Bill Burr On The State Of The News Media, Comedy Under Trump, And His New Stand-Up Special

News & Culture Writer
01.31.17 2 Comments

Comedian Bill Burr wasn’t too worried about president-elect Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election when Conan O’Brien asked him about the matter in November. Nearly three months later, the Massachusetts native pretty much felt the same way when we spoke with him about his new Netflix stand-up special, Walk Your Way Out. Of course, this was the day before Trump signed an executive order barring immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries and spurred nationwide protests at major airports, but judging by the comic’s politics-free Twitter feed, he still probably feels the same way.

Not because he doesn’t care, as Burr proved when everyone was angry about Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to kneel during the national anthem in September. At the time, he told his Monday Morning Podcast listeners that, as a “white male heterosexual,” he and others like him should probably recognize their privilege and “listen to what [Kaepernick] has to say.” Or as Burr explained to us in a positive manner unlike his typically brutish onstage demeanor, “if everybody tried to work on themselves and be better people, that would really be amazing.”

Maybe Burr only just realized that one of the two candidates he disliked is now the President of the United States. Or maybe the 48-year-old comic’s new baby finally softened him up a bit. Both could be a factor, but as most comedy audiences aren’t always aware, what performers like Burr do on stage doesn’t always reflect who they really are as a person. Though as Burr quickly corrects us below, he knows he’s “being an idiot.”

Congratulations on the new baby. Losing any sleep?

No. It’s been fun. I don’t know, I’m actually kind of surprised at how quickly I settled into it. Like today, I was just walking around with the baby and I wasn’t like, “Oh my God I have a baby!” I think I’ve gotten older. I don’t know.

Walk Your Way Out includes a sizable chunk of audience interaction, even some heckling, and you’re really good at it.

Thanks. It’s more of a technique. It’s like you’re herding over to the punchline. If too many start running away, the others will follow so you have to grab their attention and tell them to go this way. “The field is greener over here!”

Are you ever tempted to leave these things be and just move on with the show as planned?

I know that I’m being an idiot. It’s not fun to watch somebody onstage who feels they have all the answers. I don’t like watching people who are amazed by themselves, which is why I’ve always loved Will Ferrell. He’s played so many characters like that. I think he described it one time… he said he likes playing people with unearned arrogance. It’s one of my favorites. It’s funny if somebody’s joking around, but if you’re actually up there thinking you’re… and believe me, I’ve seen it. It’s really horrible to watch.

It’s arguably worse than watching someone who isn’t good, because at least they’re trying. To watch somebody up there who’s just decent — they’re getting the job done — and yet they’re carrying themselves as though they can’t even believe what they’re doing. They’re in awe of their dick jokes. The only way that’s enjoyable is if you’re with another comedian that you’re friends with, and you’re both watching it laughing from the back of the club. Then it’s fun.

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