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comedy review

Hannibal Buress At the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on Monday

The so-called "black Mitch Hedberg" told us that he prefers commas to semi-colons, that he's not a fan of unconventional facial hair and that he sees himself as something other than a darker-skinned form of the late, laidback comic.

Dudes with handlebar mustaches are cool, allows Hannibal Buress, but they shouldn't pass themselves as any sort of authority on anything serious. "You can talk about Slinkys and kazoos, but don't try to have a conversation about music," said the unruffled Illinoisan, referring to those "carnival-faced" hipsters. He then dubbed himself the Lenny Bruce of moustache humour.

As for the hipsters, carnival-faced or not, they turned out in force to see a rising, young comedian at a venue which normally offers its stage to rising, young indie bands. The Horseshoe Tavern on Queen West is not a Chuckle Hut out by the airport or a Snickers in the suburbs.

And as for his punctuation preferences, the 30 Rock writer doesn't go crazy with exclamation points in the way a few louder, would-be edgy comedians might, though he will rise to them on occasion. "You're throwing up my money on my money!" he once told a woman who, after becoming sick from the drinks he had purchased, upchucked around his hotel room.

Mostly Buress speaks in a measured, comma-rhythmic tone as he offers uniquely reasonable alternatives to common situations and confrontations. Why is the state trooper upset that Buress was doing eighty in a sixty zone? After all, the comic explained to the officer, his car is capable of going 160 miles per hour according to what it says on the dashboard, and, as such, "you should be applauding my restraint."

Buress has no time for pat sympathy or consoling spirituality. "Don't pray for me," is his response, "make me a sandwich." And if someone were to tell Buress that their thoughts were with him and his kin? "Please keep me and my family out of your thoughts – unless you're thinking about making a sandwich."

He likes his sandwiches. Loath to throw away a jaw full of pickle juice after the pickles are gone, Buress admits to dipping his fingers into the brine and flicking them at the bread for pickle flavouring. "I'm the Lenny Bruce of food comedians," he then surmised.

I don't think the likable Buress is the Lenny Bruce of anything, honestly. He's a gifted observational humourist and storyteller who wins with languid wryness and subtle strains of absurdity. He's the darling of the dorm rooms, but may lack an outsized personality or offbeat intensity to make it to the big rooms as a stand-up. On-screen work in television or film might come next instead.

It's hard to know what the future holds, but we can say this: Buress is one funny guy, period.

Hannibal Buress plays Montreal's Just for Laughs, July 21 to 30.