Five Minutes With Comedian Bill Burr

 In Culture

Bill Burr jokes about failing miserably at life, but with appearances in hit TV shows like “Breaking Bad” and “New Girl” as well as roles in the upcoming films “The Heat” (starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy) and “Stand Up Guys” (starring Christopher Walken and Al Pacino), it’s clear that he’s doing quite the opposite at the moment. In addition to his on-screen work, Burr is taking his stand-up act all over the world, including a stop in St. Louis this week for a performance at The Pageant on June 13.

ALIVE: You’ve been doing a lot of TV and film acting recently. How do these roles come to you?
Bill Burr:
All that work came to me through my part on “Breaking Bad” and Vince Gilligan taking a shot on me. They put me on tape, they liked what they saw and that really opened the door for me. Because the character that I play on “Breaking Bad,” he’s not trying to be funny. He’s in serious situations, so it kind of opened the door to having some tape of me doing some dramatic stuff.

ALIVE: What was it like working with Christopher Walken and Al Pacino in “Stand Up Guys”?
BB: It was pretty intimidating, I’m not going to lie to you. I grew up watching those guys, and they couldn’t have been nicer. They were awesome. They both really loved acting and I’d ask them, “Hey is it OK if I try this?” and they’d be like, “Do whatever you want.” They treated me like we were all at the same level—which, of course, we’re not—and it was pretty amazing. I’ll tell you, it was pretty amazing.

ALIVE: Who are your comedic idols?
BB: There’s too many. Everyone from kids I went to school with to my parents to Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Sam Kinison. There’s too many, too many. Carol Burnett, Benny Hill, Jerry Lewis. There’s too many.


ALIVE: What is the biggest difference you see in audiences from city to city?
BB: Once you leave the country, you’re talking worldview. We watch different news and there are different cultures. I mean, we’re over here basically under the FOX News and CNN umbrella—and you get out, and they’re watching BBC and Al Jazeera and stuff like that. It is one of the reasons why you travel…so you can see different things, but also see the similarities in the people.

ALIVE: If you were not a comedian and actor, what would you do?
BB: I would be failing miserably at it, but I guess I would try and maybe get into sports. That’s the only other thing I can think of that I could get up every day and love what I do. Other than if I was just doing volunteer work, but that doesn’t seem to pay any money.

ALIVE: Your sets include material that some people find offensive. Do you ever get negative reactions? How do you handle that?
BB: Yeah, I’ve had some negative reactions, but not that much. When people hear what I say, the second it goes into their brain it’s not my words anymore. I say something, and it goes into your brain, and in your brain it gets caught up with your childhood and life experiences. That’s why some people laugh at a joke and other people find it offensive. Dog-lovers don’t like the dog rescue bit, and people who aren’t just like to see the humor in it. It’s different if you get up there and say something that’s straight-up, legitimately racist. To me, there’s a lack of maturity there and life experience. A lot of people will sit there and watch a comedian for a half hour laughing at everything he says, and then all of a sudden it comes to a subject that has to do with their life and all of a sudden, they’re offended. I think it’s kind of selfish for you to sit there and feel like the whole world should find what you find funny funny. If you want to complain about it, that’s definitely your right, but it’s a comic show.


ALIVE: What do you do when you’re not on stage?
BB: Other than fail miserably at all other aspects at life, what do I do? I like music. I play drums. I work out. I watch a lot of sports. I try to keep up with what’s going on with the world, but it seems like it’s just the same story on a loop. But I have to stay up on what’s going on.

ALIVE: What are you looking forward to about performing for the St. Louis crowd?
BB: I love St. Louis. It’s a sports town, a drinking town and it’s a music town. Those are the things that I enjoy the most. St. Louis people, they’re good people. I have a tremendous amount of respect for St. Louis Cardinals fans. I just think they’re knowledgeable, they support their team and they don’t do that thing like New York, Philly and Boston where the team messes up and they really get on the players and boo them. They seem to be a lot more mature than the cul-de-sac of anger that I grew up on in the East Coast. I also really like St. Louis Blues fans, obviously, because they’re so die-hard. They’ve never won a Stanley Cup, yet they keep showing up each year. I don’t mean this in an insulting way. I think they’re genuine people.

ALIVE: Are you planning on spending any time in the city before or after your show?
BB: Unfortunately, I am right in the middle of a tour. I do get there the night before, but I have to get up in the morning, so during the day what I imagine I’ll do is find a really good place to eat. I have been to numerous Cardinals games. If the Cardinals have an afternoon game, which I doubt they’ll have, then I’ll find a good place to eat.

ALIVE: If you could rule the world for a day, what would be your first law?
BB: Only a day? The free should be free. Free anyone who should be free and lock up the free people who shouldn’t be free. Any political prisoners and people getting tortured, let them out. And I’d probably toss a bunch of bankers in.

Photo by Koury Angelo

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