A chat with comedian Bill Burr

<p>Comedian Bill Burr will perform his iconic "uninformed logic" style of standup this Sept. 15-17.&nbsp;</p>

Comedian Bill Burr will perform his iconic "uninformed logic" style of standup this Sept. 15-17. 

Internationally famous comedian Bill Burr will be performing three shows at the Carolina Theater Sept. 15, 16 and 17.

The shows will feature new material as Burr prepares to film his latest stand-up special. His previous specials have been critically acclaimed and garnered him both national and global recognition. Burr’s fame overseas has grown alongside his decades-long stand-up career and was bolstered by a successful European tour earlier this summer.

“It was probably one of the biggest tours of my life as far as being an important one to feel like I’m solidified over there [in Europe],” Burr said. “It was very successful for me, I’m very happy.”

Burr has been acclaimed as one of the premier stand-up comics of his generation. In 2014, he was named the stand-up comedian of the year at the prestigious Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, and in 2011, he was declared comedian of the year at the Boston Comedy Festival. However, despite his accomplishments, Mr. Burr is grounded and realistic and has a great appreciation for his recent successes.

“I got to play the Apollo Theater in London… It’s where David Bowie retired Ziggy Stardust, and I went to an Iron Maiden concert there years ago… it was a big deal for me,” Mr. Burr said.

This achievement came to Burr after years of working as a comic and an even longer period of infatuation with stand-up comedy. Like many comedians, he made his initial forays into comedy at a young age.

“It was just something I was always watching it when I was a kid… I just got addicted to it, and then I ran into some people that liked it the way I did it,” Burr explained. “Finally, I ran into someone who said there were going to try it, and I said, ‘what the hell, if they can try it I’ll try it’.”

Burr grew up near Boston and began his stand-up career there; to this day, he uses an exaggerated Boston accent in his act. Due to his roots in the northeast, many viewers assume that his Netflix original show, “F is for Family,” is set in the Boston area. 

“It’s kind of vague,” Burr says. “It’s from me doing the road. I grew up on the east coast, I’ve been everywhere… there’s elements of my hometown, all across the Midwest, the East Coast, all of that, so you know there’s no real specific place.”

While a specific location might never be named, the setting is still crucial to the show. Set in a Rust Belt town in 1973, the show makes frequent references to its time period with jokes about economic stagnation, outdated gender roles and prog-rock. The deliberate ambiguity of the setting of “F is for Family” also applies to the characters and plotlines in the show.

“I wanted to make sure that my family could sit down and watch it without being mortified that I’m telling all our stories, so really it’s an amalgam of ten or fifteen different people’s dads, experiences, bullies, and all the rest,” Burr said.

The writing process of “F is for Family” ensures that each episode is a hodge-podge of experiences, all of which are based in some reality of Burr’s or the other writers’ lives. Growing up in the 1970s, Burr and his colleagues had a variety of shared experiences that mesh well to create stories that fit common notions of American culture at the time.

“We’ll just be writing and then something will come up, and someone will be like ‘Oh, I was in this situation, and this is what happened,’” Burr notes. “[W]e use that as jump-off point and it usually becomes something else.”

One product of the creative process for “F is for Family” is a family whose relationships are often strained in different ways. While previous animated shows such as “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” have depicted similar middle-class families, “F is for Family” treats the problems that the family faces like real, lasting issues.

“I’m not a big fan of wacky. I think it has its place, but I always like to think about what really would happen,” Burr said. “We definitely have some absurd, crazy stuff like feral kids running around, and there’s elements of exaggeration, but the whole thing has to be rooted in reality.”

“I think that’s how I’ve always identified with stuff. The realer it was, the more I enjoyed it. And that influenced the way I would go about trying to make somebody laugh, and all these years later I think I just ran into a bunch of people that felt the same way.”

The tone of the show therefore shares some similarities with Burr’s standup, which is often described as “uninformed logic”. While he often mentions real issues like climate change and overpopulation in his act, these topics usually serve as the basis for infuriated rants and broad, simplistic claims rather than actual discussion.

“I never pretend to know what I’m talking about,” Burr said. “My job isn’t to understand issues. My job is to make people laugh.”

Because of his often-bombastic and sometimes ignorant style, one would expect Burr to be a target of politically correct commentators. Many people believe that comedians are often under fire from “social justice warriors,” a notion that has been reinforced by such events as the publishing of an article claiming that Jerry Seinfeld won’t perform at colleges due to excessive political correctness and the media fallout that followed Louis C.K.’s appearance on SNL in May 2015. However, Burr was quick to correct this assumption.

“I think it’s really exaggerated,” Burr said. “It’s a very small portion of the population that ever complains… There’s thousands of comics doing thousands of shows every night and it’s like once every six months that somebody raises a stink about something.”

Mr. Burr further opined that many of these claims are completely unsubstantiated and merely exist to fuel bad reporting.

“To be honest with you, people are adults. They go to comedy clubs, and they understand what they’re going to see,” he said. “They wanna make it seem like everyone’s walking on eggshells when you go up there [on stage] but that certainly has not been my experience… I think it’s an easy story. It’s clickbait, half the time it’s taken out of context, sometimes they even create it via websites just to get something going so they can get hits and make more money.”

Keep an eye out for Burr’s next special which he plans to film in October and for Season 2 of “F is for Family” which is on track to be released in May 2017.


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