Having first gained notoriety for his recurring role on the second season of Dave Chappelle’s show, stand-up comedian Bill Burr has built a rather impressive career for himself over the last decade.
In addition to being an alumnus of the Just For Laughs Festival, Bill has also been a late-night television fixture, appearing on The Late Show With David Letterman and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
Praised for his comedic style of “uninformed logic,” Bill has parlayed his sense of humour into Comedy Central specials Why Do I Do This (2008) and 2010’s Let It Go. The comedian received rave reviews for his recurring role of “Kuby” on the hit AMC show Breaking Bad. In addition to hosting an off-the-cuff weekly podcast, Bill’s most recent comedy feature is 2012’s You People Are All The Same.
Fresh off a sold-out run of European shows in London, Glasgow, Dublin, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm, Bill Burr performs two shows at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre this Saturday night.
Refuting the notion of having been the class clown while in school, Bill tells The Times & Transcript his love of comedy stemmed naturally from simply wanting to make people laugh.
“I always loved making people laugh. For me personally, I don’t know that there is anything better than making someone laugh and connecting with them in a positive way. It was natural for me to gravitate towards comedy on television and in movies,” Bill begins. “I watched everything from Dean Martin shows to more contemporary stuff like Eddie Murphy, Seinfeld, Chris Rock, The Kids In The Hall and David Spade.”
Driven by a deep-rooted desire not to become yet another 9-to-5’er, pursuing a career in comedy soon became Bill’s reason for getting up in the morning. The thought of walking to the beat of his own drum and not being accountable to anybody but himself held a great appeal for the comedian.
“I chose the path of not settling into a 9-to-5 job because that is what I wanted to do with my life. I don’t think I realized it quite as clearly as I do at this point in my life, though. Honestly, I never considered myself to be mainstream or conventional.”
Rather than trying to enter into comedy with guns blazing, Bill took a deliberate, at times slow, approach to building his name in his hometown before choosing to relocate to the bright lights of New York City.
“At the time I started doing stand-up in Boston, I was living at home with my parents and was also working a day job. I paid off my loans and my credit cards and saved an additional five or six thousand dollars so that I had a bit of a cushion to fall back upon after moving to New York.
“Instead of telling myself I had to find a day job there, I instead was telling myself I had to find more shows to do. I worked very hard at it, and before I knew it, a year had passed by, I had Cheerios in my cupboard and I hadn’t been evicted. I think that was when I knew that I would be alright,” he says.
For every show that felt like a World Series Championship, Bill says there was plenty of not-so-great shows that caused him to re-examine his career choice on more than one occasion. As opposed to a touring musician who can play multiple shows in the run of a week, Bill says that he would often go four or five days between shows in the early part of his career, dwelling upon the negative while also figuring out a way to push forward.
“When you are starting your career in comedy, it is so incredibly hard at the beginning,” he says. “You go into it thinking you’re funny but then you just aren’t quite sure if you are good enough to do it for a living. Then somebody shouts out how much you suck during one of your shows. And as much as you fight back and maybe laugh about it, there is this little voice in the back of your head asking ‘Do I suck?’
“You rise from that, though. You look forward to the next show, knowing what works and what doesn’t work,” Bill says. “Even today, I am constantly working at refining my routine. I don’t want to be a robot and just deliver the same stuff night after night, show after show. I want to be physically and mentally present when I take the stage in Moncton because, I tell you, there is nothing that feels better than sending people home knowing they have laughed along with you. The good shows really do feel like a victory.”
Article published in the February 27, 2014 edition of the Times & Transcript