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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Comedy Preview: F is for Family Creator Bill Burr Makes His Dreams Come True

Posted by on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 4:33 PM

click to enlarge Bill Burr - PHOTO BY KOURY ANGELO
  • photo by Koury Angelo
  • Bill Burr

Bill Burr
Thursday, Sept. 15–Saturday, Sept. 17, 8 p.m., $42–$60
The Carolina Theatre, Durham


Stand-up comedian Bill Burr has recently garnered attention for his animated Netflix series, F is for Family, where his credits include co-creator, voice actor, writer, and co-producer. For nearly a decade, his Monday Morning Podcast has stood on its own without relying on pretentious intro music, stock sponsors—Burr humorously riffs when reading advertisements—or guests (he has just a handful each year). Now the second season of F is for Family is in post-production, the recording of Burr’s new comedy special is coming up, and he has three stand-up shows at the Carolina Theatre in Durham this week. We spoke with Burr about all of this as well as his short time living in Raleigh, that time he played with Guns N’ Roses, and how he came to sit in the same seat as President Obama.

INDY: Your new special will be filmed next month in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Ryman Auditorium. You’ve done something unique with each of your past specials, like producing one in black and white. What do you have planned for Nashville?

BILL BURR: I definitely have a way I want to shoot this one. I think throughout the last twenty years the art of shooting a stand-up special became unimportant. I don’t know what happened. It suddenly became, “Let’s shoot everything like it’s The Bourne Identity.” For stand-up, you want to draw the audience in and let the comic take them for a ride. If you watch the old ones with Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor, the cameras stay on them. They capture the performance rather than show off how many cameras they have. The one I did in black and white, for some people that didn’t make sense, but it will after the next three specials. I’m already thinking about when I’m seventy. How many specials do I want to do? That’s the kind of perspective that makes you want to do one in black and white.

You started your podcast in 2007, before podcasts mushroomed like they have in the past few years. I was at a conference last year, and at a session on podcasting, someone asked how a person would know if they should start a podcast or not. The panelists unanimously agreed that everybody should have one. Now that podcasting is trendy, do you foresee any changes for yours?
Everyone should have a podcast? That’s a very “industry” way of looking at an art form. When people see something successful, they like to break it down into a formula. The philosophy that everyone should have a podcast—think about that. Three-hundred million people in the country, that’s three-hundred million podcasts. Who has time to listen to all that shit? I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying it’s not a requirement. For the first time I started listening to other podcasts, [ones] that really appeal to me, like Marc Maron and Joe Rogan. I listened to one the other day: Marc Maron interviewing Cindy Crawford. Oh, my god—Cindy Crawford? It was great listening to her, then halfway through it, I’m like, Marc Maron is talking to Cindy Crawford! And he does it at his house!

Plus, when Marc Maron had President Obama on—
—Hey, President Obama? This is Cindy Crawford we’re talking about. [Laughs] I get a real kick out of seeing people I admire get experiences like that. The next time I was on Marc’s show, I asked, “Obama sat in this chair?” Marc said, “Right in that chair.”

I heard that you started your podcasts on Mondays because that day was depressing for you before you started comedy. You wanted your podcast to be a reason for people to look forward to Mondays. What was your equivalent of a Monday Morning Podcast back then?
What I always had were comedians and music. When I listen to music, I don’t just listen to it. I fantasize I’m in the band. If you’re a dreamer like that, eventually you just start doing those things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played drums listening to a Guns N’ Roses album, fantasizing that I was in the band playing with them. Next thing you know, I’m on a benefit, and they asked me to sit in on drums and I’m onstage with Duff and Slash.

I heard on one of your earlier shows that you lived in the Raleigh-Durham area. You did two semesters at N.C. State.
Yeah, I was at N.C. State in an off-campus program. I would drive to the school, go to the library, and watch a recording of the class by myself. I’ve always been isolated. It was the funniest thing. You’d be watching [the video] and the teacher would be like, “Any questions?” Uh, yeah, I have a question. [Laughs] I literally had to call this guy up a couple of times. I felt like a leper. The next semester I was on campus. I really wished it worked out for me down there. I went to a performance school by the end of it. N.C. State was cool; I still root for them when they play Carolina or Duke. I’m always pulling for the Wolfpack.

When was this on the timeline of your comedy career? Did you start doing stand-up in Raleigh?
No. I had this feeling I was going to try stand-up. It didn’t seem possible. I think it’s hard for young people to understand just how far away show business seemed back in the day. There was no YouTube. I didn’t know how to get involved. I was working in a warehouse with a guy who was into comedy the same way I was. I remember we were watching some VH1 “Standup Spotlight” and he said, “We’re funnier than these guys. One of these days I’m gonna take a shot of Jack Daniels and go onstage.” The second he said that, all of a sudden, it wasn’t in Hollywood. It was sitting right next to me. It was still another couple of years while I was finishing college before I entered a talent contest and gave it a shot. Fortunately, things worked out.

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