Bill Burr is a workhouse, the sort of performer inevitably referred to as a “Comic’s comic,” which is an impressive and exhausting thing to be. He’s released three specials in the last six years while also gaining recognition as an actor and freethinking commentator on a host of different subjects (whatever you ask him about really). He’s come a long way since being a bit player on “Chappelle’s Show” without ever distancing himself from the cutting edge, which, for him, is just the front of the stage.
Burr talked to Maxim about his new Netflix special, “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way,” and what it’s like to provoke people in the age of the smartphone.
You’re done with the special and you can finally relax. Are you actually capable of doing that?
When the hour comes out, I get to throw it all away, and I have an entire year, like a summer vacation, where I get to not have the pressure of an upcoming taping and I get to throw things against the wall and see what sticks.
Can't hit a three-pointer? Start taking a bunch of threes until you get it down. You develop skills.
But hitting those shots is getting harder. It seems like a lot of the material comedians work out publically gets leaked onto the internet – out of context of course.
Fuck all that troll shit. There's a few people who are good at the art of trolling. Most people, that's just their out when they start to lose the argument. They go, 'Oh, it's so easy. I was just trolling you.’ No you weren't you were serious. And you ran out of points, and now you have to act like the whole thing was a joke. Go fuck yourself.
Given that you’re not out to offend – or not offend – where do you go looking for material? How often do you want to wade in on the issues of the moment?
I find it overwhelmingly depressing to follow politics. At least my idea of how the thing works. A comic like Jimmy Dore, Dennis Miller, Bill Maher, those guys, it takes a very strong-minded person to pay attention to politics day in and day out and not get unbelievably frustrated or depressed. To hang in there and if you can actually talk intelligently about it, you can hold a conversation to hold representatives accountable—and all this stuff is what we should really be focusing on—but I am as guilty as anybody.
At some point, I just get so frustrated. I got into conspiracy theory and all this stuff. I realized it's too big for anyone to effectively manage it properly - that I was always going to be frustrated. At that point, I just got a dog and the NHL Center Ice package and I just kind of hunkered down and live in my own world with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
You have a lot more acting projects in the works, a drama with Kevin Costner “Black and White,” set for January. Do you think people will begin to recognize you more for acting than for stand-up comedy?
I am a comedian. That is what I am. All this other stuff is gravy. I get to be in a movie with Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer and work with [director] Mark Binder. I've always said, it always feels like, 'Seventh caller, call now, you get to be in a movie!' I always feel like I won a contest.
A lot of people – not comedy people, other people – know you from ‘Breaking Bad.’ What was it like to work on that set?
It was one of the most surreal things that ever happened. If I can relate it to you, it'd be like if you watched all the Star Wars then one day you put on the stormtrooper outfit and you were going to do a scene with Darth Vader. And you sit there like how did the hell did I get here? I owe Vince Gilligan my acting career.
You've got a lot of your own projects coming up. “Pariah” on FXX and the animated “F is for Family” on Netflix.
Pariah is a pilot that I'm shooting for FXX with the Chernin brothers—John and Dave are writing it. Rob Mcllhenney, Glenn and Charlie - everyone from 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' - is in the writer's room, working on it. It's been so much fun.
You ever see these guys in the public eye and they have a great career and then they say that one wrong thing? They say something that's considered misogynist, homophobic or bigoted, then they get suspended or fired and then they just disappear. I always wondered, whatever happens to that guy? How does that guy pick up the pieces? Where does he go? What happens to him now? That's what this show is about. It's about a guy working on an ESPN-kind of channel and he says the wrong thing at the wrong time. That dream job goes away. We follow his life as he figures out what to do next.
Your act doesn’t really scream, “Give this man a family sitcom.” How was working on "F Is for Family?"
Netflix said, ‘No-holds-barred, do whatever you want to do.’ You can only imagine how much fun it was. Actually, one of the writer's on the show, David Richardson, just texted me yesterday and said it's the most fun he's had in a writer's room in 10 years and this guy has written on everything. We just laughed off our asses off every single day.
It's a cartoon about a family that looks like the Normal Rockwell painting but it's the real deal. Needless to say the 'F' word flies around quite a bit.
Photos by Courtesy Netflix