Bill Burr, tour guide? In March, Burr led a driving tour around Los Angeles, where he has been living for the past couple of years when he's not on the road as a touring headliner comedian.
In May, while back in New York City for a weekend of shows at Carolines, Burr hopped in a cab down to Greenwich Village, where he again leads a tour, this time on foot, and this time very nostalgic as he reminisces about living in NYC in the 1990s as a young stand-up and working at the Comedy Cellar, Cafe Wha and the old Boston Comedy Club (which no longer exists). As always with Burr, there is plenty of profanity-laced NSFW language. But he remains funny and engaging. In a way, this is a second take on his DVD extras from "Why I Do This?", in which he also led a walkabout.
So. Come walk with Burr around NYC. Roll the clip!
They're not exactly the Three Musketeers of comedy, but Bill Burr, Robert Kelly and Joe DeRosa did figure out the value of teamwork. By joining forces, they sat down, wrote, produced and directed a short film all on their own, and Cheat will debut this weekend at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. There are five screenings, starting April 23 and continuing through May 1.
The film has opened up other opportunities for the trio.
Let's take a look at the trailer, and then talk to the fellas about it. Roll the clip.
So whose idea was it? Who had to convince the other two to get on board with making a short film?
BURR: "I think Bobby was the guy who said this was a movie."
KELLY: "I was the most desperate to do something. Bill has a very successful career and doesn't need us guys."
BURR: "No...Stop. He was the star of Tourgasm. I was on I Love the 80s Strikes Back. There's no strife between us. This was the three of us clinging to a raft and surviving together."
DEROSA: "Yeah, it was Bobby. The three of us had talked about it. Why are we waiting for something to happen. Why are we waiting for the next audition? Why don't we make it happen? That was the planted seed. And we called Bill and Bill liked it."
So what's the cheat in the movie?
DEROSA: "The logline is three friends to pull off the perfect crime. It looks like it might be a comedic heist, but then there's the big reveal!
BURR: "I always just bring up the movie Speed, Part 2, where they just showed the first two-and-a-half acts. They showed everything but Sandra Bullock walking on the beach. They burned 90 minutes of the movie and we knew the boat didn't blow up. We're kind of doing the opposite. We're in between Speed 2 and The Crying Game."
Were film festivals the initial goal for this?
Has everybody wished Greg Fitzimmons a happy birthday yet? If not, you still have time today.
And what better time to take a look at a recurring feature from Fitzdog Radio's podcast called Talk Your Way Out of It, in which Greg puts his comedian guests in a hypothetically tricky situation and then asks them to, well, you know. Recent guests have included Zach Galifianakis, Larry Miller, Andy Dick and David Koechner.
Last week's guest, Bill Burr, approached this game just as you might expect. Language and content is Not Safe For Work. Roll it!
Ride shotgun with Bill Burr as he drives around Los Angeles for 25 minutes, sharing his thoughts off the cuff, with language that decidedly is not safe for work. You'll learn something about Southern California, America and yourself.
Bill Burr's latest stand-up comedy special, Bill Burr: Let It Go, debuts tonight on Comedy Central. Burr lives in Los Angeles these days, but for the past few days, he was back in New York City and took a few minutes to chat with me on the sidewalk outside of Comix.
Here Burr give me and you the promotional teaser, while also admiring my cinematography budget (Note: All of the short videos include brief moments of profanity, which make them NSFW):
Pre-order, eh? Yay. DVD comes out Oct. 5, 2010.
When I ask Burr about knowing he has made it as a comedian, he relates an anecdote, and also magically, NYC gives us another:
Burr also told me about working with comedian Kevin Hart on their Comedy Central pilot.
What about clips from his special, though? OK. I can upload those, too...
Four years ago, Bill Burr infamously turned the tables on a horribly behaved audience in Philadelphia. Since then, most comedy fans have come around to Burr's way of thinking, but it has been interesting to see what the comedian has been up to recently. Whether seeing him headline an hour at Carolines in New York City, do a one-man show or showcase sets at Just For Laughs in Montreal, Burr has seemed more than content to launch a first strike offensive against the audience from the very top of his set, acknowledging "I've dug myself a hole in the first thirty seconds" or something to that effect.
It's not that Burr wants the audience to hate him. It seems as though he merely wants to challenge their pre-conceived notions on what constitutes societal norms. Burr performed last night on Late Show with David Letterman, and there, he could not get away with opening on a bit wherein he attempts to put a new perspective on domestic abuse, but he does something even more challenging. On Letterman's stage, Burr opened by taking on Oprah. I'm sure Letterman's audience didn't know what to do with that, what with Letterman's long awkward history with Oprah. Burr was taking on Oprah's stance that mothers have the most important jobs, and from there, he also tells audience members that they're wrong to think they're "rescuing" dogs. Like I said, it's really something to see how Burr puts the audience back on their heels and is fully at ease with the challenge of getting them to come around to his side. It's not the kind of set designed for maximum applause breaks. But isn't a comedian looking for laughs more than applause, anyhow? Give this a watch/listen and see what you think:
For the second year, Just For Laughs Montreal is putting several of its shows into an offshoot called Zoofest, and this time, they're opening acknowledging it as the "off the wall parallel" to JFL. In other words, for all of the unique, interesting and possibly amazing one-person shows by performers who aren't headlining Galas or otherwise big-ticket names to Canadians, why don't you try Zoofest? "1 show for $15, 2 shows for $20" Or get a Zoopass for $29.99 (do I need to tell you these are in Canadian dollars) It's all about marketing, really.
What comedy fans want to know is who's going to be there this July? Why don't I tell you!
Bill Burr, "You People Are All The Same," July 12-16 at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Bo Burnham, "Words Words Words," July 12-15, 17 at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Donald Glover, "Gross!", July 12-17 at Katacombes
Jamie Kilstein, "No God, No War, No Nickelback," July 14-15, 17, at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Jim Jefferies, "Alcoholocaust," July 12-17 at Katacombes
"Kim Noble Will Die," July 12-7, 20-24 at Theatre La Chappelle
Noel Fielding Live, July 12-17 at Savoy at Metropolis
Patrice Oneal, "Mr. P," July 13-17 at Katacombes
Phil Nichol, "A Deadpan Poet Sings Quiet Songs Quietly," July 12-17 at Katacombes
Tim Key, "The Slutcracker," July 14-17 at Savoy at Metropolis
Tom Wrigglesworth, "An Open Letter to Richard Branson," July 12-17 at Savoy at Metropolis
Related: Zoofest ticket info.
Bill Burr was the first comedian to perform stand-up on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. A couple of things stuck out: First, obviously, the studio is so much bigger that they hadn't nailed down the time it takes for the band to play the comedian to the microphone (!), and secondly, most TV audiences are so hyped up that they hand out applause breaks like beads at Mardi Gras, but here, they took a while to get onboard the funny train (and it took Burr mentioning a stripper to do so). Watch the whole set, which is edgy (in a good way) compared to what the Tonight Show audiences probably were used to. Jokes about racism. And suicide? This week? Only Bill Burr, my friends. Only Bill Burr.
Ready for the weekend? Me, too. But first, a few things to mention and link to that people are reading and talking about in comedy circles...
Bill Burr may get worked up onstage when he's on a comedic roll, and his everyman take on the world that's rumbling and crumbling all around us has picked up steam -- as well as a slew of new fans of his stand-up comedy. Thank repeated airings of his 2008 special, Why Do I Do This?, on Comedy Central, for helping to spread the word of Burr. When he last headlined Carolines in New York City, fans made special trips to the Big Apple from as far away as Montana and Florida, just to see him perform live and meet him in person.
Burr is back at Carolines this weekend (April 30-May 3), and I caught up with him recently to talk about where his career goes from here. (Related: I also shot a short video riding in a taxicab with Bill Burr)
Burr recorded a pilot for Comedy Central in the past year. It made the network's short list for final consideration, and when they passed, he admitted it was a tough blow; but at the same time, also inspiring. He realized he could and did want to do more. That's one of the reasons he moved from New York City to Los Angeles last year. After having the run of the Big Apple's biggest clubs and touring the country as a headliner, what would the next step be?
More after the jump...
When I met Bill Burr for lunch a couple of weeks ago, he said he was just catching up on a few things in New York City between gigs. Other than getting laundry done and talking to comedy bloggers, the only thing he had scheduled were tickets to the Rangers game. Of course, Burr is a Boston Bruins fan, but his hockey love is legit, so much so that you can tell he's serious about it in his new blog following the Bruins playoff run for the NHL. We joked about how few people seem to care about hockey anymore, and Burr said the better for the sport, because things can get crazy and old-school again and maybe become the sport that many of us fell in love with before. I've got an interview with him coming up later this month, but thought I could share with you this bonus footage I shot with Burr as we rode in a taxicab from lunch to a comedy club. In it, Burr explains how he goes about his weekly podcasts, as well as his feelings about MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. Enjoy (some language is NSFW):
People think that the funny guy in the office would make a great stand-up comedian, but that humor does not always translate from the workplace to the stage. Ditch Films has produced a series of online shorts that puts a reverse spin on this, taking stand-up comedians and having them do their act in an unnatural setting for stand-up. I'm not sure if it's funnier this way, but it certainly makes for an interesting piece of film. The most recent features Chris Laker in an office cubicle (note: contains NSFW language).
After the jump, videos from Pat Dixon, Nate Bargatze, Jim Norton, Dustin Chafin, Matty Goldberg, Jason Rouse, Tomi Walamies, Mark Demayo and Bill Burr.
Apple did not tell me how it came up with its list of Best of Comedy 2008 in iTunes, so I cannot tell you if this lineup is based on sales, judged rankings or something else entirely. But I can tell you who made the iTunes cut in 2008 (I've reviewed half of these CDs, which means I still have some work to do). Whom do you think they overlooked?
Robert Kelly, Just the Tip
Steve Byrne, Happy Hour
Gabriel Iglesias, Hot and Fluffy
Josh Sneed, Unacceptable
Lisa Landry, Put Your Keys in the Keybowl
Pablo Francisco, Ouch! (Live from San Jose)
Jimmy Dore, Citizen Jimmy
Dov Davidoff, The Point Is
Bill Burr, Why Do I Do This?
Jeffrey Ross: No Offense, Live from New Jersey
Bill Burr got introduced to the stage last night at Carolines as "one of the top five comics working today," and even though Burr bristled at that notion, he did nothing to dispel it over the course of the next hour. Thirteen months ago, Burr taped his DVD (and Comedy Central special) here in New York City, and since its release earlier this year, he seems to have been rewarded for his efforts with fans willing to welcome him with a standing ovation -- and last night's late show included fans who came from as far as Montana and Miami just to see him live.
He told me after the show that while he'd love to follow the late George Carlin's plan of putting a new hour on tape every year or two, he'd rather wait until his current set is ready for recording. If there's a theme to what he's saying these days, it's all about trying to suppress his anger issues and become more sensitive to others feelings. Although plenty still upsets him, including the fact that humans seem to be the only species who help and the weakest, and rewarding people such as The Biggest Loser and drug addicts. Burr also loves a good conspiracy theory, and it fuels his political leanings. He bemoans the lack of customer service in contemporary society. And he has an idea for why old men have a look of horror on their faces.
Burr's radio partner on XM's Uninformed, Joe DeRosa, took the feature spot last night and delivered a new 25 minutes that you wouldn't think would cheer anyone up -- Joe talks about how he's drinking more than he ever has, cannot get sex on the road or here in NYC, suffers from depression, is angry about a multitude of things, and wants to tell you about the worst gig he ever took just because he needs the money. Of course, it's all pretty darned funny.
If you're in NYC this weekend, try to catch Burr at Carolines. Otherwise, you may have to wait until 2009.
Bill Burr has a new CD out this summer, Why Do I Do This?, and the live video recording of Burr's performance gets its broadcast debut Aug. 31 on Comedy Central, with the DVD available Sept. 16.
On the DVD, loaded with more than 80 minutes of extras, we see Burr engage in a drumming battle with his XM Radio co-host on Uninformed, Joe DeRosa. Burr also gives us a tour of the Skirball Center for Performing Arts at NYU where he taped the special, with backstage asides, and then a walkabout of the city and some of his past haunts, because, as he says on the DVD: "I don't know how to tap-dance." So he sits down at Gotham Comedy Club, stands outside the old Boston Comedy Club (then Comedy Village before it closed), a club "that kicked my ass" when he first moved down from Boston. He exorcises demons at Dangerfield's. He recalls the first time he sold out at Carolines. The DVD also includes the fan recording of his 2006 performance in Philadelphia on the Opie & Anthony Traveling Virus tour. But back to the actual show.
I saw this special live and loved it. You can read about Bill Burr's DVD taping here. Before we get to our most recent chat, here is a clip from his June 2007 apperance on The Late Show with David Letterman, which includes a medley of bits you'll see in a much longer, different form on the new special:
First, Bill Burr wants you to know he has new jokes for you after watching this DVD.
"I already have a new hour of stuff," Burr told me. "I want to do that. See, when Carlin passed away, I knew he had an incredible volume of work, but when they did the retrospective and showed he had 14 HBO specials, and it was all 'A' material...He never burned out. That was really inspiring." Burr mentions Chris Rock and Louis CK as contemporaries who also inspire him with their ability to write new material year after year. "That's the road I want to go. So I've got my next hour," he said.
And that means planning for the next special, which he learned especially from this past experience. "How far ahead you have to plan," he said. "Theaters get booked up. Theaters are union, some are non-union. All of this stuff, you have to plan."
One thing he doesn't have to plan or worry about is having his jokes remain timely.
"I don't do too much topical stuff," Burr said. "I still listen to old Pryors and when he talks about Ali, I don't think, oh, he was champion 30 years ago?! No, if it's a funny joke it's funny."
I meant to tell him before the taping that his joke about Hollywood's fascination with movies on African-Americans overcoming all types of racism had extended to school debate teams. Not that it changes the joke. "It's literally a genre now!" Burr said. "The funny thing about the swimming movie is I never even saw it. I just saw the trailer. It's already bad enough to know that people wanted to go swimming and they got s@&# for it. But then to make it cartoonish. There's no sense of reality...it's just done from a very, this is right, and this is wrong and every character is either 100 percent right or 100 percent wrong...Eddie Murphy did something about AIDS, and 25 years later, some group got pissed about it and was talking about it and came after him, and I thought that was unbelievably unfair. If he said something and someone didn't like it...to play Monday morning quarterback 25 years later is pretty ridiculous." Burr said the same holds true for those critics who brought up old footage of Arnold Schwarzenegger "grabbing ass in Brazil in the 1970s" after he ran for governor of California some three decades later.
Burr tends to talk about race in America in a really honest and funny way that few other comedians seem to even try it. Why is that? "It's not like it scares them," he said. "There are a lot of comics who say, well 'I can't get away with that.' I hate that expression. Because it implies that you mean something malicious and the crowd is too stupid to realize it."
"You can talk about what you want to talk about as long as it's funny. It all comes down to your intent. The funny thing is,…comedians in general are pretty stubborn people...It's more like white people don't hang out with other kinds of people, so they haven't had any sort of interaction. Once you're dealing with a demographic like that that's isolated in that way, they start thinking in columns. This group is like that. And that group is like this. I remember one time I was in a barbershop." He said a woman wanted Burr to talk to one man from a group of three. Two of the guys were white. One was black. But the woman didn't want to identify the guy by race. "She whispered black as if she meant something bad. You're dealing with a herd mentality. If you're doing stand-up and a group is dealing with herd mentality, you tell a joke and it causes them to relax. For the most part, people are decent people."
"A lot of the jokes I do, I deliberately am walking along a path…Is he going to say something f&*@ed up? It's a way of keeping peoples attention."
And yet, there was a guy in my row (almost front and center) who managed to fall asleep during the taping. You waited until you had taped enough for the special to lay into him, and it was hysterical. But it's not on the rough cut of my DVD. Why not?
Opie and Anthony have provided a great service to stand-up comedy by having comedians appear as regular guests on their FM and satellite radio programs over the years, but their efforts to translate that partnership into a live comedy tour, aka the Traveling Virus, has failed. Because their "fans" known as "pests" have booed too many of the comedians, and even the radio hosts themselves. The last straw came earlier this month in New Jersey with the only Traveling Virus show of 2008, when the crowd turned on Mike Birbiglia during his very first joke. On the following Monday's program, "Anthony points out that comics who've flown to IRAQ, risking both life and limb to entertain our troops, were afraid to subject themselves to a group of booing O&A psychopaths." Here is video from the Birbiglia boobirds:
O&A fans on the message boards have a 19-page discussion about the incident. But this has been an ongoing problem, from the horrible crowd in Philadelphia two years ago for Bill Burr, to the more recent Animation Festival where Dan Naturman got heckled, and even the non-Virus shows I've seen that featured a heavy O&A (or even Howard Stern, as in Artie Lange) comedy lineup. I have friends who love listening to either O&A and/or Stern and are loyal listeners. But there is a larger audience of these knucklehead radio listeners who have gotten it into their knuckleheads that it's supposed to be fun to yell and heckle and boo the comedians. Perhaps they think, like most hecklers, that they're helping. They're not. Or perhaps they listen to the morning radio and hear these comedians busting on each other, and think that if they can roast one another on the air, then it must be acceptable for an audience member to join in the roasting. Which doesn't make any sense, because that's not how you're supposed to act at a live comedy show. Especially when the radio hosts, who you supposedly love, beg and plead with you not to boo. Which is exactly the position Opie and Anthony found themselves in this month. They can continue to support stand-up by having comedians on the air, but I think it's for the best that they finally decided to put a halt to their pests and not allow them to continue ruining the live comedy experience for actual fans.
A lot of comedy records and DVDs out this week, and Bill Burr's CD version of "Why Do I Do This?" is among them. It's great. Explicit. Brutal. Honest. I was there for the taping, and for that reason (plus having watched the DVD extras), I can also tell you that you'll also want to buy the DVD, which comes out Sept. 16, after an Aug. 23 broadcast date on Comedy Central. But if you cannot wait that long, order the CD now and listen to it and picture Burr on the big theater stage.
This is an early review! HBO just taped four episodes of a new stand-up showcase, Down and Dirty with Jim Norton. It'll air this fall (update! debut is midnight Oct. 4, with other episodes premiering Oct. 11, 18, and 25) They taped two episodes last night and two tonight at the BergenPAC in Englewood, New Jersey. At last night's tapings, things got, well, down and dirty.
Al Jackson, who I'm watching on Last Comic Standing as I type this, deserves special honors for his work warming up these rowdy crowds. He got some serious laughs and comedy points during the intermission between shows (an intermission that didn't allow the crowd to move) with material about being a teacher and a story involving his first trip to Starbucks.
Fans literally lined up around the block in this suburban Jersey town for the shows, which Norton promoted on his MySpace and via the Opie & Anthony show. Did I mention the crowds were rowdy? Alrighty then. I still haven't gotten full confirmation from HBO on this, but the first night's shows sure seemed like a suburban, white, rock version of Def Comedy Jam. Norton hosts all four shows and does about five to six minutes upfront, and there's a special podium set up for Lemmy from the band Motorhead, who introduces Norton and contributed the theme song. The fans clearly were on board with Norton from the get-go, welcoming him with a standing ovation.
In the first show, Norton opened with a funny bit about our past and present New York governors and their sexual tendencies. Russ Meneve came out first, and when some guy in the audience shouted out during Meneve's first bit, I got more than a bit worried that this crowd wouldn't know how to behave at a TV taping. They settled down, though. And they laughed and laughed. They gave Meneve an applause break when he joked that his last four girlfriends had died in sailing accidents. They continued laughing throughout the night. Joe DeRosa, whom I first encountered opening for a rowdy audience waiting for Dave Chappelle, certainly held his own with an opening bit about what life really is like for comedians on the road. Ari Shaffir went next, though, and attempted to steal the show when he ended his set with a joke about being ready for a blowjob anytime, demonstrating such by dropping his pants and his underpants for a full frontal moment. A moment that continued when he stood like that, then walked away with his pants still down. Hours later, Shaffir told me he didn't warn the HBO folks about his Full Monty moment, because he figured a warning might only result in HBO telling him not to do it. Then again, it is HBO. Moreover, he didn't really give them any chance to edit around his penis. So to speak. Let's see Carlos Mencia try to steal that bit. Norton's retort? "He looks like me, if I was taller and had a clit." Jim Jeffries got introduced as a special guest and had a funny opener about getting a ride home from an audition, followed by his story about coming down with a case of penis cancer. Audience naturally loved him. But they gave a standing ovation welcome to the first show's headliner, Andrew Dice Clay. Yep. He had his leather jacket, giant belt buckle, sunglasses and cigarette. No nursery rhymes. Instead, some different ancient premises that boiled down to dick jokes, black dick jokes (Siegfried and LeRoy???) that resulted in his philosophical outlook on how black men are ruining us. Or something like that.
The second show last night couldn't help but seem tamer. Norton opened that show with a few quick jokes about breaking up with his girlfriend (somehow Facebook alerted this to me first?!) before launching into his extensive breakdown of a video that I have seen (thank you, Joe Rogan?) of a man dying in Washington state a few years ago after allowing a horse to have sex with him. Indeed. I did say this show seemed tamer, though, and that was because the first few acts weren't quite as aggressive, even if they were still raunchy. Louis Katz introduced his own sex move, the Vengeful Louis, and closed with reasons why premature ejaculation is not necessarily a bad thing. Kevin Shea, introduced as Korean-born, also informed the crowd that he was college roommates with one of the YouTube founders-turned-billionaires. Jason Rouse, Canadian, living in England, started with a topic DeRosa had covered earlier but took it in a different direction. Rouse's jokes weren't just filthy but also somewhat misguided. After one joke, Rouse even said, "I know I'm going to Hell for that joke. But f#@k it, it's warm, and I'll know people there." Patrice Oneal closed out the second show with 15 minutes about how he's gotten creepy as he's gotten older. It's funny because it's true. But also because he's really not that creepy.
They filmed two more episodes tonight, with headliners Bill Burr and Artie Lange, and a lineup that looks more subversive (wish I'd seen that!) and includes Anthony Jeselnik, Whitney Cummings, Andy Andrist, Sean Rouse, Geoff Keith, Jacob Sirof and Jim Florentine.
In a blog post today, Bill Burr thoughtfully and thoroughly describes his transition from a "clean" comedian to a "blue" one, and how he found his comedic voice as a stand-up. Among the morals of his story, that after 16 years, he's enjoying himself more today than ever: "The reason I'm having the fun I'm having, is because I took the time to figure out what works for me on stage."