For the past two years, Hannibal Buress has been partly known as the comedian who brought down Bill Cosby’s vaulted reputation with a single joke.
What has that been like, and is he worried the two-minute bit — which brought to widespread media attention the history of sexual assault allegations against Cosby — will continue to define him?
That question seemed to answer itself as the comedian was hounded by questions on the subject by reporters during an appearance on a Netflix panel along with Patton Oswalt and John Mulaney at the Television Critics Association’s press tour on Sunday.
The panel started congenially enough when a reporter first asked about Cosby.
“Is something going on with Cosby?!” Oswalt joked before Buress answered.
“Oh I just do a lot of other s–t,” Buress said. Then he too cracked a joke: “It’s weird that happened like that because I was calling a bunch of other comedians rapists and that was the only one people took seriously. I used to be like, ‘John Mulaney!’” Then he added, seriously: “No, man, I’ve been working for a while and I continue to work. I work in film, I do voiceover, and I continue to do stand-up. That’s just one joke that people took and really ran with it.”
Mulaney added: “Many, many people knew [Buress] as an excellent comedian before.”
Buress also got support from Oswalt. “I think I can speak for the comedy community: Hannibal was doing fine without that,” he said. “He’d be sitting here now if that had not happened because he was on a trajectory, as far as material, and a far as being bulletproof as a comedian. That’s just incidental to where it was going anyway.”
Buress was asked if he’s still doing Cosby jokes.
“Probably not. You probably hear a joke about being able to Google’s people’s property values with ease. That’s what I talk about.”
But after the panel, a group of reporters huddled around Buress to ask even more questions about The Joke. The comedian seemed increasingly uncomfortable with the topic and eventually shut down the reporters grilling him. Here are their exchanges:
Public perception about Cosby changed after your joke. How do you feel about that?
“I didn’t put the joke out. People ran with it. That wasn’t my intention.”
I mean you did put the joke out.
“I didn’t put the joke out. It was stand-up and then it was put out, so that wasn’t my intention.”
Are you surprised by how far it went?
How has it impacted your life and career?
“Not at all. No impact on my life.”
Do you wish that you weren’t known as the one who said the Cosby joke?
“I have a lot of other things. I have a big role in Daddy’s Home, and it made $120 million in theaters. It was the top comedy in the country for a few weeks. I have my Netflix special coming up and a few other movies. My career is going fast. I’m known for many other things.”
At the end of the day, you ended up being the hero because you brought this to light and were part of the process in bringing this man down. It’s a good thing right?
“You said that, I didn’t say that.”
I realize that your career has moved on from the Cosby joke, but do you feel anything, on a serious side, of what the outcome has been for Mr. Cosby given that it’s turned his life and career around, and it did seem to start with your joke?
“It’s weird that a joke turned into that. I was doing a joke in my show — so that shouldn’t really influence public opinion or influence. It’s not what a joke should … I don’t know if it should go that far. You know what I mean?”
Did you have any idea there would be fallout at all from that?
“No, if you look at the joke, my quote is like, ‘Oh, I just watched The Cosby Show, it’s kind of weird.’ I didn’t expect anything to come from that.”
Has Cosby ever gotten in touch with you?
Was it rooted in any kind of knowledge or information that you had? Where did that joke come from?
“All right, I’m good, yo. Thank you.”