shows in the span of about a month. The special not only presents these performances, but everything that goes on around them, chronicling the ups and downs of the festival for Buress.
The actual standup comedy is as good as always from Buress, as he tackles topics from shitting on planes to sociopathic phone charging, but as the special progresses, more and more of the jokes stem from his experiences in Edinburgh. This is what really sets this special apart — watching his comedy change and evolve, and see his performance get stronger. Some of the best moments of the special happen in these moments, especially when Buress is dealing with the struggles of performing so much, for so long, in a country he knows very little about. Seeing Buress hit that wall, struggle a little to regain his footing and get angry, make the jokes that come later funnier and more potent because they come from a real and human place that we see.
In fact, it's when Buress breaks down and starts changing his routine, taking in the festival for what it can be and going to a lot of different shows, and in turn changing his performance for the better. Changing little things — to use a microphone or not — change the entire performance in such a positive way, and it's fascinating to see it happen. The best part is that, through the entire festival from the early shows to the shows he struggles through to the return to form, Hannibal Buress stays really, really funny.
Hannibal Takes Edinburgh ends up not only being an excellent comedy special, but also a really cool look at something we don't often get to see so intimately. This experience adds a certain depth to Buress's material, especially seeing him take dark, negative moments and turn them into some funny-ass jokes.