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Hannibal Buress: The comic who kindled the Cosby firestorm

Hannibal Buress: The comic who kindled the Cosby firestorm
Hannibal Buress hosts "Why? with Hannibal Buress" on Comedy Central. (Jason Nocito/Comedy Central)

Just over a year ago, a comedy routine by Hannibal Buress changed the lives of nearly 50 women.

"Pull your pants up black people, I was on TV in the '80s," Buress said during a show at a Philadelphia comedy club, mocking Bill Cosby. "Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby. So turn the crazy down a couple notches."

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From the stage, he implored audience members who didn't believe him to "Google 'Bill Cosby rape'" once they left the show: "That … has more results than 'Hannibal Buress,'" he said.

But they didn't have to.

A short clip of the joke went viral days later, paving the way for a media firestorm in which countless alleged victims of "The Cosby Show" patriarch accused him of sexual assault. Though many of the incidents took place decades ago, Cosby was charged Wednesday with aggravated indecent assault for an alleged 2004 incident.

Burres could not be reached for comment this week. But he appears to have no interest in capitalizing on his role in the Cosby saga.

In a June interview with GQ, the comedian known for a role on "Broad City" and as co-host of "The Eric Andre Show" opened up about his shock in reaction to the fallout from the Cosby joke.

"You can't predict … like that," he said.

When pressed by the interviewer, he rejected the idea of being a "feminist hero" for helping to give voice to Cosby's accusers, including former models Beverly Johnson and Janice Dickinson.

"People are going to put on you whatever they want to put on you," he said. "It is conflicting, because people think I'm like this amazing guy or something. I'm a decent guy."

The controversy around the joke, however -- and his name being associated with the word "rape" -- did delay Comedy Central's announcement of Hannibal's new TV show, Buress said. But the show did go on the air in July.

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"Why?" aims to tackle topical issues with sketches, man-on-the-street interviews and stand-up comedy in front of a studio audience. To date, Lupe Fiasco, King Los and Jean Grae have appeared as musical guests.

Buress also garnered more fans during the Comedy Central roast of Justin Bieber this spring, during which he took another shot at Cosby. He joked that he hates Bieber's music "more than Bill Cosby hates my comedy."

But if his GQ interview is any indication, he's tired of talking about Cosby.

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"I don't know what the … else you want me to say," he said.

Follow me on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson.

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