If you would like an idea of what kind of comedian Bill Burr is, look no further than his stand-up specials. Actually, you don't even have to do that. Just look at the titles of his stand-up specials.
Whether it's 2008's Why Do I Do This?, 2010's Let It Go, 2012's You People Are All the Same or I'm Sorry You Feel That Way, released late last year on Netflix, these titles all sound like phrases someone would spit out in the middle of an argument.
Over the course of his comedy career, Burr has managed to build up a stellar reputation among his peers and a huge fan following, using material that examines his personal life while unleashing frequently unpopular opinions on provocative topics to continually search for "the line." Then he crosses it and maybe brings a good chunk of the crowd with him.
Granted, that doesn't always happen. But to Burr, that's its own unique perk of his profession.
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"I'm not trying to, like, offend anybody. I get bored if it's easy," the comedian, 46, explains. "It's more just presenting a different point of view."
Growing up in a suburb of Boston, Burr started doing comedy fresh out of high school, jumping on stage at night and unloading trucks at a warehouse during the day. Initially, he tried to cut his teeth in the Los Angeles comedy scene before deciding to move back and make a name for himself on the East Coast.
Burr said he had a hard time fighting for stage time in L.A. in the early 1990s, but New York's numerous venues and opportunities to perform turned out to be a perfect proving ground.
"It's almost like going to the gym. You just get so many reps," he says. "It informs your experiences and it hones your act without even realizing it."
If you haven't seen Burr do stand-up comedy, that doesn't necessarily mean you haven't seen his face. He'll be the first to tell you he's been fortunate enough to "paratroop" into some of the most beloved TV shows of the past 15 years, whether he was performing in sketches on Dave Chappelle's comedy series Chappelle's Show or playing henchman Patrick Kuby on AMC's Breaking Bad. He's also been in a few big-screen productions, most recently in 2014's Walk of Shame starring Elizabeth Banks and January's Black or White, starring Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer.
But it's Burr's workmanlike attitude and ability to consistently come up with new material that has gained him the most popularity and occasionally has earned him the title of the "comic's comic."
"It doesn't necessarily mean the best comedian out there. There are a lot of comedians that the crowds do not get, but the comics love them," he says. "That's the highest compliment you can get, especially if it's given to you by another comic. It's like a carpenter looking at another carpenter's work and saying, that's great work."
As a stand-up comedian who does a few hundred dates a year, more and more people are appreciating Burr's work on stage, but that doesn't necessarily mean they agree with what he has to say. He frequently rails against political correctness and the harmful effect it has on stand-up comedy, thanks to how people on social media and mass media are interpreting and presenting the alleged controversial material.
"They know you're being absurd, but they present what you're saying as (if) you said it as a lecture," Burr says. "So many times, I see people apologizing and I say, they shouldn't apologize because they didn't mean it in the way you think."
Burr is soon going to have one more unique outlet for his comedy. In addition to his stand-up and his popular, long-running podcast The Monday Morning Podcast, he will debut the series F Is for Family on Netflix in December. The show, which Burr co-created with Mike Pryce (The Simpsons) and is loosely based on the comedian's childhood, takes place in a Rust Belt town in the 1970s and also features the voice talents of Laura Dern, Mo Collins, Justin Long and Haley Reinhart.
"I noticed as the time-out generation and play-date generation came of age, I was starting to get groans when I was telling the stories that just seemed like funny stories to me," he says. "I was walking my dog thinking of a way to get these stories out, so I thought, why don't I animate them?"