Stand-Up Comedian, College Newspaper Battle Over 3-Year-Old Article

An odd, public war of words has played out this week between comedian Hannibal Buress and The Daily Eastern News at Eastern Illinois University.  It began Sunday evening.  In a Comedy Central stand-up special, Buress ranted for five minutes near the start of his set about a three-year-old, 300-word DEN article hyping a campus show he once headlined.

He expresses a mix of both genuine and mock disgust at the piece for containing what he sees as awkward descriptions, racist undertones, and general tackiness.  Before diving in, he literally pulls a paper with the piece printed on it from his pants pocket and intermittently reads from it and riffs on it.  In his words, “This is all real and in print.  A human being wrote this and then they sent it to a higher-ranking human being, an editor, and that person said, ‘Yeah, let’s go with that.'”

Among other portions, he mines laughs from a redundant phrase describing his humor as focused on “comedic jokes.” (“Wait, wait, wait.  Comedic jokes?  As opposed to all the other types of jokes that are out there.  Am I missing out on a genre of jokes?”)

Separately, although he confirms saying it during a phone interview, he mocks the student writer for noting that his shows touch on “personal stories, current events, the streets [which he implies through a pause and audience laughter is an unwordly reference], and even food.”  (“What?!  Even food!  Who else is talking about food in the comedy game right now?  Nobody, just Hannibal Buress, that’s all.  He has cornered that subject matter.  He is the Lenny Bruce of grocery store humor.”)

He also criticizes the inclusion of a student event organizer who fully admits he invited the comedian to EIU in part because he is African-American and his appearance will raise performer and audience diversity.  Finally, Buress calls out the paper for mentioning the amount he was paid for the show– claiming it is embarrassing given the relatively low amount and does not add anything of value to the article.

In an editorial response, headlined “Buress’ Comments Unfair, Skewed,” top DEN staff first cite the newsworthiness of including performer pay in a piece: “What Buress failed to recognize is that the budget for the event was made possible through student funding.  As a publication, transparency is a vital function of our reporting, and we believe that informing Eastern students of how their funds are appropriated is imperative to our goals.  By including how much the University Board was paying Buress, the DEN was following the same protocol by which we might cover a Student Senate or Pension Board meeting.”

The editorial also criticizes Buress for playing both sides– telling a reporter something and then poking fun at the reporter for publishing it: “During his act, Buress admits to telling our reporter that his performances include jokes related to ‘personal stories, current events, the streets and even food.’  Buress then proceeded to mock the DEN for including this comment.  However, the blame for such a portrayal lies explicitly on Buress. If he did not wish for us to include that he talks about ‘the streets’ in his act, he should not have said it in his interview.”


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3 Responses to “Stand-Up Comedian, College Newspaper Battle Over 3-Year-Old Article”
  1. Nick Johnson says:

    He is a comedian! Even if he told the reporter those things, he still has the right to poke fun! Reading it from a third-party perspective, the story is a little childish. haha

  2. Eric Mesa says:

    This is my FAVORITE joke on Animal Furnace. I think it is all in good fun – he takes responsibility for the times he was responsible for the silliness. But there is a lot in that article that needed to be revised by the editor. Also, I agree with commenter Nick Johnson that it’s fine for him to make fun of the article because he’s a comedian. The DEN should just see it as free publicity.

  3. George says:

    My university always makes me proud.