It's a little hard to picture Bill Burr as the family guy on a prime-time sitcom.
Better for now then that the comedian from Boston ended up playing Kuby, one of the henchmen on his favorite show, "Breaking Bad."
There aren't a lot of soft edges around the 45-year-old Burr, either as an actor or a stand-up comic whose last special, "You People Are All the Same," opened with him bluntly saying, "I wanna get a gun. I do. I never had that feeling before till I moved out to Los Angeles. This city just messes with your mind. It's overpopulated, technically doesn't have a water supply."
Like a lot of classic comics, he pushes the boundaries of taste and political correctness, making you uncomfortable to laugh, particularly in battle-of-the-sexes rants that surely go over better with the gentlemen than the ladies in the house.
Recounting his German-Irish upbringing and his dad's temper, he tells the crowd in his overheated delivery, "I gotta be honest with you. I'm kind of jealous of the way my dad gets to talk to my mom sometimes. Where are all those old-school women you can just take your day out on? When did they stop making those angels? ... Then, the bra-burning generation came in, and now you have to sit and listen to their stories all the time. It's the worst!"
He also has dared to take on the axiom that mothering is the most difficult job on the planet. "Oh yeah? I thought roofing in the middle of July as a redhead was difficult. But these mothers are bending over at the waist putting DVDs into DVD players. I don't know how they do it! Dude, any job that you can do in your pajamas is not a difficult job."
OK, so that might not draw ladies like a Michael Buble concert, but Mr. Burr is an equal opportunity offender, willing to go after dudes for what they do to other dudes with their mindless reinforcement of male stereotypes: " 'Dude, what are you, [gay]?' is the reason that guys drop dead at 55 out of nowhere. It's literally from five decades of suppressing the urge to, like, hug a little puppy, admit a baby's cute, say you want a cookie. You gotta keep pushing that stuff down."
Audiences have found that it's best not to cross him. Like Philadelphia 2006. Watching backstage as his fellow comedians got abused by a drunk crowd on the "Opie and Anthony's Traveling Virus" tour, he hit the stage like a hurricane unleashing his wrath for 12 infamous Web-gem minutes. Among the rare printable attacks was his noting of the "Rocky" statue, "The whole pride of your city is built around a guy who doesn't even exist."
The incident, which came up on the Internet recently in relation to Dave Chappelle getting heckled off the stage in Hartford, Conn., last month, was one of the topics of our interview earlier this week, in advance of his show Friday at Heinz Hall.
Along with his stand-up tour, he recently appeared in "The Heat" -- throwing a tantrum toward Melissa McCarthy at the dinner table -- and has two new movie roles in the works.
So, you do a bit about not wanting to listen to your girlfriend's stories. How does that kind of thing play with her?
She's cool with it. She knows I'm an idiot. It's like dating a mechanic and then being surprised when he comes home dirty.
What kind of reaction do you get from women in general? I guess female comedians get away with talking a lot about their boyfriends.
I don't think you're getting away with anything as a comedian, unless you actually have something malicious in your heart, and the crowd doesn't realize it. Then you're actually getting away with it. So, I don't feel like I'm getting away with anything.
Your name came up recently in relation to that incident with Dave Chappelle on his tour. I saw a website referred back to your 2006 gig in Philly. Was that a one-time deal for you, that incident?
Well, I've been booed before then. You do stand-up long enough, something like that is going happen. And there's been a lot of comics that did what I did, it's just YouTube wasn't around at that point, so .... That was just a perfect storm, because it was a show, right outside of Philly, it was like 10,000 people. You get a crowd that big .... If I'm in a comedy club and you heckle me, I can see you, so it takes a certain level of courage. You get 10,000 people, it's just a sea of people. I can't find out where you are. You can yell and behave however you want to behave. So that's basically what it was.
Do you think that's too big for comedy?
Yeah. Well, I mean, if you're going to do a show outside and people show up in football jerseys, gettin' hammered, throwing the football around like they're going to an Eagles game, you know it's not going to be easy. And I don't have anything against Philly. Philly's hilarious. Everybody else remembers that incident except for them, because they do something like that like every week. So by the time I came back, I was tip-toeing into town, like, "Am I going to get booed?," and they were like, "Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, forgot about it. Welcome back." Like, they don't care.
I think every city would love to hear your insults. I would love to hear your 10 minutes on Pittsburgh.
I love Pittsburgh. I love Philly, too. It was very simple. I just said what they loved, and I attacked it. I love Pittsburgh, despite the fact that the Penguins seem to love to employ people who end Boston Bruins' careers over cheap shots. I did notice that you traded your boy to the Western conference. That's probably smart.
Matt Cooke? They let him go as a free agent.
Well, I'm sure you're relieved that you're not going to see him that often.
Yeah, we don't want to see him against us.
Your heart is in your throat every time he goes on the ice. Don't let him end another guy's career here.
Well, he cleaned it up the last two years.
After he had ended Savard's career ...
Anyway, so, a lot of comedians end up on a sitcom. You ended up on "Breaking Bad." How did that happen and what has it been like?
I'm certainly not the first comedian to end up on a drama. How I ended up on "Breaking Bad" ... I was a fan of the show from the first episode, and after I got about halfway through the first season, I started bugging my agent, going, "I'll play anything on this show -- a meth-head, anything I can do. This show is awesome." And with each season, it kept getting better and better and I kept bugging him, and I went in and read for a part. It wasn't an audition, it was just scenes from an earlier show. They just wanted to see if I could act and I guess they liked what I could do, and they said, "All right, we'll keep him in mind." And then on season four, I did a small part and I thought that was it, and they ended up bringing me back. I think I did a total of five of them, and it was a great thrill to be a small part of the greatest television show of all time, as far as I'm concerned.
Have you had sitcom offers?
Like most comics, I tried to come up with a sitcom idea that was based around my life. And it didn't work out. But maybe because it didn't work out, that's why I ended up on "Breaking Bad," I don't know. You never know. I've played the game just like everyone else. Trying to get a show on the air is really difficult. It's not like I was sitting there saying, "I'm not doing comedies. I'm doing dramas." I tried to do everything. I had to become a better actor, I had to work hard to audition. Obviously, as you put out more and more specials, more people in the industry become aware of you. Hopefully they become a fan of you and it makes it a little easier.
Your Monday Morning podcasts [which he's been doing on his website since 2007]. Is it a burden every week or something you look forward to?
I love it. It's a way to promote what I'm doing and it gives people something to look forward to at the beginning of the work week. I remember when I had a day job ... I had a lot of jobs, some of them I liked, most of them I didn't. And Mondays stunk. The weekend was over. And it's kind of a cool thing. Mondays are a little easier this time of year because you have Monday Night Football, but generally speaking throughout the year, they're a little rough.
I guess you're a Patriots fan. Could be a rough year.
I'm actually really enjoying watching the Patriots this year. Watching Tom Brady with all the injuries and Aaron Hernandez is in jail, and somehow they're 2-0, it's a pretty amazing thing to watch.
You're from the East Coast. What is life like for you in LA?
It's a great city. Some of the best food I've ever had and just all kinds of outdoor activities. You get in great shape when you're out here. The desert is incredible. Everyone should just drive out to the Mojave Desert and just experience it, and it's a fun place to live. You can get yourself a classic car and drive it all year around. It's a lot of fun living out here. As is the East Coast. I just do what people do. That's the key to having fun if you've got to move somewhere new. Just get involved in what people are doing. Provided it's not hurting other human beings. I'm not saying to move to Mississippi and join the Klan. That's not what I mean. I just kind of do that when-in-Rome thing.
What projects do you have coming up?
I've got a movie [a comedy] called "Walk of Shame" with Elizabeth Banks and just wrapped a movie in New Orleans called "Black and White" with Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer. Both of them are out next year, and other than that, I'm just doing stand-up, waiting for the next thing to come along.theater
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg.