Well readers, you know you've made it as a blogger when you get a free Bill Burr CD. I decided to interview Mr. Burr because:
a) he was a cast member in one of the best sketch shows in history (Chappelle's Show)
b) few contemporary white comedians can talk about race better than Burr
c) in the world of stand-up Burr has garnered a reputation as the Hendrix of taking down hecklers
d) (for the obvious-impaired)he's funny.
The reissue of his 2003 CD Emotionally Unavailable is on sale at What Are Records. Blah blah blah you still reading this? Scroll down to the interview already.
When you started out in comedy did you have your own voice already or did you find yourself imitating your heroes?
When I started out, I worked totally clean for the first year or two. I don’t know why I did. I think I just wanted crowds to like me, and I thought if I wasn’t dirty I wouldn’t get heckled as much. It took me a couple of years to find that my voice involved lacing all material with the f word and making stupid faces. That formula really helps if you’re trying to cover up an inability to write a joke.
Do you have any horror stories of starting out in comedy?
The biggest horror story I’ve had in comedy was living with Robert Kelly. The only thing I’ve found worse than that experience is having a conversation with Keith Robinson.
What definitive moment made you want to do stand-up? Did you watch David Brenner and decide that you wanted to do this for a living?
Watching comedians with my Dad and seeing him laugh made me want to be a comedian.
You were on Chappelle's Show for a few episodes. Have your ever done sketch before then?
I never did sketch before Chappelle’s Show. I never really looked at his show as a sketch show. It seemed more like we were making short movies.
You seem to have an obsession with strippers and hookers in your act. Why?
I love whores. Always have.
When is a joke racist and when is it politically incorrect?
I think it all comes down to intent. If you really mean what you’re saying the crowd will sense it and you’ll be in a tough situation. That’s why I’ve always hated when someone says that someone, “Can get away with…” doing certain material. “Getting away with” implies that you are saying something in a malicious way rather than just fucking around.
Once you were scheduled to appear on Human Giant, Aziz Ansari's show but you couldn't make it. Would you ever do an alternative comedy show?
I was on Human Giant. That is an incredible blow to me and my ego that you didn’t notice my 48 second interview with Aziz during their 24 hours marathon.
I wish I saw it. Can we expect any future TV cameos from you?
Well I know I'M expecting to be on TV some more. Let's just hope the people that make those decisions feel the same way.
You became a YouTube legend after a video was uploaded of
you giving an unruly Philadelphia audience a tongue-lashing. What are some tips on fending off drunken hecklers?
There are a bunch of different ways to go about it. But the basic theme is "Go fuck yourself." Greg Fitzsimmons is the best I've ever seen. I learned a lot watching him when I started out. He was the first guy I saw that didn't have some stock or prepared generic line for hecklers. He would take every situation as it came and would then, in a very personal and painful way, dissect the heckler's life. Not only would it shut the person up, no one else would yell out for the rest of the show.
What would you tell a comedian starting out trying to find his voice?
My advice to new comedians is: Get a catch phrase. That’s where the money is at. And if you can some how write an hour of material about the same subject, there will be no stopping you.
What other new comedians do you like?
As far as new comics in New York, I like Joe DeRosa, Jay Oakerson, and Kurt Metzger. I just moved to LA so I haven’t been out here long enough to know who’s doing what.
When can we expect a brand new album from you?
I'm shooting an hour long DVD next month in NYC. It will be in stores in 2008. I’m really excited about getting this next hour of material out there, blowing up, and being able to afford an assistant to pretend to be me and answer all my myspace emails. Until then I’ll continue to answer the 7 questions I get every three days.
If you could be on any TV comedy what would it be?
I want to be the guy that gets yelled at via satellite on one of those Left Wing/Right Wing talking head shows. I'm currently perfecting my "flabbergasted look" when I can't interject my feelings on how the world should be run.
Bill Burr rants on MySpace