Bill Burr: Setting the record straight on ranting, raging
Sure Bill Burr understands why some people might consider him a rageaholic from his rant-filled routines, but he actually sees himself quite differently.
The comedian — Rolling Stone last year ranked him 17th on its list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time — set the record straight about the tone of his pointed social critiques when he called in to talk about his appearance at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena Saturday, Oct. 6.
Along with constant stand-up touring, the 50-year-old Canton, Mass., native is a writer, producer and podcaster. Also an actor, he played Patrick Kuby in the crime drama series “Breaking Bad,” created and starred in the Netflix animated sitcom “F Is for Family” and is appearing in the Hugh Jackman film “Front Runner,” which is set for a Nov. 6 release.
Here are excerpts from the interview, edited and condensed for space and clarity.
Q: You’ve been called “the undisputed heavyweight champ of rage-fueled humor.” That’s a cool honor, but do you ever worry about your health, ranting on stage for an hour?
A: First of all, that’s a cartoon description of me. I’m not in a rage when I’m doing it. That’s the misconception of me. I’m actually having a good time. I’m imitating angry people, or I’m imitating frustration. But I’m not up there experiencing anger; I’m experiencing joy. Like, living my dream, which is making people laugh and getting paid for it. ...
I understand why people perceive me as that way, but, you know, I did a podcast recently and someone was talking about that and saying, “I actually think you’re an optimist when I listen to you,” and it was kind of nice to finally be understood.
Q: This tour includes a number of arena shows, including Madison Square Garden, TD Garden in Boston and Webster Bank Arena. Do you have to adapt your act for such large venues?
A: No, I think that’s a mistake. What you want to do is do your act and the more you act like you’re just in a normal place, the more the crowd will settle in and stuff. But I’m doing these in the round, so you’re way closer to people. It’s weird. It’s oddly intimate.
Q: You’ve got your hands in everything professionally. Are you driven or is it just ADHD?
A: I just do stuff that’s fun. I have a podcast network. We just signed a deal with Comedy Central to produce four one-hour stand-up specials; the first one being Paul Virzi, so that’s coming out in November. Well, look, I’m definitely a driven guy, but I don’t do things for money. I do things because they’re fun and then the money comes.
Since being out in Hollywood, I’m a fan of people who are performers that get on the other side of the camera and end up producing, because that seems to be the way for longevity. You’re only young for so long and this town doesn’t care about you once you get north of 40, which I’m 50 now. But it’s just how it is; it’s how the game plays, so if you start getting involved in writing and producing things, then you can stay young forever, because you just find young people to put in your stuff, I guess. And but what’s cool about it is you get to help young people who are coming up.
Q: What do you do when you’re not working on your comedy?
A: Being a dad, playing drums and flying helicopters.
Q: Anything you’d like to say to the folks coming to the Bridgeport show?
A: Yeah, thank God you showed up or that would be a big, empty, lonely building. I wrote a new 90 minutes of stuff. I’m definitely ready for this show. I have been working my ass off to make sure these shows go well and they will. See that? I told you, I’m a positive guy.