Why So Serious, Bill Burr? - Reverb

Why So Serious, Bill Burr?

Laughing at the critically-acclaimed drama "Precious" can be a highly cathartic experience, according to comedian Bill Burr. Photo courtesy of Brian Friedman.

Laughing at the critically-acclaimed drama "Precious" can be a highly cathartic experience, according to comedian Bill Burr. Photo courtesy of Brian Friedman.

If you know Bill Burr only from his scattered appearances on shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Chappelle’s Show,” you don’t really know Bill Burr.

Like most stand-up comedians, the 38-year-old Massachusetts native’s real home is on stage, and Burr has proved a smashing and brutally honest presence on it the past few years, gaining a rabid fanbase through his live shows — and the hundreds of episodes of his “Monday Morning Podcast” he’s recorded since 2007.

We caught up with the L.A.- based writer and stand-up via e-mail in advance of his nearly sold-out Comedy Works dates this weekend to chat about awards, humility and the evils of Wikipedia.

You’ve recently sold out Carnegie Hall and won the Comedian of the Year Award from the Boston Comedy Festival. How do you keep that stuff from going to your head?

My ego was already out of control. So it didn’t affect me at all other than to reinforce the fantasy world that I’ve been living in since the third grade.

You’re often mentioned along with Louis C.K., Chris Rock, etc. as a comic that many other comics admire. Do you find that the stand-up world (at your level, anyway) is pretty supportive? Or is it as back-stabby as anything else?

If you work hard, do your thing, and you’re not a dick, you’ll get along with most people, regardless of the industry you’re in. I love all comics except for that bastard Joe DeRosa.

Is podcasting, as some folks have said, the new ’80s comedy boom — and potential bust?

I don’t think it will crash. I do think some successful podcasts will be bought by some of the same people that ruined most of the quality radio. And then that awful cycle will start over again because some douche at the top wants a bigger yacht. Podcasting is great. Total freedom. There’s no reason to go back to the plantation.

What’s your favorite part of podcasting? Least favorite?

My favorite part of podcasting is running my mouth for an hour. The only time I don’t like it is when I’m off. Then that hour feels like a day and a half.

I read on your Wikipedia page that you perform over 300 shows annually. Is that true? If so, how do you stay excited for each new night?

It’s not my Wikipedia page. It’s a Wikipedia page. I have nothing to do with it. Hence a lot of the stuff on there is incorrect. (I was never a hygienist). Fear of bombing and love of stand-up keeps me excited about the roughly 180 shows I do a year.

What’s a joke you used to love to tell but now can’t stand?

Anything in my act that is more than a year old. After a year, I’ve had it.

What’s your favorite joke lately?

“My dad told me there’s no ‘I’ in ‘you need to play football, faggot.'” –Angelo Bowers

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever felt bad laughing about?

I died laughing at one point while watching “Precious.” It’s the part of the movie where the mother says, “What you thinking about college for? …Ya dumb mutha fucka?” The girl looked so sad and it was so mean, I lost it. I was on a plane and I was laughing so hard I woke up my girlfriend. When she leaned over to see what I was laughing at, it became even funnier. It was one of the best laughs I had in 2010.

When is the last time you laughed so hard you cried?

I was watching (wrestler) Ric Flair videos on YouTube. Ric Flair is one of the funniest human beings who ever lived. When he held up that purple loafer with the gold inlays and told that toothless audience member, “My shoes cost more than your house,” it killed me.

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John Wenzel is an A&E reporter and digital media editor for The Denver Post and the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum). Follow him @johntwenzel and @beardsandgum.

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