Burr fits the 'bill'
Comedian Bill Burr has far outgrown amateur night. He’s had a handful of comedy tours explode in popularity, with standout stops including sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House. He’s recently dabbled in debauchery on-camera, appearing alongside Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in last year’s “The Heat,” and in a smattering of episodes of the wildly popular “Breaking Bad.” Besides all this, his “Monday Morning” podcast is one of the most-frequently downloaded audio comedy programs on the Web. What’s next for Mr. Burr? On Feb. 20, the Paramount hosts his latest (currently untitled) routine. A&E had the chance to talk with the man himself to get inside the mind of a surefire funnyman.
Arts & Entertainment: You’ve been doing standup for years now, with past recorded specials being fan favorites on Netflix. What was it like to make the transition from the stage to the screen?
Bill Burr: It was definitely a nerve-wracking experience, because I had never done work in front of a camera before. I was over-prepared because I was nervous I’d get fired. But after a while, I got to know people’s names, and the whole process became part of a second home. When it’s all over, it was easy to get sad because I’d never see these people again.
AE: What was it like being on “Breaking Bad?” I know you’re set to be alongside Kevin Costner in an upcoming film this year, but I’m sure your stint on the show was a definite career highlight.
Burr: It was really surreal, like the time I was on the air with Howard Stern. I was a fan of the show from the start, and three episodes in I was begging my agent to get me on the set. It’s definitely [an] amazing feeling being where they make a show I’m really invested in. Sometimes I watch reruns of episodes I’m in and I always get this chest jolt and take a 30-second timeout to take care of how overwhelmingly unbelievable the whole experience was.
AE: Tell us more about your “Monday Morning” podcast. It’s undeniably popular, and it’s a diversion from your other work. What’s in store for someone that hasn’t yet plugged in to its mass appeal?
Burr: It’s a lot different from standup routines. I started slowly, making it up as I went along. I created early podcasts in my car as I drove around through a phone number that recorded my whole schtick. Other episodes had me making fun of people in the airport, and soon listeners sent me in segment ideas and questions, or asked me for advice. It’s definitely over-the-top, and perfect for Monday morning because no matter how much you like your job, Mondays suck.
AE: What would an episode of the podcast be like if Howard Stern made a guest appearance?
Burr: Amazing. It’d be an easy interview, and I’d probably just listen to him tell stories about his long radio career. He’s been around since before cable TV started, and the fact that he’s sustaining his listener base through all this new technology is unbelievable. Because of this, it’d be cool to hear his take on the new direction of the entertainment industry.
AE: You sold out a number of huge venues recently. That must be incredible! What was going through your head, right next to all the excitement from your role on “Breaking Bad”?
Burr: There’s no way in this business to predict stuff like that happening. I haven’t thought about it much, to be honest, but I know I was completely dumbfounded that people were there to hear me tell jokes.
AE: Charlottesville is certainly on a smaller scale than some of your past shows, but the Paramount is a great venue for comedy, judging by some of past comedians’ specials there. What will we expect on the 20th?
Burr: I can’t control people’s opinion of my comedy, but I know that I’ve developed my best 90 minutes of material yet. Comedy’s really no different than being an athlete or playing an instrument. You’re always stepping up your game. I just hope to give people their money’s worth and make people laugh.
Bill Burr sets out to achieve his goal of making people laugh on Feb. 20 downtown at the Paramount Theater. No word on if new “Breaking Bad” material will be revealed or not.