How standup comedian Hannibal Buress helped take Cosby down

Posted at 11:13 PM, Apr 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-27 01:14:11-04

Standup comic Hannibal Buress, whose 2014 remark about sexual-assault accusations against Bill Cosby went viral, is getting another serious surge of attention.

The path to Cosby's conviction on Thursday on charges he drugged and molested a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home arguably started 3 1/2 years earlier in a Philadelphia comedy club, where Buress during his standup act mocked Cosby's smug preachiness and called him a rapist.

"I've done this bit on stage, and people think I'm making it up," Buress said. "Bill Cosby has a lot of rape allegations. ... When you leave here, Google 'Bill Cosby rape.'"

Cellphone video of the moment taken by then-Philadelphia Magazine reporter Dan McQuade went viral, and so did the allegations. Stories that had been public but largely ignored for years suddenly got a footing. New accusers emerged, and old accusers remerged. Lawsuits and criminal prosecution soon followed.

Buress was silent on the subject after Thursday's verdict against Cosby, tweeting out only tour dates, and his representatives didn't respond to requests for a statement. But thousands of people were talking about him on Twitter in posts like these:

  • "Think about the impact Hannibal Buress made." -- CNBC politics reporter John Harwood.
  • "These allegations were made for years and were almost uniformly ignored. Then Hannibal Buress referenced them in a standup comedy routine that went viral, and suddenly it was an avalanche." -- Michael David Smith, managing editor of Pro Football Talk.
  • "Somebody buy @hannibalburess a drink today. And then again tomorrow. Forever." -- TV comedy writer Travon Free.
  • "Hannibal Buress changed history." -- John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary.

Cosby, who was known for his good-guy image as wisdom-dispensing, sweater-wearing Dr. Cliff Huxtable on "The Cosby Show," repeatedly denied sexually violating a Temple University employee at his mansion in 2004. Cosby, who's 80, could get up to 10 years in prison on each of three counts of aggravated indecent assault but is likely to get less than that under state sentencing guidelines.

Buress has refused to talk about Cosby in interviews, but he addressed what he had started in his 2016 Netflix special.

"That situation got out of hand. Yikes!" Buress said. "I was just doing a joke at a show."

He said most of the media coverage contained a "slight dis" when it called him "unknown comedian Hannibal Buress."

No one calls him that anymore.