Q&A: Comedian Bill Burr
Bill Burr has a lot on his mind. Known for constantly updating his stand-up material and his recurring role on AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” Burr also runs a weekly podcast and is currently on tour. Burr will be at DAR Constitution Hall tonight.
Before his performance, Burr sat down with The Eagle’s Sean Meehan to discuss everything from “Breaking Bad” to sports.
Eagle: You’re one of many comics to be called a “comedian’s comedian” in the press. What does that mean to you?
Bill Burr: I don’t know what it means. I didn’t say it, I try not to dwell on that. If another comic likes what you do, that’s the highest compliment. If that’s what they mean, I’m beyond flattered, I’m psyched.
E: You also have a reputation for developing new material relatively quickly. Is there a formula to it or are you just constantly updating your act?
BB: It’s just a natural thing. You keep going to the same bar and you get sick of it, so you say ‘let’s go some place new.’ It’s that. It’s not ‘I’m gonna drink here for 3.5 weeks,’ It’s just a natural sort of progression. One of the good and bad things about human beings is that we get bored, sometimes that translates into something good.
E: Do you get bored of your act?
BB: You get bored, you get frustrated. I wouldn’t say depressed, but it’s frustrating. It’s just like your job, you have writer’s block, or 4-5 interviews on subjects that didn’t interest you, and you have to slog your way through trying to write about this plate-spinner. It’s just like any other job. It’s human emotion, same thing in a different vocation.
Once I got past the learning of just how to be a comedian, my material has always been you talk about your life, you talk about stuff you see, stuff that scares you. These kinds of things I find if I actually sit down and think about the process, I immediately stop being funny. Sometimes, I think where is the joke and if I think things like that I immediately start bombing. Try not to look under the hood not a lot there.
E: You had a recurring role on “Breaking Bad,” which just recently won a lot of Emmys. Does that work like the Stanley Cup? Will you get to own the Emmy for a week at some point?
BB: I wish it did, but no. I have a couple of friends that have won Emmys, it’s the shiniest thing I’ve ever seen, other than the Stanley Cup. I saw when they brought it out on the ice. I was sitting behind the goaltender on the opposite end, it was the shiniest thing I’ve ever seen. It was unbelievable. It looked like that thing in Pulp Fiction except it wasn’t a gold glow it was a silver glow. No, they don’t pass the Emmy around.
E: What was it like to have a part on a show that you were a fan of?
BB: It was awesome, it was the same feeling as if you got on it. I was you. I was sitting at home thinking I want to be on this, I kept bugging my agent, next thing you know, I did well in an audition. I felt like I got sucked into my TV. I felt like I won a radio contest.
It’s one of those things where they get that phone call all day long. No actor is saying they don’t want to be on these great shows.
They all want to be on “Homeland,” “Walking Dead” it’s always the top shows. You want to be on it because being an actor is really a rough gig as far as looking at it as a comedian. If I don’t like the joke and I think it stinks I don’t have to say it. As an actor you’re at the mercy of what anybody wrote. TV shows with the top writers in the business, there’s no way to mess up. To get on a show as good as “Breaking Bad,” if you did my role you would been just as good, all you have to do is hit your marks.
E: What other shows are you really into now?
BB: I mostly watch sports, I watch people building cars. I’m a big fan of “Fast N’ Loud,” that show is the perfect show for me because I love cars and I wish I knew how to build them and I also love comedy and everybody on that show is funny as hell. That’s my “Real Housewives” show. My favorite part is watching Richard buy a car off some private owner and bust him down. He’s like ‘I’m thinking like $7500,’ and he’s like ‘I was thinking $800.’ I can’t believe nobody’s ever just started screaming at him, he goes so low. The funniest shit.
It’s really a golden age of television, they didn’t have TV like this when I was growing up, you had to go to the movies for something this good. And just the sheer amount of great shows, I don’t know if there’s ever been this many great shows. These shows are better than most of the damn movies.
E: Is there any way you try to capture some of the humor that you find in shows like “Fast N’ Loud,” where it’s just hilarious because it’s so audacious?
BB: You don’t think about it, you just do it. If something funny happened to you, if you went down to the bar or told somebody you lived with, you wouldn’t be ‘how do I tell you this.’ When you become a comedian, you have to fight where it was like, you go into that mode like ‘I’m doing standup’, you go into this robot mode, f—k all that, just tell the story. Say what you’re thinking. So many times the funniest people I met growing up weren’t doing stand-up comedy, they were just bitching about their job or their life and they weren’t thinking setup-punch. It was really a pure thing. If somebody was to examine it, they start making bullet points what that really does it’s like you’re drying it out, sucking all the moisture out. That’s what you’re doing to the comedy when you sit down to analyze, you’re sucking all the life out of it, I don’t think about that.
E: How do you make the switch from a funny person among friends to a comedian?
BB: I was that guy, which made me feel like I should be a comedian, but when I did stand-up, I stopped being that guy who was just going off. I had material, long conversations with the late great Patrice O’Neal and learned a lot through our conversations. He was onto that and figured that out way before I did. In a lot of ways I figured it out because he figured it out. I started comedy with Patrice and Dane Cook, two of the most original guys, I feel, from my generation of comics. Mitch Hedberg too, but I had two of the biggest ones, the fact that they were so different, just being around it rubbed off on you. You want to be unique in your own way.
E: You’ve talked a little bit about the Red Sox playoff run on your “Monday Morning Podcast.” Wow do you feel about this season?
BB: I was a die-hard for the first 42 years of my life. 2010 was the last sort of steroid kind of thing going on where they’d be like ‘Remember that thing you cheered for? Now it doesn’t count.’ At that point the Red Sox were almost a $2 million team and they had the pink Red Sox hats and that f—king “Sweet Caroline.”
But now I guess they’re only a $1.58 million team, and the Yankees spent $2.28, which put us in the middle, so kind of got back into them. I took a 2.5 year hiatus. I sat down and watched them and immediately my stomach was in knots, it actually upsets me. You sit there going why do I give a shit. The emotions I’m going through you’d think I was dismantling a bomb.
See Bill Burr at DAR Constitution Hall on Nov 7th at 7:30 p.m. Visit Ticketmaster for more information.