Most people will at least recognize Bill Burr from his appearances on "Chappelle's Show." The Massachusets-born comic has been in the business for over a decade and after a handful of Letterman & Conan appearances, a few short cable specials, and a previous comedy album, he is now landing his first hour-long special which can be seen August 31st on Comedy Central.
He gained more recognition in 2006, when he delivered a very NSFW tirade to a massive Philadelphia audience, berating everything cherished by the city such as their sports teams, their mothers, and Rocky.
What made you want to get into standup as opposed to another form of comedy like writing or acting?
I always loved stand up comedy. When I was a kid, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world to be able to stand alone on a stage and make a crowd laugh their asses off. To me, the idea of doing something like that was both fascinating and absolutely terrifying.
Do you think there is any "formula" for comedy?
I don't know. Some nights I'll be on stage doing great and out of nowhere a part of my brain will be like, "Why are these people laughing at what you're saying?" And the second I think that, I start to lose the crowd. I think if you try to be funny, it never quite works. Part of being funny seems to have to do with not caring whether people find you funny or not.
Is it true that you had very clean sets when you first started out as a comedian? Anyone who has heard your material is probably wondering whatever happened to that idea.
Yes, I worked squeaky clean for the first few years of my career. But I learned the ?Squeaky Clean Guy" is not who I am. Working clean or working blue is not really that big of a deal. It's just a choice.
Plus I quickly learned that when people wanted me to work clean, they weren't just saying: "Don't use curse words." They also meant, "Don't have unaccepted opinions about things that everyone ?agrees' on. I had nights where, upon request, I would work totally clean, yet I would still get complaints afterwards. When I defended myself by stating, "I didn't curse once." Their response would be: "Yes but we just felt like you were advocating domestic violence, and the thing about the dog was insensitive and blah, blah, blah ." I found that really fucking annoying and that's basically "what happened to that idea."
You're planning a pilot for your own Comedy Central series soon. What is that going to be about?
Conspiracy theory, general assumption, and the never-ending exposure of my lack of time spent in a library.
In Philadelphia a few years ago, the crowd was booing every performer that went on stage that night. Instead of leaving the stage like the previous had been forced to, you stayed on for the rest of your ten minutes, berating the audience and everything they cared about. Is that how you usually handle hecklers?
Actually only one and a half of the other comics got booed that night. The rest of the comics did fine. That Philly situation was unique in that it was ten thousand people. If that was in a comedy club, I could have seen who was yelling at me and addressed it in the regular one-on-one kind of way. But when someone is in row Triple F is booing me, there's really nothing that I can do about it. So that's why I sort of attacked them all as group.
How did that Philly set help you as a comedian?
I got a lot of respect from people because I didn't leave the stage. That was probably the coolest and most flattering thing about it. To get compliments from fellow comedians and from fans that are really into comedy is about as high an honor as you can get. I actually ended up booking a pilot because of that clip. It's kind of funny because the character they had me read for was a bleeding heart liberal type. I don't know where they saw that in the Philly clip, but I'm glad they did.
What do you think it is about Philadelphia that makes it so miserable for performers?
Basically if they don't like you, they boo you, throw shit at you, or both. I don't know why they are like that. You'd have to ask someone from Philly about it. I always found what they did to be hilarious until I was on the other side of it. It's much more fun to watch it happen to someone else.
What is covered in the new special, "Why Do I Do This?"
What's the hardest part about putting together a comedy special?
The hardest part is getting to a place where you feel like it's ready to be recorded. That window is pretty small. Having an hour ready to be recorded and being sick of that hour of jokes is about a three-week window. So you try and time it where you are at your peak.
Comics always have bits about how rough their lives are on the road. What would you say is the worst thing about being a standup comedian?
The temptation to do bad things on the road is the hardest part. It's very difficult for me to do a show and then just go directly to the hotel afterwards. So I end up hanging out. And the problem with that is: All the responsible people from the crowd go home immediately after the show, but all the psychos hang around. Without getting into too much detail, it usually ends with me hating myself and dragging ass to do morning radio.
One last question. Why DO you do this?
Because I sucked at everything else.
"Why Do I Do This?" is available on DVD September 16th.