Bill Burr can tell you–being a comedian is never easy
Comedy sure can be a hard sell. Much of the genre is pejoratively thrown in with other shlock that is deemed low-brow and uninspiring. It is often made and assumed to be consumed as a popcorn-crunching, syrupy-soda-slurping film and nothing more. Which is rather unfortunate for in reality, comedy is quite a difficult field to work in. Much like other more critically revered genre’s, honing one’s craft in comedy takes years and years, with many comics needing decades to climb the ladder of fame and celebrity. The only problem is that that hard work is seldom rewarded in the same fashion as other genres like drama or documentary.
But that doesn’t seem to deter thousands of individuals from trying their hand at the oft self-deprecating work. It’s a painfully self-aware craft that requires dedication, time and most importantly, patience. That’s what comedians like Bill Burr will tell you, schlepped his self-described song-and-dance across the country and the world. The Boston-native has been working as a stand-up for nearly thirty years, having begun his shit-and-dick joke telling (again, he calls them that) career in the aftermath of the comedy boom of the late-80s. From pizza joints to college campuses, Burr has seen it all over the years, leading him to be referred to as a comic’s comic by many in the industry.
It seems all those years of hard work has finally paid off, with acclaimed guest-starring spots in “Breaking Bad,” “New Girl,” “The Kroll Show” and others. And now that his new Netflix TV show “F is for Family” is soon to be kicking off its second season, it appears that Burr has deservedly begun receiving the critical and fan appreciation he so desperately deserves. Armed with a box of condoms (which the comic personally passed out after the show), multiple t-shirts and a quick wit, the comedian joined Vulture’s senior editor Jesse David Fox for a conversation on his deconstructive comedy podcast “A Good One” to discuss the new season of his show, pass out condoms and whether having a kid will affect his comedy.
Mike Price and “F is for Family”
For most comics, landing a TV show deal is a landmark in one’s career. It takes years of practice, effort and persistence to find a network that is willing to take a chance on the budding mind of a stand-up comedian. But with the advent of Hulu, Netflix, Seeso, Epix and so many other streaming services, it seems that many more comedians are being given the opportunity to explore their storytelling side in a medium that doesn’t involve a microphone and a lone presence on stage.
And for Bill Burr, that came to fruition when Netflix commissioned “F is for Family,” his semi-autobiographical animated show that details his upbringing in 1970s New England. Now with the show entering its second season, Burr seems to be becoming increasingly more comfortable with his showrunner status–but he’s quick to recognize the necessity for a collaborative process. “Mike Price is the first step. He’s a legendary writer and animator from ‘The Simpsons.’ He has this ‘Beautiful Mind’ like thing where you can just start throwing out all this shit we want to do–like when I said, ‘I want to see Kevin play more in the band’ and he goes, ‘meh, alright’ and he puts it up there. Then we sort of track where it’s going to go.”
Expanding on Price’s contributions, Burr explained that “each character is a different color index card. It’s unreal. It’s like watching a magic trick. I watched him do it last year but it went by so fast that I still don’t know how to do it.”
Burr’s Way of Dealing with Writing Stress? Booze.
Many writers have had a heavy history with the bottle. From Ernest Hemingway to Stephen King, a great deal of great writers turned to alcohol or other drugs to placate their meandering minds or ease the tension of a looming deadline or writer’s block. And from the looks of it, it appears that Bill Burr is no different. “Writer’s work so freaking hard. My drinking went off the rails [laughs]. Seriously, I used to go home and I was just so tired from thinking.”
It seems that before too long the comedian was beginning to realize that drinking became a mental respite from all the long hours at the writer’s room. “I would just come home and stare at the wall while my pours went from a pinch, to a finger, to two fingers to three,” reflected Burr. The comedian went on to explain that his “wife was giving me shit for it. I would say, ‘I only had one drink!’ and she would point out that it was more like three [laughs].”
Raising a Kid While Being a Foul-Mouthed Comic
Having a child brings a great deal of joy to any parent. From the sense of fulfillment to loving affection, becoming a parent is often considered to be one of the greatest achievements for any adult. But for a stand-up comic, it sounds like it could sour one’s perspective and leave it dulled and boring–a quality that the arrogantly boisterous and vulgar Burr is often thinking about.
“Now that I’m a dad, there’s certain things I don’t want to continue doing. There’s a bunch of stuff I want to continue doing. For instance, the other day I stabbed my laptop with my phone. I told myself, ‘I have to stop doing that’ [laughs], said Burr. “I don’t want to have an angry baby. The best compliments I’ve gotten about my daughter–other than she’s beautiful–is that people tell me, ‘oh she’s so relaxed! She’s so chill!’ and all I can think is ‘thank god, I don’t want her to be anything like me.’ I want her to be like her mom.” But it seems that the calm disposition of his daughter is rubbing off a little on the comic, whose overall demeanor has become more seemingly relaxed. Thankfully, it hasn’t affected his humor one bit.
Burr came out to definitively quash any notion that having a daughter would in any way affect the fervor of his comedy. When asked whether he can see it ever happening, Burr replied, “No. That whole fucking thing that when you become a parent you have to start watching what you say in front of adults–I mean it’s ridiculous.” Burr went on to say there is not much point in self-censoring now because, “I’ve said so much fucked up shit that’s already out there, so for me to pull them now would be stupid. On top of that, they’d know it isn’t true. I go just as hard now as I did before. I don’t change anything. When I think something is funny, I say it. But there are always certain subjects that can be tricky.” It appears that that mantra is certainly how the comic will continue to perform much to the delight of Burr fans everywhere.
Check out the second season of “F is for Family” when it hits Netflix May 30.