Hannibal Buress Laughed in the Face of Loyola University

Hannibal Buress

Hannibal Buress laughed in the face of Loyola University in a recent performance at the Catholic College in Chicago.

Buress opened his act with a projection image of an email that was sent to him by the university’s show organizers. The email basically banned him from talking about rape, sexual abuse, race and sexual orientation during his set.

After he posted that email and read it to the audience, he launched right into a joke about priests and their long history of sexual abuse. The organizers then cut his mic. The audience booed that his mic was cut and then Buress kept on without the mic. He said, “Bitch ass old people. I can project,” (referring to working without a mic). Then he said, “Ya’ll fuck kids, right?”

That’s when the university increased the volume of the music to the point where Buress walked off stage.

Fifteen minutes later, Buress came back on stage to a standing ovation and went on with his set apparently after students took to Twitter and started requesting refunds.

As a result of this news, I received several questions as to what I thought about this. I want to address the two primary ways I look at this. First the “play-it-safe” way of doing things.

  1. The Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules. When someone pays you to perform and gives you the rules you need to follow, you should follow those rules.
  2. M-A-P: When I started in comedy I learned the rule of the writer and followed the M-A-P, Material-Audience-Performer rule. The material has to be right for the audience and has to be right for the performer.

These are the play-it-safe rules to go by. You want to work, so you don’t make any waves. Probably the safest bet for the new comedian.

The other way of looking at it is that Buress is like comedian Paul Mooney. Mooney built his career challenging the rules and breaking the rules. Mooney’s gotten kicked off stage and had his material cut more than once. But that’s what makes Paul Mooney, Paul Mooney. His willingness to be daring and to laugh in the face of the rules.

To some, it’s what a comedian is about, right?, being the ultimate iconoclast and taking on the status quo. Bill Burr is like that to a certain extent. Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Red Foxx, (and we can’t forget Lenny Bruce who made it all possible), all took chances and broke rules.

Buress is known for his outing of Bill Cosby’s rape allegations and injecting new life into those accusations. Some say it was Buress’s video of doing that on stage that gave that investigation legs and led to the ultimate demise of Cosby.

Breaking rules is what Buress does as a comedian. His profanity-laced material is often off-color, challenges society’s supposed norms, and attacks the powers that be by telling his truth, which in the case of the Catholic Church, (sexual abuse by priests) just happened to be the truth.

Also consider the fact that nobody reaches any level of real success without taking big, bold risks. Buress is a risk taker and his career success reflects that. It has become his brand.

If we look beyond the layers of this incident, we have to ask several questions like why did Loyola book Hannibal Buress in the first place? Did they not know the kind of the material he does? A quick YouTube or Google search would’ve given the organizers an idea. Seems to me that the organizers are not accepting accountability.

The other thing about this story that struck me was that it was reported that Hannibal came back on stage after the students started asking for refunds.

What?!

The tuition for Loyola is $40,000 per year. At any school I’ve ever performed the school had a budget for entertainment. Why were the students paying for Buress?

And if the students were paying for the tickets, the “Golden Rule” doesn’t apply to the administrators, it applies to the students who paid to see Buress. The administration facilitated the event, but the students paid for a product and I’m sure they expected to receive the product they paid for.

That’s like hiring the band Rage Against the Machine and telling them they can’t sing “Take the Power Back” or “Killing in the Name” or booking Cardi B and telling her she can’t do “Bodak Yellow.”

In the end, when Buress gave the students what they what they were paying for, the administration gave the order to silence him, thus screwing the students.

Which leads us back to Buress’s earlier statement: “Ya’ll fuck kids, right?”