I don’t know if I’ve ever accused a stand-up special of being overproduced before. Normally you just grab a few cameras, throw a bunch of people in a room, get Bobcat Goldthwait or Lance Bangs or a music video director to film yourself doing your set a few times, and then edit it all together into an hour or so that cuts out any rough or embarrassing moments. Make sure there are tons of crowd shots, to prove that there are people there, and that their laughter is real. If you want to get arty you can shoot a student film-level short to work as an intro, and maybe spring to license one big song. Crank that out, get it on people’s TVs however you can, and then start the whole process over again.
Hannibal Buress takes a slightly different approach on Miami Nights, his new special that premiered on YouTube over the weekend. The biggest thing you’ll notice is that there are no crowd shots. Not a single one. We hear laughter, we can assume there are people there, but we never see any of them. It’s not that big of a deal, but it definitely sticks out, and once you realize what’s happening it can actually be a little distracting. You keep waiting for a look at the crowd, like when you watch one of those gimmicky movies that tries to keep a single shot for its entire length, and at times thinking about that and anticipating it can overwhelm Buress’s actual performance.
Hannibal Buress’s comedy has always been a bit shaggy. His personality is a huge part of his appeal—a little sleepy, a little laid-back, but able to point out idiocy and hypocrisy like a laser beam and efficiently tear it apart with his comedy. This is all on full display in Miami Nights. There’s not a lot of traditional jokes here, but Buress’s delivery is so defined and unique that he can effortlessly get laughs just by how he says things. The long show-closing bit about his 2017 arrest in Miami and the absurdity of the cop who did it sums up the Buress style: yes, it’s a well-observed, highly detailed, perfectly timely tale, but it feels less like a structured piece of comedy and more like a friend rambling his way through a story.
Perhaps that’s why Miami Nights has its unique aesthetic. Beyond the lack of crowd shots, Buress uses a large screen behind him to play different videos and slides that relate to his stories, and there’s a variety of post-production visual effects and graphics used for emphasis throughout. When he acts out mock anger his voice will suddenly be distorted and flames will engulf him. When he mentions his teeth the camera will zoom in tightly on them. It all adds a bit of energy to a show that otherwise lacks it.
Miami Nights might not be Buress’s best special, but that level of production makes it his most memorable. And it’s absolutely worth watching for fans of his comedy, if only for his story about hanging out 2 Chainz. It’s a cool experiment wrapped around another solid hour of Buress stand-up.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.