Killer set boosts comic to 'SNL' writers room

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Sitting in “Saturday Night Live” head writer Seth Meyers’ office last August, Hannibal Buress was skeptical. Two weeks earlier, he had performed standup on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” and now, Meyers was offering him a writing job on “SNL.” “They didn’t ask for a writing packet or anything,” Buress recalls. Good thing. He’d never written a sketch in his life.

P.O.V.
“I want a different story of how I got on ‘SNL.’ I was killing Seth Meyers in a dice game. He lost all his money, so he pulled out a writing job.”
Influences: Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Louis C.K., Patrice O’Neal.
Represented
by: ICM

But what surely impressed those “SNL” folks is what’s been impressing comedy fans for years: Buress’ breezy, offbeat observational comedy.

Chalk some of that up to his metered delivery. Buress is patient with his premises, allowing details to set before pulling the rug out from under the audience. In one joke, Buress discovers unconventional ways to use leftover pickle juice in his fridge: Flicking it on sandwiches for flavor.

Buress spent his formative comedy years in Chicago, working fleeting odd jobs — falafel maker, temp janitor, product sample hander-outer — then hustling to open mics at night. “I fell for pyramid scheme jobs, the ones where they hype you up, like, ‘You’re gonna own your own business.’ Two different ones!” Buress recalls. “?’SNL’ is the first real job I’ve held for more than a month and a half.”

Though a New York move in 2006 was abandoned five months in, it stuck in 2008. He continues to tour during off weeks and hosts a weekly showcase at Knitting Factory in Brooklyn (Chris Rock recently dropped by to see Buress’ set), with his first album, “My Name Is Hannibal,” out July 27. So far, only one of Buress’ pitches has made it to air (a bit poking fun at Charles Barkley’s golf swing), though his ideas regularly boost other sketches.

“He is the funniest person in the Monday pitch meeting,” says Meyers. “A pitch is a nervous time. Most people speed up the normal pace of how they speak. Hannibal, though, has it right on the level.”

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