If there’s one thing we all know about Bill Burr, it’s that he loves to rant. Oh boy, don’t get him going!
The 26-year standup veteran’s name collocates with the verb. Only it shouldn’t. The masses are mistaken. He’s not shy in stating his opinions but he is always reasoned and nuanced, vacillating between his truth and the accepted truth of the subject at hand, giving the pros and cons of each side.
“You’re one of the few people that have noticed that,” he says while stuck in Los Angeles traffic. “Most people are gonna just approach a lot of performers like ‘Oh, I watched this for five minutes, bing-bam-boom, oh, he’s yelling, okay, he’s angry, he’s ranting.’ Anytime you talk passionately about something for longer than 30 seconds, it’s called a rant. When I was growing up, ‘rant’ was part of ‘ranting and raving’. It was like you were making people uncomfortable, like ‘All right, dude, I got it, I got it, I got it.’ I’m not saying I don’t do that, but at this point it’s like people are going ‘I loved your rant about this.’ It’s like, ‘Dude, I made a statement. It took one-and-a-half seconds. That’s not a rant.’ ”
Uh-oh, we got him going. “People don’t know,” he says. “They’ll talk about a comedian and be like, ‘Hey, I love when you heckled the crowd.’ I can’t heckle the crowd! Heckling is when you’re disrupting a performance. The crowd isn’t giving a performance. Whatever. But then they’ll say it enough and then that’ll become something.”
And another thing, while we’re on the topic: “It’s like in this country we call the main course the entrée,” he says. “It’s a French word; that’s the enter, that’s the appetizer, that’s the beginning of the meal.” Got it?
Burr is one of the most respected comics on the scene today, a true master of his craft, leaving aside his long-running podcast, his role on the hugely popular Breaking Bad, and his animated Netflix creation F Is for Family. His two performances at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre sold out, so he’s adding a third at the Orpheum.
But all that positive reinforcement doesn’t get to his head. Not with the Internet and a live-in critic.
“Hey, I’m married, so very rarely do I hear the best about myself,” he says with a laugh. “Ninety percent of my life is my lovely wife telling me I need to work on my temper. And you know what? She’s right. Believe me, she keeps me grounded.”
And so do the anonymous armchair comedians out there. “What you don’t see is how much I get trashed on social media by people every day, so the occasional good review doesn’t really trump trolls on Twitter and Facebook and all that stuff,” he says. “That whole thing, who’s the best and all of that, that’s all subjective anyways. That’s the beginning of the end when you start sitting there listening to the good or the bad.”
Actually, go ahead and say he rants. As long as you show up, he’ll be happy. Or as happy as Bill Burr can be.
Bill Burr plays the Orpheum on Wednesday (March 7) and two sold-out shows at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre next Thursday (March 8), as part of the JFL NorthWest comedy festival.