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09th Dec 2013

JOE catches up with hilarious comedian Bill Burr before his Dublin gig

We catch up with one of the funniest men on the planet, and star of Breaking Bad and The Heat, Bill Burr


JOE has been around the block. This isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve been asked to Prom before. Look, basically what we’re tryna say is that we’ve regularly interviewed the biggest sports and movie stars on earth, yet when we listened back to our interview with American comedian Bill Burr, our breath was shaky and, well… we fanboyed a little bit. OK… we fanboyed a big bit.

Why? I mean, isn’t he JUST that guy who popped up in smallish roles in summer blockbuster The Heat and Breaking Bad? Impressive, sure – but hardly enough to get our figurative knickers in a twist.

Then you watch his stand-up. He’s arguably the best stand-up comedian working today, no bullshit. He also hosts one of the best podcasts (The Monday Morning podcast) on the planet – so not only is JOE a fan, you could say that we’re big fans.

Oozing humility from the comfort of his couch on a Monday morning in Los Angeles, Burr is in fine form and takes our compliments with grace, more of which later. First, though, we have to ask *does Jerry Seinfeld voice* what’s the deal with the comparisons to fellow ginger New England native (and the only man to rival him in terms of funny) Louis CK? Lazy journalism, or a fair assessment?  “I like it,” Burr laughs, “but if I was Louis, I’d be offended.”

Hardly. Since beginning his career as a comic in the mid ’90s, Burr has steadily gained a fiercely loyal fanbase who can’t get enough of his abrasive, self-effacing style,

He continually tells us he “doesn’t pay attention to the numbers” as he doesn’t want it taking over his life, he admits that “you’d end up wondering why THOSE people aren’t listening too much”. His podcast has gone global; does he – like a lot of comedians – let it shape his act? “Occasionally something from the podcast will seep into my act, but it’s a radio show,” he says. “You can’t really work stuff out, because there’s no audience. The joke has to be a surprise.” He pauses, before adding matter-of-factly, “The audience can’t expect it. If you already know where it goes, there’s no surprise – so what’s the point in coming out to see me?”

Burr averages about a special every two years; his most recent, You People Are All The Same, is currently available on Netflix. That doesn’t mean that he spends two years shaping stuff, though; he’s continually putting new material out there and describes the ones that don’t make specials as “like B-sides that people can stumble upon while fucking around on YouTube, or wherever.”

More often than not, these “B-sides” are overtly topical and utterly hilarious – see below piece on Steve Jobs, done just a few weeks after his death.

Offended? Then frankly, you probably wouldn’t like Bill Burr. Still, he’s not a comedian that relies purely on shock. “It all depends on what you’re talking about, how you approach it and your skill level,” he says. “If all of those things are in line, then it’s never too soon.”

We point out that this is some of his funniest stuff, and touch on the fact that he seems, well, a little uncomfortable with compliments. “I’d rather people give me shit than give me compliments,” he admits, chuckling. “If you ever ran out of water but wanted to psychologically waterboard me, just have a room full of people giving me compliments.”

He does appreciate them eventually, though. “I have to be looking back on it to feel the good feeling,” he says, “but in the moment, I just wanna flip over in the back of my chair and do a somersault out of the room.”

What should we expect from his December 9th gig at Vicar Street, then?  “I’m talking a lot about mortality and wanting to feel safe; guns and people jumping out of helicopters,” he laughs. “Crazy shit.”

The part-Irish, but mostly German Burr has been here before, for a gig in The Sugar Club a couple of years ago. “Dublin was a lot of fun,” he says. “Everyone tells you to go down to that touristy spot… Temple Bar. But I quickly realised this was your Times Square.” Fair point. “As soon as I bumped into someone I knew from Cleveland, I knew there were no Irish people there.”

That’s Burr all over: not afraid to call bullshit on something, an innate ability to mine humour from the ludicrous, and an all ’round damn funny guy. Something tells us that he’d better start getting used to those compliments from Irish folk.

Burr is playing Vicar Street on December 9th. There are some tickets left that can be purchased over yonder.

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