New Interview: Bill Burr

Bill Burr

I don't know if they have a secret installation hidden somewhere underground in America where they keep turning out brilliant comedians, but Bill Burr (picture by Koury Angelo) is the latest superb stand-up heading for the UK in the footsteps of Rob Delaney, Paul F Tompkins and Susie Essman. And, of course, Louis CK. In fact an article in Rolling Stone recently anointed the seasoned 45-year-old Bostonian as the "New Louis CK". 

It's a suggestion that has vexed Burr as you can read in this interview below. But there is no doubt that Burr is on a roll at the moment. After two decades as a hard-grafting comic the cards seem to have fallen in his favour. He not only has a booming stand-up career and a hit podcast, but he has made a name for himself as a useful actor too. I first spotted him as a cop in Date Night and you may have recently spotted him as henchman Kuby in Breaking Bad (no spoilers please, I haven't got to the end yet)

So things are going really well for Burr, which may jeopardise his stand-up. Can he still be angry at the world now that things are looking up? Like that other Boston redhead whose name must not be mentioned in the same breath, Burr majors in everyman comic irritability, homing in on the things that bug us all. Every area of life seems to bother him, from women to satnavs to Lance Armstrong. Take a look at this clip from five years ago when he mocks the idea of marriage in particular and the opposite sex in general. Some might call it borderline misogynistic, yet Burr has the charm and the chops to get away with it. Funnily he got married himself this year. But is he mellowing? No. Is he hilarious? Yes. Is he the new Louis CK? Make up your own mind by catching him on his brief UK tour at the O2 Glasgow on Dec 4 and  at the Forum in London on Dec 7 & 8. Ticket details here.

 

BD: where are you now?

BB: I'm just about to get on a flight so I don't have a lot of time. Sorry, I forgot to tell my publicist. It's my screw-up, not his.  

BD: It's two years since your last visit to the UK and you went down very well then. Do you feel you have to adjust your material when you come here?

BB: As far as changing jokes? I do the same. I just do my act. If people in England don't get my joke I make fun of myself for telling it. If I think too much about changing things I start worrying. You guys know all about NFL football don't you? 

BD: Things have really taken off for you recently with acclaim for your acting, your stand-up and your hit podcasts. Why now after two decades?

BB: I think it's been slow build. I'm selling more tickets and playing bigger clubs, but it has built up at a pace that I can handle. If it happened really fast I don't think I would have survived. I'm a baby steps kind of person. 

BD: So what made it happen?

BB: It a combination of everything - YouTube videos, stand-up specials, TV appearances and the podcasts. If somebody sees you on something and looks you up online and that links to your podcast or your YouTube videos they can easily find out who you are and what it is you do and decide if they like you.

It's a great time to be a comedian because you've got so much more control. You can say what you want to. I think in the old days with the studio system the performer was a bit of an afterthought. You can be a wildcard on the internet. But if you put something on the internet once it's out there it's out there for life.

BD: Unlike Bill Hicks being cut on TV?

BB: That's right.

BD: So how do you feel about this "New Louis CK" tag? 

BB: I feel bad for Louis. He's way better than I am and he puts out twice as much material and he acts and directs in one of the funniest shows in the States. I have a long way to go. I took it as a tremendous compliment. I think the world of that guy. I've known him for 10-15 years but I've always had this thing where from day one I was a fan of him so I don't consider him a peer, I consider him a master. 

BD: What about other comedians. I read that you were a big fan of Eddie Murphy when you were growing up. What about British comedians?

BB: I was just not exposed to them when i was young, but there's some great guys over there. First of all can I apologise for what we did to the Office. Your version is way better. Ricky Gervais is just incredible. I saw Billy Connolly in New York. Tommy Tiernan is amazing. He's Irish, does he count? And Eddie Izzard. I'm not good with names dude.

BD: Your seem more irritable onstage than now. Do you bottle up all your anger and then let it out in your live performances?

BB: What you get onstage is a condensed version of my life. The drama. Not the boring bits like right now i'm standing waiting to check in a bag at the airport. 

BD: Where are you heading?

BB: Deadwood, in South Dakota. It's one of the "flyover states" - there's an idea that if you don't live on the coast you are a simple person. But I think t's a privilege to be able to fly to somewhere where people want to see my show. Hopefully I have a good one.

BD: How do you decide between acting and stand-up work?

BB: I always put comedy first. If I get acting work I reschedule dates. I never cancel dates. I booked this European tour because acting slows down for the holiday. These shows are really important show to me. I want to convey that. I like travelling because of what it does to your viewpoint as a performer. I helps you to learn about other countries and other philosophies. I did a gig in Helsinki and they tried to tell me that there's no rich people in Finland and that just blew my mind. In Finland it's considered obnoxious to display any wealth. And when I played Europe I found out that some countries were on Germany's side in WW2 which I didn't know. It was an incredible experience. 

BD: What will you be doing in the UK apart from gigging?

BB: I want to go to a show at the Royal Albert Hall and catch a Premier League game. Probably Liverpool as they have the same owner as the Boston Red Sox. 

BD: Looking at your old routines on YouTube you used to make jokes about marriage but you got married earlier this year. Are you mellowing? Are you becoming easy to live with?

BB: No, I'm not easy to live with. My wife is a saint

BD: Do you hope to have kids? Do you think you'd be a good father? 

BB: Yes, why not? 

BD: Because you sometimes sound quite intolerant and parenthood requires patience.

BB: You're saying I'd be a bad father! I get it. 

BD: I just think you need to be a bit more laid back 

BB: I may not do comedy with soothing sounds of tinkling water in the background, but I can be laid back. I have my laid back moments and moments when I'm a maniac.

BD: Any plans to do TV when you are in the UK?

BB: I'd love to do that. I'll make sure I ramp up the anger for you. 

 

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