Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival stops at First Niagara Pavilion

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:07 p.m.

Hannibal Buress doesn't joke around. OK, maybe he does — but that's his job.

He just doesn't suffer fools lightly. Not that a news conference full of entertainment reporters are fools, necessarily. But he's not going to “just play along” for the sake of a good quote.

Buress is one of the headliners for the gigantic Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival on Aug. 30 at the First Niagara Pavilion, Burgettstown.

Don't call Buress an “up-and-coming comedian,” as some unidentified entertainment writer tried, during a conference call promoting the second-annual, arena-sized comedy tour.

“If you're not at the level of Louis C.K. or (Dave) Chappelle or Chris Rock, you're an up-and-comer?” says the famously deadpan, laidback comedian. “I've been doing this for 12 years, and I'm still up-and-coming?”

Comedian-actor Chris D'Elia (“Whitney,” “Undateable”), also on the tour, tried to spin the term positively.

“I feel like it's cool — it's like, ‘Oh, people don't know you, so they can't hate you yet,' ” D'Elia says. “I think they mean, ‘The best is yet to come.' I actually like the title, but don't call Hannibal that.”

Now, imagine trying to shepherd all of these famously prickly people to and from shows that need to start on time, and keep everyone happy and getting along. Somebody actually (well, probably) has that job.

Stand-up comedy is experiencing a boom at the moment, and Buress is a headliner in that world. He's had stand-up specials on Comedy Central, regular roles on the cult comedies “Broad City” and “The Eric Andre Show” and lots of late-night talk show gigs, but he isn't a TV star.

D'Elia isn't either, but he's getting close.

For that matter, everyone on the Oddball tour is a headliner in their own right. Most have TV shows, too.

Last year's Oddball featured the long-awaited return of the mercurial Dave Chappelle to stand-up, which is about as momentous an occasion in comedy as has happened since, well, his Comedy Central show went off the air a decade ago.

That's going to be hard to top, but this year's tour features the likes of Sarah Silverman, Louis C.K., Amy Schumer, Aziz Ansari, Chris Hardwick and Jim Jefferies dropping in and out for different dates. (Alas, no Louis C.K., Schumer or Ansari for the Pittsburgh date).

Buress and D'Elia were on last year's tour, and are both returning this year.

“It's a great feeling to perform in front of that many people,” Buress says. “The tours are on a weekend. I'll go back to New York, to the comedy clubs during the week, and I'll be yelling onstage.”

“The magnitude of it is crazy: 20,000 people, sometimes, in an arena,” D'Elia says. “They're so jacked up and excited. ... If one person turns on you in a club, that can get other people turned on you. People were literally getting thrown out when I was onstage (at Oddball) last year, and I had no idea. Once you get there, it's so much easier.”

Last year's Oddball tour came to Pittsburgh right after the stop in Hartford, Conn. There, Chappelle grew disgusted at the obnoxious, disruptive crowd and cut his set very short — having a cigarette, then walking offstage after 25 minutes. It was big news in the comedy world at the time.

The Pittsburgh show went great, though, and Chappelle ended up bringing his family onstage (who live relatively nearby, in Ohio) after a blistering set.

Most of the comics at Oddball know each other, and many are friends. Still, when you collect this many former class clowns, professional button-pushers and troublemakers in one place, there's bound to be some competition for attention, right?

“I like it,” D'Elia says. “If somebody crushes before you, it's definitely like, ‘Oh, this is going to be tough.' Competition — I don't really buy into that. I think a bunch of great comics together makes a good show. You're not going to be everybody's favorite.”

“I want to do really well,” Buress says. “If somebody destroys before me, I don't get mad, I get nervous. But that's in the best interests of the show. I'd never go up to another comedian and tell them, ‘Hey, tone it down, man.' ”

Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7901 or mmachosky@tribweb.com.

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