Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact
Previous story: The New Economic Apartheid
Next story: What's Wrong WIth Kids Today?

Breaking Bill

(photo by Koury Angelo)

Whether or not you know Bill Burr as a standup comedian, he is becoming a familiar face. Both actor and comic, he has had a part in a variety of productions ranging from dramatic television series (attention Breaking Bad addicts), comedy films, and has released multiple standup shows. With his comedic twists on touchy subjects and his love for acting, he has developed and grown into an exponential success. A man of many talents, we had the pleasure of interviewing the hilariously cynical yet lighthearted comedian this week before his performance at Kleinhan’s Music Hall on June 15 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available online at

AV: How long have you been doing comedy?

Burr: Twenty-one years. I’m a 21-year over-night success.

AV: Your standup definitely leans to the darker side of humor. Do you consider yourself a cynical person?

Burr: Yes. It’s weird, not in individual moments. Hanging out with friends, you know, meeting somebody on a plane, I’m a very positive person. But as far as the overall big picture, how business is run, how you have a legal side of stealing that bankers and stuff are involved in, and you have a 12-year-old girl on TV spelling it out and still nothing will change, that makes me very cynical.

AV: What is your reaction to hecklers? And what is the worst heckle you’ve ever received?

Burr: To be honest with you, I don’t mind hecklers, unless they’re just deliberately trying to mess up the show. I mean the kind of stuff I talk about, and how dumb I am, I mean someone’s going to challenge me at some point. As far as the worst heckle, there are too many. I was in Austin, Texas a week after those idiots lit off those bombs there in Massachusetts, and I was talking about sociopaths. I was doing this bit about how to rid them, get ’em out of society. I don’t even know what I said, I was doing great, but all of a sudden some guy in the crowd said, just yelled out, “Those bombers up in Boston weren’t on the list!”

It really had nothing to do with what I was talking about, but he just brought that visual of that horrific event into the theater and it just sucked all the life out of it. It had nothing to do with what I was talking about. What really annoyed me was that I had to dig out of the hole that this guy created; in a comedic sense it was like a terrorist act. He kind of killed all the laughter in the room, but I was able to get out of it. It was 90 seconds of work, of berating the guy. The angle I used was just basically trashing him for throwing out this horrific non sequitur and all the work that he just threw into my lap while he gets to continue sitting there drinking a beer as I try to dig my way out.

AV: You played one of Saul’s henchmen on Breaking Bad. Tell me about that experience.

Burr: Breaking Bad was my favorite TV show. I was a huge, huge fan of it, and all of a sudden, getting to be a small part of it, I felt like I got sucked into my television. The first episode I did, all I could do was sort of emotionally hold it together and not come off like some fan that won a radio contest. It’d be like if you were a fan of Star Wars and all of the sudden you were putting on a storm trooper outfit and you got to go stand next to Darth Vader and say a couple of words.

By giving me a shot to do that kind of acting, I got to work with Al Pacino and Christopher Walken [in 2012’s Stand Up Guys]. As a comedian when you’re trying to break into acting, they just go, “Oh, put him in a comedy, put him in a comedy,” and it just becomes comedy, comedy, comedy. And you’re kind of like, “Well, I have the ability to do more dramatic stuff,” and they’re like, “Ah, he’s joking with us again!”

AV: Are you striving more towards an acting career versus standup?

Burr: I’m striving toward doing more acting. But I’m a standup for life. I absolutely love doing it, and every year I try to get better at it. Standup is not a stepping-stone for me. It’s what I do, and all that other stuff that I get is icing on the cake. If I was just a touring comedian, I would be happy as hell. Going back to the Warehouse, when I was working there, wondering if I was good enough to be a comedian, if you told me back then I would be touring around doing standup gigs and paying my bills, I’d be doing cartwheels.

blog comments powered by Disqus