Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support NHPR's local journalism that brings clarity, context, and community!

Hannibal Buress' Show Adds To Comedy Central's More Diversified Lineup


If you tune into Comedy Central tonight, you'll see a brand-new show featuring Hannibal Buress. Now, let's remember, he's the young black comic who made a joke that, especially this week, is not at all funny. It was about Bill Cosby and rape.


HANNIBAL BURESS: Google Bill Cosby rape.


BURESS: It's not funny. That [expletive] has more results than Hannibal Buress.

GREENE: Now for Comedy Central to be featuring that comic, Hannibal Buress, is a sign that this network has come a long way since bringing us the cartoon, "South Park." And let's talk about that with NPR TV critic, Eric Deggans, who's on the line.

Hey Eric.


GREENE: You know, it is a - it's a different feel to be listening to Buress say those things now, with these specific allegations against Cosby coming out in court documents that we've seen this week. Can you just take us back to that moment?

DEGGANS: Yeah, it's hard to remember, but back in October, people weren't talking that much about these rape allegations that have dogged Bill Cosby for many years. And Hannibal Buress had made it a part of his standup act, and someone in the audience caught it on cellphone video, put it on the Internet, on social media, and it became a viral sensation. It kicked off a conversation that made people take another look at those allegations. And of course, we saw dozens of women allege that they had been assaulted by Bill Cosby, and we saw people like NBC stop doing business with him. And, you know, now we've reached a point where it has become news again with a deposition that's become unsealed. So he started a conversation that has become a huge international news incident.

GREENE: Well, OK, so he has this new show that is premiering tonight, "Why? With Hannibal Buress." And just, Eric, I mean, the fact that Comedy Central is giving him this prominent place on their schedule, what does it tell us about the network right now?

DEGGANS: Well, Hannibal Buress was already an up-and-coming, young black comic before he did this routine about Bill Cosby that became this viral sensation. And he articulated something that I think younger black people were feeling about Bill Cosby. They saw him as more a moralizer, you know, somebody who was speaking out against some of the things they valued in their generation as opposed to being this wonderful father figure that everybody revered. And in that routine, he encapsulated this idea of hey, you can't scold us because you have this in your past. So now, Comedy Central, by giving him a show, is giving a platform to a guy who's sort at the center of the zeitgeist in a really interesting way.

Now, Comedy Central's target audience has always been young, white college-aged males, say, and their most-watched shows reflect that - "South Park, "Tosh.0." But they are starting to develop this crop of shows that feature nonwhite performers and that feature women in exciting ways that put them at the heart of the zeitgeist as well. And I talked to somebody from Comedy Central, and they told me millennials expect to see shows with a wide range of people hosting them and starring in them. And so by following the dictates of their audience, they've created these shows that feature these amazing performers.

GREENE: Well, Eric, you mention, I mean, the network's bringing on younger voices, diverse voices, young women. One of those young women is the comic Amy Schumer. I mean, her show just wrapped up its third season. And she's been sort of digging into this generational difference that you're talking about when it comes to feminism.

DEGGANS: Exactly. I mean, if there's been any other criticism of comedy in America, it's that it's too male-focused. And so again, Comedy Central has given this great platform to Amy Schumer to do a show that asks some particularly pointed questions about sex and gender. And whether or not you think she's a feminist, she is sparking these conversations that are really getting people to think about how sex works in modern life in a different way, and that's exciting.

GREENE: Well, and then of course, there's President Obama and his translator, Luther. And Luther's probably one of the best-known voices on Comedy Central right now. Let's listen to a little.


JORDAN PEELE: (As Barack Obama) Hillary.

KATE BURTON: (As Hillary Clinton) Mr. President.

PEELE: (As Barack Obama) It's always good to see you.

KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY: (As Luther) I pretended to like you for seven years.

PEELE: (As Barack Obama) You remember my anger translator, Luther.

BURTON: (As Hillary Clinton) Good to see you, too, Mr. President.

STEPHNIE WEIR: (As Savannah) My hatred for you is a pure force of nature that is going to move me onward to my destiny.

BURTON: (As Hillary Clinton) And this is my anger translator, Savannah.

GREENE: OK, so I guess Hillary has an anger translator now, too (laughter). And this is all from the show "Key And Peele," which is coming back for a new season tonight, right?

DEGGANS: Exactly, and so "Key And Peele" is another great example. Here is a show - it won a Peabody Award last year. The stars of the show are going on to do films. These guys have a great platform where they talk about race and society. And Comedy Central, by offering these shows like, "Key And Peele," and "Why? With Hannibal Buress," and "Inside Amy Schumer" and "Broad City," they're creating these shows that speak to all of these issues that are at the heart of our national conversation, but they're also really funny, and they're featuring new voices and they're shows that people are watching. So it's a win-win on all counts by featuring diversity.

GREENE: All right, NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans.

Thanks, as always, Eric.

DEGGANS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.