Hannibal Buress' goal to contribute to Mississippi's economy, starting with Isola Fest.
Updated: Jul 24, 2020
Right after Thanksgiving, Comedian Hannibal Buress announced his first-ever festival, Isola Fest, taking place in Isola, Mississippi. The line up includes T-Pain, Eryn Allen Kane, Open Mike Eagle, Dear Silas, Vitamin Cea, Tony Trimm and more. You're probably wondering the same thing we were, out of all the places in the world, why, how Isola? Isola is a town in the Mississippi Delta with a population of about 800 people. How did Hannibal decide to produce a festival in the heart of Mississippi...
Hannibal Buress is a comedian, writer podcast host, and actor. He is also a cast member on Comedy Central’s hit series Broad City, as well as the former co-host of Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show. Buress is a favorite on the late-night circuit, recently appearing with Dave Chappelle, Chance The Rapper, Chris Rock, Nas and Ms. Lauryn Hill, and has written for NBC’s Saturday Night Live as well as 30 Rock. We got a chance to catch up with him to get insight into how Isola Fest came about and what inspired him to host it to the small town of Isola, Mississippi.
Jasmine: Thank you for taking the time out to talk with us today. So, how is everything coming with the festival??
Hannibal: Everything's coming together really well! There’s a lot of moving parts and it’s a different type of undertaking for me but I have a team and it’s moving. We’re basically doing final touches on the technical side you know, making sure the lighting and sound are all together but it’s looking really good, I’m very confident about it.
Jasmine: I read that your mom is from Mississippi, outside of that fact, what inspired you to bring a festival here?
Hannibal: Well, it didn’t really start out as a fest. I helped my cousin get this space for a club(which used to be an auto parts store). I mean, I’ve been down a couple times this year and last year as well and I hadn’t done a show there ever. And it’s like, my family has a venue there so it’s like, why not do a show? The original thought was to boost the club by doing one show. And if we have different events at the club i.e. open mic, etc it gives the people in the town something else to do. So initially, it started out as a show, one night… really fun but it blew into something more.
The first person I asked was T-Pain, right after I had the idea. I was expecting him to say no. You know you never know until you ask folks sometimes. I told him, I have this crazy idea I want to do a show in Mississippi, I have this club in a very small town it’ll be in December, just let me know and he said yes. So that kinda gassed me up. (LOL) Like I said, it started out as a one day thing but then I said to myself, I’m gonna be down there anyway so might as well make it a full weekend. So that’s really how it came together. Now we’re having a FEST, in December, in ISOLA.
Jasmine: Right?! Being, well living in Mississippi and seeing someone bring a festival here is a really big deal. When I first saw the flyer and saw you looking for artists I was very intrigued to see what you were up to. You know a lot of people look at Mississippi as a blind spot, no one really invests time or resources so to have you bringing this and creating space is very important. So with starting this club, are you planning to do any more staple events there or will the festival be an annual thing?
Hannibal: Am I doing more? Yeaaahhh… I’m just thinking now, I want to talk to my team but I think the best move for us is to announce a summer date at the end of the festival and do something in June. Whether it be in the club or outdoors. My thing is, put a date on it and work backward. I do want to have the fest be a yearly thing, I’d like for it to grow and I do think there’s some other businesses that could be developed next to the club, next to the venue in downtown Isola.
Jasmine: Your end goal is to be able to build up Isola?
H: Yeah, that was my goal initially when we got the club because I just feel like there should be other things down there. There COULD be other things down there. It shouldn’t be limited to the people. We have a muralist coming out a young guy, Muhammad, we’re having him come out to paint a mural on the club. We want to have some other artists come down and put up murals around the city. Just make it look dope. Have people want to come through and kick it. I’m really excited because it’s where I’ve hung out as a kid, it’s where my mom is from so I’m just excited to bring something there.
Jasmine: Sooooo do you want to talk about the surprises??
H: I mean, it’s not a surprise if I talk about it. (LOL)
J: I knowwww but just a little?
H: I mean, I got nothing. Lol I mean, we’re a week out. There’s a lot we’re working on but locally we have Dear Silas out of Jackson added to the lineup so that’s cool.
J: That’s dope! So what is the highlight for you? What has been your favorite part of planning the festival?
H: The highlight for me is when everyone says ‘yes’ to doing the show. LOL. It’s a new thing, it’s a new show so when everyone is just so on board to come to the Delta, to come to Mississippi, it just gives me a rush.
So now, I have the responsibility of making sure everyone has a good time. Not just the audience but the artists as well. Making sure travel arrangements, communication is clear and making sure everyone is fed. Just making sure everything is smooth. It’s a lot but I’m really excited to try this out and getting all this experience of being on the other side of the fest, not just performing but planning. So, I’m really excited to see the outcome.
The festival is set to begin December 13th, and ‘Sipp Talk will be in attendance. Some of our favorite homegrown artists have been added to the Isola Fest line-up. This is something you DEFINITELY don’t want to miss. Grab your tickets at isolafest.com