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Burr makes name with angry humor
BY STEVEN MARK / firstname.lastname@example.org
There aren’t too many better ways to turn a small disagreement into a full-blown argument than to begin a sentence with “You people …”
So it’s only appropriate that comedian Bill Burr, who appears at the Republik on Saturday, should name his recent comedy special “You People Are All the Same.” It doesn’t take much to make the veteran comic, whose 12-minute rant in front of a hostile Philadelphia crowd became the stuff of legend, go off the deep end.
COMEDIAN BILL BURR
Where: The Republik, 1349 Kapiolani Blvd.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Cost: $29-$39 ($5 more on day of show
Info: flavorus.com or 855-235-2867
Dog trainers, Ikea furniture, Arnold Schwarzenegger, women, Oprah Winfrey, admirers of the late Steve Jobs, all have become targets of his angry, profane tirades, his tongue barely in check and yet fully (well, at least partially) in cheek. It’s accentuated by a streetwise Boston accent that seems straight out of “Good Will Hunting,” and since Burr grew up in Boston, it’s a link that many people make but one he’s careful to define.
“I grew up in the safe suburbs of Boston,” he said in a phone interview. “I always say the safe suburbs because ever since ‘Good Will Hunting’ came out, everybody’s like, ‘Did you grow up in South B? Were you good at math? Did you have fights?’”
His voice rises in perfect mockery, then in a calmer tone he clarifies: “I never hot-wired a car. I didn’t have a claddagh ring. I was a milquetoast whitey out there.
“I know when people hear me speak, they make assumptions. I mean, I am a psycho and I do have anger issues, but I didn’t get into knockdown, drag-out (brawls). I saw the results of those and I realized I didn’t have that in me.”
What he does have is a love of comedy and working his craft to get a laugh. While often being called a “comedian’s comedian,” he professes admiration for comedians like his friend the late Patrice O’Neal, Colin Quinn and Robert Kelly, another Bostonian.
“None of those guys are caricatures on stage,” he said. “What you see on stage is basically what you talk to off stage. That was what I was going for.”
He added, “I got to tell you, I got an appreciation for all those other styles, too, people who are just joke writers, or people who do caricatures. Anything that makes me laugh. I like people who do social commentary all the way down to a s— joke.”
He’s done well at it himself, with repeat appearances on “Chappelle’s Show,” specials on Comedy Central and HBO, and as a regular on the Opie & Anthony show on XM Radio.
Burr’s latest venture is “Monday Morning Podcast,” which was rated one of the top 10 comedian broadcasts by About.com, featuring his rambling, self-revelatory musings. His latest broadcast was typical: He dished on everything from the accolades being dealt to Golden Globes winners — “You would think these people won a war!” — to feeling guilty about talking to people in wheelchairs, to having sex with teachers.
“It’s on-purpose, over-the-top ignorance,” he said. “I’m deliberately going over the top just for the sake of being funny. There’s also a reason I’m doing it on Mondays because it’s out of empathy for people that I know have to go to work that day, and I remember hating going to work on Monday. … Give you something to look forward to for when the weekend’s over.”
LIKE MANY comedians, Burr got his start in comedy by competing in a contest. He was a student at Emerson College when he came across a contest to find “Boston’s funniest college student.”
“I hung on for dear life,” he said. “Did not win, but I won in that when they called my name I had the nerve to go up there, and that was it, I never looked back. … I don’t even remember what I got a degree in. That’s how great stand-up is. I don’t have to write (his major, which was communications) down. I never have to use the word ‘matriculate.’”
He’s looking forward to his first visit to Hawaii, where in addition to his appearance at the Republik, he’ll shoot some for the Pro Bowl broadcast.
But like most things in life, he’s ready for the good and the bad.
“I”m going to do a show every year out there now,” he said. “I want to check out the volcanoes, I want to see the Pearl Harbor memorial and check out the food and that kind of stuff.
“But I’m definitely not going in the ocean. I’m terrified of it. It goes beyond being a redhead in the sun. It has to do with undertow, drowning, sharks, floating out there.
“When I was a kid I saw ‘Jaws’ at the wrong age, compounded it by seeing ‘Open Water,’ actually reading the book ‘Perfect Storm.’ I read, like, ‘Mutiny on the Bounty,’ ‘Moby-Dick’ and all that type of stuff, so I have a tremendous respect-slash-fear of the sea.”