Bill Burr is undoubtedly a comedian’s comedian, that rare comic who other stand-ups will go out of their way to see. However, Burr also has a sizeable and loyal fanbase that relishes in his observations on everything from Hitler to fast food. His musings are born of irritation, though off stage he’s quite affable. “I try not to be irritated,” he says, “but that’s one of my weaknesses. I get irritated very easily, but it’s great for my act — great for material. It’s a good feeling when you say it and everybody laughs. I think: ‘Oh, good, they get what I’m trying to say.’ ” But he fears losing that edge. “This where I’ll dry up as a comic. I’m trying to be more ‘live and let live,’ and understanding people have a right to share the planet and have opinions that are different than mine,” he says with a hearty laugh.
While his comedy touches on social and, occasionally, political issues, it’s not an in-depth commentary like you might get from say, Jimmy Dore. “That’s because Jimmy is informed and he reads,” Burr says of his old friend. “I don’t watch any of that.” Burr, in fact, has hardly followed the presidential election. “Until a few days ago, [Mitt Romney] could have passed me on the street, and I wouldn’t have known it was him. It wasn’t until he said ‘Hey, you bums get a job, then maybe I’ll do something for the 47 percent’ thing.” It wasn’t what Romney said that caught Burr’s attention, but the aftermath. “I like how they twist and turn it,” he observes. “You know what that guy was saying. And they try to make it look like he’s making fun of single moms and hard working people.
No, he’s talking about freeloading bums. That’s not 47 percent of the people, so he did mess that up.”
Burr reckons there’s about 12 percent of the population that’s trying to get over. “Everyone knows them,” he says. “‘Hey, you hungry?’ You ask them. And they go, ‘No, no I’m not hungry.’ You order a pizza and you pay for it and they sit there like a buzzard waiting for the last piece, you know? And finally they go, ‘You gonna eat that?’ You say ‘No,’ and they eat the last slice. And they didn’t have to pay a dime. That’s who [Romney] is trying to talk about.”
Fair enough. However, it could be argued that there are plenty of folks with jobs who just show up and skate by. “At least you still have a job,” Burr counters. “You have to get up in the morning and go to your cubicle and at least expel some kind of effort, and act like you care. Unless you’re the boss’ son, you’re not going to move up in the company. You’re stuck in your little cubicle stapling things together. I’m talking about bums here, man, bums!” He punctuates that comment with another laugh.
Another topic Burr covers is one of his pastimes — watching sports, particularly hockey. He’s been to a home game of just about every major pro-sports team in North America, and will take in a Bengals game while he’s here. He figures he has about 15 teams left to see. “What a sad day that will be,” he says, laughing. A trip to see an Ottawa Senators game last year was cancelled after the death of his close friend and fellow comic Patrice O’Neal. Burr still misses him terribly. “I find myself missing him at the oddest times,” he says. “I’ll see something in the news — like last year right when [Patrice] got sick, two days later that Jerry Sandusky interview with Bob Costas came out — that creepy interview. Patrice could have done 20 minutes on that, laughing his ass off at what a creep that guy is, and he would have made it hilarious.” Burr wants fans to know that proceeds from O’Neal’s CD, Mr. P, benefit the late comedian’s mother.
As a huge hockey fan, Burr is dreading the looming owner lockout of the players and likens that to the struggles lay people have with bosses and owners. “If I have a business and I’m a millionaire, I’m good with my current deal,” he says. “I’m good being a millionaire. I just don’t understand why the National Football League is number one, and it’s not good enough. They want teams in Portugal and London. You have 32 damned teams. It’s that corporate mentality where everything has to get bigger.” Burr has a solution though. “Be like me. Fly coach and be happy about it. I love where I’m at. Completely satisfied. That’s the most un-American thing you can be.”
BILL BURR performs at Go Bananas Friday-Sunday. More info: gobananascomedy.com