So Many LOLs: Hannibal Buress, Tarran Killam and More Kick off Bonnaroo Comedy

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Day One of Bonnaroo is still acclimation day: finding your bearings, learning how to drink water without having to ever pee, and really considering if that phone-battery-draining text is worth it. Because of this, Thursdays are rarely entertainment blast-off days: except for comedy. Yesterday was a bang-up comedy day. And it seems like there are new, more comfortable seats in the theater!

The biggest highlight was Hannibal Buress, the only performer of the day who had a standing ovation upon entrance. Decked out in shiny silver pants similar to Billy Corganʼs during the “Zero” era, he dubbed them his “festival pants” and riffed on Riff Raff (“He got paid to vibe out to his own shit”), the joys of playing craps (“I donʼt believe in you for $30”), and how his girlfriend gives him health tips like “Hannibal, youʼre going to die.” He had a DJ on stage the whole time to punctuate certain punch lines, and also used him to provide examples of assorted rap songs that explicitly mention morning boners. And in full Kanye style, he had a trio of ballerinas come out to present his pants-matching silver jacket while he rapped a song that mostly went “raps raps raps raps.” I know it’s difficult to make that sound like much, but trust me, it was great live.

The Saturday Night Live cast was heavily represented Thursday as well, with Brooks Wheelan, Taran Killam, assorted fellows from Good Neighbor (including new SNL favorite Kyle Mooney) and Sasheer Zamata. Brooks Wheelan was not scheduled for the slot we saw him in as far as we could tell, but he was very much a pleasant surprise. “Welcome to Woodstock ʼ94,” he proclaimed, and mentioned that earlier at the festival that a manʼs ponytail touched his mouth. He also shared some sketch ideas that never made it past pitch meetings at SNL: the Titanic band deciding to not go down with the ship, an episode of Undercover Boss thatʼs just Bruce Springsteen in a fake mustache (ha), and Field of Dreams but with Nazis, because itʼs never specified who is actually coming.

My favorite bit of the day was “Shelly Silverino,” a math person who does math tricks (this is Good Neighbor). Planted throughout the audience were “actors” who had been hired to make his magical math tricks seem wondrous, but they had gotten together and workshopped his ideas, hiring new actors in the process. This is the first time as far as I can remember that the performers have been integrated into the crowd at the Comedy Theater, and it was a delight. They also joined Taran Killam, who pulled up a good-sport audience member named Jill just to kick her out for being on drugs. Killam sang and danced a lot, and forced Jill to act as an example of “What not to be.”

Then Jill died.

Professor Higgedly Piggeldy came out to solve the crime (for foul play was afoot) and accused another good-sport audience member (Malcolm, I think) of the crime. He was about to be executed, but luckily Jill was not dead and then there was more singing and dancing. So much fun.

Sasheer Zamata did two different sets yesterday, and neither of them was particularly interesting. She never connected with the crowd, even when talking about Bobby Womack story songs or having black nerd Trekkie parents. More fun was Emily Heller, who described herself as a weird kid who wore a necklace that was just tape and oregano, and in true Bonnaroo style, she mentioned THE WEED, and asked if anyone has ever “gotten so high Law & Order: SVU was scary again?”

Letʼs find out today!

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