Comedy - Bill Burr shoots his mouth off
Brash, Boston-born bit player barnstorms Buckhead Theatre
Stand-up comedian Bill Burr has played to standing ovations at Carnegie Hall, but he still comes across as the kind of aggressively opinionated guy you'd find holding court at a neighborhood bar. A former radio DJ from Boston, Burr hosts "The Monday Morning Podcast" and has made a couple of appearances as one of Saul Goodman's intimidating henchmen on "Breaking Bad." The comic performs at the Buckhead Theatre on Thurs., Feb. 9, in one of his final performances before taping his third hour-long stand-up special in Washington, D.C., next month.
Your last special, "Let It Go," included jokes about aging, suicide, and hoping for a swine flu epidemic. Is your new set darker or less dark?
I would say less dark, but I wouldn't consider the last one dark. I was joking about suicide when I talked about how sometimes you hate your life and want to put your head through a plate glass window. This time I have a joke about gold-diggin' whores that might make some tension at the show.
Do you like creating tension in your act?
I love it. It's about building it up and letting it go. People are really educated about comedy now, compared to back in the day. People in the crowd are making YouTube videos and trying to be funny themselves. You have to do things to keep them interested. So I'll make a statement that sounds bad, and they'll wonder, "How's he gonna get out of that?" And then I do.
What are some of the topics of your new set?
Well, gold-diggin' whores, of course. I'm makin' fun of Steve Jobs ...
What are you saying about Steve Jobs?
That company's always been annoying when it tries to align with Gandhi and John Lennon, and I don't like how Jobs gets all the credit when he has teams of scientists working for him. I don't like the iPad. I know they have the technology to make a laptop that flat, but they're just going to keep making 20 models of iPads and they'll all end up in the ocean. Buying an iPad means you're a pussy — it means you're saying that the laptop is too heavy for you.
You project an angry persona on stage. Are you angry in real life?
I don't consider myself angry. In Boston, in Massachusetts, in New York, in Philadelphia, I'm normal. This is how people are. Not until I traveled to the Midwest, the South, the West Coast did I stand out. I don't have anything to be angry about — I love my life for the most part. There are certain things that annoy me, like a company that aligns itself with Gandhi when it builds a silly thing you can play Angry Birds on. It's like if I compared myself to the history's greatest generals, like Eisenhower and MacArthur. It's the most arrogant thing.
Compared to self-deprecating comics like Ray Romano, you come across as kind of a tough guy. Can you be so tough the audience doesn't laugh?
You can come across as too tough, but I can usually feel that before the crowd does. It's like a taste in my mouth. I realize that I'm cursing too much, or saying too much about women. But when you look like Ron Howard, I don't think people think you're that tough.
But you played a tough guy on two episodes of "Breaking Bad."
Yeah, but that's fantasy. It's easy to act tough when you know you're not going to get punched in the face, and have huge actor Lavell Crawford as your backup. Lavell's also a comedian — I've known him for years. It was so much fun to be on that show. Just imagine watching a TV show from the pilot on, never missing a season, and then you're in the story line. It's like Poltergeist, being pulled into the TV. I don't know if I'll get to go back. All I know is I got to do it, and it's the coolest thing.
What are your goals for your podcast?
I was initially just doing it for fun. But now it has advertisers and is making money. My goal is to make as much money doing my podcast as doing stand-up. Because that's two things they can't take away from me. If you have a TV show, they can take that away. But they can't take these away from me — unless someone thinks I'm a terrorist.