Comedian Bill Burr Explains His Love for St. Louis and What it Means to be a "Comic's Comic"

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In this week's print edition we interviewed Bill Burr, a standup comic who writes a new hour after every special, tours internationally and is now breaking into acting just for the fun of it. As story-telling comics tend to be long-winded, it was impossible to fit the whole thing in the paper. Here's what you missed.

Burr has two shows at the Pageant on Thursday, June 13. Showtimes are 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets are $33.

Kelsey McClure: You can come across on stage as this person who is angry all the time. Are you concerned about happiness and being an approachable person in your day-to-day life, as opposed to the intimidating person you are on stage?

Bill Burr: Yeah I mean, I'm not concerned how I come across on stage. I'm not going up there going, "Alright, I want people to think this is all me." It's more like I go up there and I know I definitely have anger issues, but I don't think I am really as angry as people think I am because they watch my act. I don't know, I'm always smiling and laughing and having a good time up there but the anger part of it is what they come away with. I think that is more a social thing. If you just look to my act then you really see it's a little kid that needs a hug.

I think you broke it down beautifully, especially because this going to be published in the music section. I think it's just spot-on for people to be able to associate comedy with music, or for people who just come from a musical point of view and then look at comedy in that sense.

Every time I come through St. Louis it's always about the music. And it's not too difficult to get a beer out there either.

Yeah. We're at 23 microbreweries now too, so that makes it easy.

I think... Don't you guys have like the most amount of bars per person?

Probably. Ha. I guess we do make it pretty easy for you.

Good. I'm a big fan of St. Louis. Big fan.

Good! Well going back into it, you were describing comedy for people outside of comedy, and I've read that you get the label of being a "comedian's comedian." I was wondering if you could explain why, or what that means.

My understanding of being a comic's comic is you're a comedian that other comedians are a fan of. And if what you say is true, then that's basically the highest compliment. If other comedians will watch you then there's no bigger compliment that I feel you can get.

And right under other comedians is the wait staff. If the wait staff is laughing, if they're serving tables and listening, then that's a huge thing. Because nobody hears more comedy than someone who is a waiter or a waitress at a comedy club, for the simple fact that as comedians, if we don't like the person on stage we can leave. But they can't. The wait staff has to continue listening to them and you know, there's two like things that you can notice: wait staff laughing, and then the worst is the wait staff lip-syncing your act. So that's the other side, when you're like "I need to be working harder." Because you know, you don't want that. That's not a road you want to go down.

When you were first starting out and getting a solid ten or fifteen to do at the clubs or to get you on TV, did you repeat material? Did you have a set ten and then work your way from that as you developed, or were you always switching it up?

Oh, yeah, definitely. When you're first filming... you're asking when I first started out?

Yep.

Oh yeah no, when you are first starting you cling to all, any jokes that even remotely work, like you're in the ocean and it's a life preserver. You just find what gets your time up. But the thing is it's almost like you are going up a flight of stairs and it's like you know those landings that you get to.

Continue to page two for more of our interview with Burr.

With all of the traveling you do and international shows, do you feel like you need to do different material, or do you think they just know what to expect from you and you don't need to worry about that?

I did at first. I really got into -- like I'm in England, and they speak English there, and I'm questioning everything that came out of my head. Like, "I'm talking about squirrels, do they have squirrels over here?" You I'm questioning everything. This is what I do when I go to a country where they don't speak English: I don't change anything. I go out there and I use slang and everything and I just act like they know exactly what I am talking about. I just keep going until something bombs. And then if something bombs I just make fun of myself for thinking it would work in their country, and go right back to acting like I am doing my act in St. Louis. And it works. It works in this way because they see you having fun and they see you being relaxed.

Was traveling overseas something you wanted to do, or something from management or elsewhere?

No, definitely from just wanting to put together a European tour. And I'm putting together an Australian tour. I want to travel like a band. I want to do the Australian leg, the European leg, the North American leg. It just helps you as a performer. The more you understand, and just the things you get to see... I mean. who gets to go to Europe and make a little bit of money? What I'd love to be able to do is sell tickets in Europe and go over there once a year or every year and a half, have a great time doing shows and then go blow all my gig money in France or Italy or Spain. Or go to Moscow, or I don't know, South Africa?

Just go wherever you want.

Life is flying by, and I want to see as much of it as I can. It helps to shape your bits. When your world keeps expanding, it expands your outlook on Earth. And you get rid of a lot of self-pity and shit when you go to all these different places and you see how people live better, and a lot of people not living anywhere near as well as you are. I'm not saying they're in poverty or anything like that, it's just the amount of stuff you can have, the amount of space you can have living in this country.

I did a bus tour recently. I went down South, and just driving all the way through the South, it was weird to just get like oddly patriotic looking out the window going, "This is just an unbelievably beautiful country." I'm glad somehow when the wheel stopped spinning I landed here.

Absolutely. When I lived and travelled abroad I never felt very patriotic, but when I came home I realized all of things that I appreciate and became more grateful for the society I am a part of and the lifestyle I get to lead.

I always find there is something unsettling when I am in another country, just for the fact that I check for my passport like once every like six minutes that I still have it. As much as I am having fun, it's when I come back to America that I'm back here and you know, I always feel this sense of relief when I go through customs and I'm back basically with my tribe. It's also that excitement I've had with flying so many different places when the plane starts going in a direction that I haven't gone in, like when I took off from LAX to go to Australia. The fact that it didn't loop back around and start flying back over the States again and just kept going out over the ocean -- I guess I got excited like a little kid.

I was curious about how you are doing more acting, and my first thought was wondering if you want to transition away from comedy, but after this brief conversation we've had it sounds like comedy is your end-all, exactly what you want to do.

Totally. I have a lot of goals as a comedian and I have been able to achieve some of them, but I have way more that I want to do. I really, really enjoy acting, but I like acting the way I'm acting, where it's like... It's not my show; I go on your show and I'm there for a week and then I go back doing to comedy. Or I book a part in a movie and in between I get to rub elbows with these incredibly talented people and then I get to go right back out on the road. I absolutely love being a comedian more and more every year. And I love going to all the cities and that type of thing. This is the first year I have done a major theater tour. And I'm like going to all these old theaters, and it's like going to old ball parks. They have all these great stories and these legendary people that perform there and become part of the history. I'm a nerd; I'm a kid when it comes to stuff like that.

Continue to page three for the rest of our interview.

Do you prefer doing the big theaters to the smaller venues or does it make much of a difference to you?

I like both of them. Basically how I do it is right after I tape a special and I get rid of that hour and I need a new hour before the next special comes out is I work all comedy clubs. I'll fly into the Comedy Zone in Jacksonville and do six shows -- I get to try my act six times. So it's like going to the gym: You're getting those reps and once I get the hour down to a point where I feel like I can justify people paying theater prices, then I move it to theaters. Last year was the clubs. I had a special come out and I did all the clubs, and then I got the act down and this year it's ready to go. And then you murder 'em when they come out to the theaters. I have a great time on the road, like when I went to Jacksonville. I saw alligators, I went to a range to shoot guns -- and silencers are illegal, but I got to shoot a gun with a silencer -- and went to a Jaguars game. I built in a lot of stuff around sporting events and that type of thing.

That sounds like the dream, getting to go do comedy and then just hang out.

Well yeah, I get why bands have to keep going, because they have to split the money four ways and then they pay all the expenses of their tour, but I don't know. That's a rough, rough game.

Yeah it's a lot easier to just be one person and decide to go do something rather than wrangling five other people in.

I've toured with other comics and stuff. When you go with the right group of guys it's great, but if you get in with the wrong group of guys it can be rough. And then you have the conditions to deal with -- even when you are with great guys, there's going to be the late guy, the guy who's partying too much, there's going to be the egomaniac. There's always going to be those guys and you just really have to learn how to deal with those personalities. I don't know, I've been on tour recently and I've been bringing comics that are people that are coming up, and they've always been great people so I haven't had any problems on my tour.

See Also: - The Ten Biggest Concert Buzzkills: An Illustrated Guide - The 10 Most WTF Crimes Committed by Musicians - The Glee Treatment: "Fuck That Shit" and Five Other Rejections From Bands

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