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Shout Outs to Bill Burr

October 6, 2010

This week’s shout out is to Boston-born comic Bill Burr.  I’m a big fan of his no-nonsense, slightly twisted stand-up comedy where he deftly puts a fresh spin on hack-trap topics such as racism, relationships and urban life with ease.

I got into his stand-up Bill Burr because of the hype.  I was on a road gig with Toronto stand-up Alex Pavone, and while we were lounging around at the motel before the show, we got to chatting about our favourite stand-up comics.  I had never heard of Bill Burr, for whom Alex was spouting nothing but praise.  When I got home I looked up some Youtube clips and realized the hype was legit.

I really like Burr’s controlled hysteria – when he gets all excited and his voice cracks, it kills me.  I also find I connect with a lot of topics that he talks about. Listening to his work reminds me a bit of the later Carlin discography, I really connect with Burr’s style, and find myself having the “It’s so true!” reaction.

I especially respect the way he tackles race issues. It bothers me that everyone is allowed to talk about race except for white people. I’ve tried in the past to explore these themes in my own stand-up, but it never goes over well – nobody likes listening to the majority complain, and you can almost feel the tension in the room, as if everybody is just waiting for me to say something ignorant. Not a great environment to create laughter. But Burr manages to broach these subjects with aplomb, somehow cutting through.

This ability to produce intelligent, edgy humour is probably what got him working as a regular on Chapelle’s Show, which produced this sketch which I love:

Finally, I’m also partial to balding comedians for obvious reasons:

This is weird.  I am officially weirding myself out.

The Bostonist has an interview with Bill Burr where I think he says something very prescient about the concept of offensive humour:

“I’m not being malicious, I don’t mean anything malicious by them. They’re jokes. I always find it funny when a comedian does a special, and it’s in front of a whole bunch of different people, everybody’s laughing, he doesn’t get heckled, and then someone has to start talking about how the comedian was offensive. Basically what they’re doing is that they’re calling everyone in the audience a moron, and that they weren’t smart enough to realize these are jokes.

There’s another thing that’s funny, watching people get into trouble on TV, when they didn’t mean anything malicious but they still end up apologizing. If I didn’t mean anything malicious, I would never apologize. The only apology I would make is “I’m sorry you didn’t understand you were watching a comedian, and that you thought you were watching ‘Meet the Press’.

I also like what he had to say regarding practice in the same interview:

“You can stay real sharp by just continuing to go out, doing guest spots,” he says. “I don’t know, I’ve never had a TV show before, so I don’t know how that works out. But I do know I don’t like bombing, and I don’t like doing old material.“

5 Neat Things:

1) Bill performs over 300 shows annually (which might explain how he has been able to record two one-hour specials in a little over two years – a feat that only epic comics like Carlin and Louis C.K. perform with any regularity).

2) He is a big hockey fan (Boston Bruins are his team of course), and occasionally blogs at

3) He was a featured voice in the video game “Grand Theft Auto IV.”

4) Recently appeared in the movie Date Night, playing the role of Detective Walsh.

5) First performed stand-up in 1992 in a competition called “Find Boston’s Funniest College Student.”

Further Reading:

Bill runs an XM Satellite radio show with called Uninformed, which he co-hosts with Joe DeRosa

My favourite Burr Album: Emotionally Unavailable

Also check out this guest spot he did on Joe Rogan’s podcast

Let us end off with a clip of Bill doing a set at Just For Laughs, the famous Montreal comedy festival.


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