Q&A: Comedian Bill Burr

Jesse Tigges, Columbus Alive

How does it feel to be considered one of the top stand-up acts right now?

It's awesome. There's no higher compliment than to get it from comedians and waitresses. Nobody watches more comedy than them. As comedians if we don't like the guy on stage we can leave, but they have to stay in the room.

The highest compliment is the comedian liking you. Right underneath that is if you're on stage the third night and waitresses are still laughing. That's a good sign.

What do you think ofpeople usingthe term "comedian's comedian"?

I don't know how to put it. It's something that's awesome when you hear it, but I try not to think about it too much because it can be overwhelming.

What are some topics you're hitting on right now?

I've been talking about all these guys who keep getting busted with infidelity. Obviously I'm not condoning the behavior, but I just find the level of judgment people have ridiculous.

I just find it fascinating how the woman who screws around with the married guy, how she's not judged on any level ... They get book deals and all this kind of stuff.

So I've just been sort of examining why guys work so hard to get to where they're at and we still haven't been able to conquer that weakness. And I think it's simply because nobody really addresses it.

How do you mean?

It's because we are designed to bang everything in the room. It's just how we're wired. All this marriage and divorce and alimony and child support, that's man-made. But how guys are wired; it's survival. Basically, we out-f---ed plagues. Do you understand that?

Now we're in this environment where you can lose everything, yet you're still wired to be that person and no one is addressing it. All they say is, "Ah, keep it in your pants."

It's looked at on a very surface level, as just piggish behavior. Look at the guy Schwarzenegger cheated with - I said guy, that's hilarious - look at the girl he cheated with. Why would he do that? Why?

It's something I'm talking about on stage because men got to try to conquer this thing because it's terrible to watch. I love Schwarzenegger, I still do, and I don't judge the guy.

I'm also sick of people who don't have to deal with a certain level of temptation that those megastars have and they sit back and judge. You work in a cubicle; you don't have groupies. Come to me when you have groupies and you're able to handle that level of temptation.

I know. I work in a cubicle and don't have any groupies.

Yeah, I don't have any either. I'm looking forward to and dreading that day. [laughs]

While we're on the topic, you recently released a short film, "Cheat." How did that come about?

That was based off a true story. The movie stars Robert Kelly, Joe DeRosa and myself. It was just that one of us was going through a situation in a relationship and the other two were trying to help him out.

We were just like, somewhere along the line, this is a movie. We'd said that a million times, but this time we finally followed through.

We got into the Tribeca Film Festival and now it's turned into a book. The book comes out next year and the movie be part of the purchase of the book.

It's all about infidelity, and it's over the top and funny and people are either going to find it hilarious or be offended by it.

Speaking of acting, you also recently appeared on an episode of "Breaking Bad."

Yeah, I've actually been a fan of that show since the pilot episode. There was something about it, and the title seemed really interesting even though I didn't know what it means.

I watched the pilot episode and by the third episode that was it, I was hooked. I've watched every episode. The next thing you know I was on it.

One of the biggest thrills of my career was watching the opening credits and seeing my name come up with that little chemistry thing they do with each person's name. I was pretty psyched and I got one more episode coming up. I'm in Episode 11, so if you're a fan of the show, watch out for me.

There's a ton of comedy in it, as dark as the show is. I just don't think you can do a show better than that.

Are there certain things comedians dothat bother you?

I don't mind catch phrases, I don't mind puppets, I don't mind guitarists - all that typical stuff that bothers comedians. I don't mind it, and I certainly don't mind going on after that because I know they're not going to be doing anything that I'm doing.

What I don't really like is pandering. A comedian pandering to the crowd is something I can't stomach. If you're a crowd-pleasing guy, but that's just how you are, that doesn't bug me. If you're pandering that's annoying to me.

How do comedians pander?

If I know the guy and they're a complete psycho and have a dark sense of humor, but they're doing happy stuff, they're not trying to work.

If you're a psycho and do, "Hey this guy knows what I'm talking about, right? Back me up." Just giving them what they want drives me right out of the room.

You're performing at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 11. Excited? Nervous?

Yeah, all of that. I don't feel I'm worthy and then also wow, it took me 20 years. I started at 24 and thought by the time I was 30 I'd be where I am now - misjudged it by 13 years. [laughs] But it definitely went by quick.

The nervousness isn't from being in that kind of place. The nervousness comes from giving a performance worthy of that kind of place.

Do you ever adjust depending on the venue or crowd?

I don't adjust at all. I just do what I do. Adjusting was more something I had to do when I was a younger comic because nobody knew who I was.

Most people know who I am, buy tickets and come to see you. They're into what I do. So you really don't have to adjust, but that's something that if you're not careful, can make you a little spoiled.

Actually there's a certain part of me that enjoys when the crowd doesn't agree with what I just said. I find that's what makes it fun.

I don't know if it's that German-Irish blood, but I kind of like arguing. I actually enjoy being heckled when it's "I don't agree with what you're saying."

If somebody presents an opposite opinion of what I'm saying, I like that. If somebody's just yelling out, "you suck" and blah, blah, blah, I don't mind that a couple times, but it gets pretty boring after a while.

One of my favorite jokesof yoursis about walking a pit bull. Are you actually a pit bull owner?

Yeah, we got it for free. She's awesome. It's such a great breed of dog, and they really get a terrible, terrible rap because people get them and don't know anything about them - including myself. I didn't know anything, but we worked with a trainer.

The dog is great. But it is a dangerous breed of dog, as is any dog that size. If a little dog bites, which they do all the time, it never makes the news because their capability is so much less. Even if you get bit by a golden retriever, that's no joke.

So with the breed of pit bull, you have to address that it's a dangerous animal. I mean, driving a car you can kill somebody. It doesn't mean you shouldn't own a car. It means you should learn how to drive a friggin' car.

It's the same thing with owning a big dog. You should learn about the breed and if you can't do it on your own, you should work with a trainer. That's what I did, and now I can walk my dog across the playground with little kids and not be nervous.

I like the car analogy.

Yeah, it's like anything, like owning a freaking gun. Owning a gun isn't bad, unless you're an idiot. It's a great thing.

If somebody breaks into your house, you're not running laps around your dining room table waiting for the cops to get there. You can handle the situation.

So I'm totally sold on the breed - they're just awesome, awesome dogs. They're not what everybody thinks they are. People buy these spiked collars and get them snarling and all that stuff.

It's like sharks. Nothing makes me madder than that stupid Shark Week.

How so?

Just watching the Discovery Channel sell out the way they do. As they're sitting there telling me about the misconceptions of sharks, they sell the whole week on the fear of sharks.

With all that cheesy "Jaws" music and that type of stuff, they're on one hand saying they're misunderstood and becoming extinct. Then on the other they're just showing how friggin' scary they are.

Obviously they're scary, but they make it seem like they're malicious. Like, "Look at that guy surfing over there. I'm going to kill that guy."

People get attacked by sharks because we shouldn't be in the ocean. You're swimming in their food supply.

That's something that's always amazed me. If you take someone to an aquarium that has sharks in there, they wouldn't go in the tank because they're sharks. Yet they go to the ocean. There are sharks in the ocean and they still go in.

It's the dumbest f---ing thing I've ever seen in my life. Not to mention the 9,000 other things that can kill you in the ocean.

What was it like living in New York and being a Red Sox fan?

That was a hard thing until 2004. Until we basically hung the biggest choke ever in the history of sports around their neck. And it was a $200 million team with a half-dozen first ballot, no doubt about it, no question hall of famers - A-Rod, Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Clemens.

Okay, with those guys and the steroids they may not be first ballot. They might get punished a couple of times.

Just the level of talent, the amount of money, and there was no bigger domination of what the Yankees did to the Red Sox. The whole rivalry was a joke. One team always kicks the s--- out of the other one. It's not much of a rivalry.

And after 2004?

After 2004, it was over. It was funny to watch Yankee fans change their tune.

They went from just trashing you and rubbing your nose in it to immediately flipping and going, "I'm actually happy for you guys. I was rooting for you guys in the World Series."

No you weren't. For the first time in your life you have to shut your face and have to take a pounding. And they didn't know how to do it because they never took one.

It's like never taking an ass kicking; you don't know how to take it. You don't know how to get up. That's what they did - went for this pathetic, "I was actually rooting for you guys. I was happy for you guys."

Now that we've called them out on that, all they do is the childish, "We got 27, that's all we've got to say." Everybody's aware of how many championships you have, but most of those were won back when the Three Stooges were still making movies.

Listening to them talk about their success is like that Matthew McConaughey character in "Dazed and Confused." It's all behind them.

I do have to admit that nowadays the Red Sox have basically become the Yankee junior team by how much money they spend. It's kind of hard to watch as a Red Sox fan, but it's one of those things.

What are they supposed to do? You're up against a franchise that's going to spend $210 million a year. Show up with the $80 million team that could?

When we play the Yankees now, I expect to beat them. And if we don't win, there's none of that bulls--- hype about 80-something years, curse of the Babe, ghosts and goblins and all that bulls--- I never bought into. It's ridiculous. It's the biggest cop-out ever.

Don't tell Cubs fans that.

Oh, the Cubs got the worst curse I've ever heard in my life. The curse of the goat? It's a ballpark; we don't want your dirty farm animal. It's a health code violation - get it out of here.

Your franchise stinks, and you've made horrible friggin' moves. You haven't drafted the right players, and you haven't put right people together. That's why you haven't won.

Thanks for talking with me, Bill, hope you enjoy Columbus.

I'm looking forward to playing Columbus; it's one of my favorite clubs. We always have a good time, and I think I'm going to the Ohio State game that weekend.

I always seem to come out there in September when they have some cupcake game like Ohio State versus Jefferson Community College.

It's always like 70 to nothing in the second quarter. At halftime the other team's band comes out and they can barely cover from the 40-yard line to the 40-yard line; some guy with a triangle and a couple people with clarinets. And your band covers the entire field.

Columbus Funny Bone

Friday, Sept. 9 - Sunday Sept. 11

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