by Julian Routh | Editor-in-chief
Before his name is etched on the short list of elite comedians to perform at Madison Square Garden, Bill Burr has to work out his material.
“It’s like going to the gym. If I didn’t do it at all, if I didn’t walk in there and do it, I’d be wheezing after about eight minutes on the treadmill,” he said. “But if you’re going every day, you’re in great shape.”
Burr’s gym on Thursday night will be Heinz Hall, a venue much smaller than the Garden, but just as important. The comedian from Boston – known for his “sports radio jock’s ease in expressing annoyance,” as one writer put it – approaches every stage, and every movie or television set, with the same cocky charisma.
Most of the time, it’s for hilarity. The 47-year-old is from Boston, the Everyman’s land of comedy that also plays host to Louis C.K. But throw out the comparisons; Burr is doing things his own way and at his own pace.
Last December, he released his fourth hour-long special, “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way,” on Netflix, just a few months after putting out a live vinyl album, “Live at Andrew’s House.” His Monday Morning Podcast – an outlet for Burr to rant about sports and give blunt relationship advice to listeners – is currently one of iTunes’ 50 most popular podcasts. As a comic, he sells out theaters internationally.
In December, an animated series he wrote and created with “The Simpsons” writer Michael Price will premiere on Netflix. “F Is for Family,” a six-episode sitcom produced by Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Television, will feature voiceovers from Burr, Laura Dern and Justin Long.
The subject matter will be all too familiar for fans of his comedy.
“It basically came about from telling family stories on stage of when I was a younger man,” Burr said. “I was walking my dog one day and thought, ‘What if I animated these stories from my childhood?’”
The upcoming animated series, along with the podcast and stand-up success, is a tribute to Burr’s versatility, but it doesn’t stop there.
In addition to making frequent appearances on “Conan,” he has taken several small roles in TV and film; in 2013, he played a police officer in “Walk of Shame,” a comedy starring Elizabeth Banks. The year before, he was cast as Larry in “Stand Up Guys,” a small role that turned into something memorable.
“Al Pacino killed me in that movie,” Burr said. “That was a bucket list item. I always wanted to get shot and killed in a movie. And I did by arguably one of the greatest guys ever.”
He is also often recognized as one of Saul Goodman’s henchmen from AMC’s hit series “Breaking Bad,” his favorite show long before he was cast as Kuby.
“I can’t really explain what that was like. I mean, you’re totally invested in the characters and the storylines, then all of the sudden, you’re sucked into your TV to interact with those characters in the future,” he said. “It was nuts.”
At Madison Square Garden and Heinz Hall, the audience won’t see Kuby lay on a pile of Walter White’s money. It won’t see the writer, producer or podcaster, either.
It will see stand-up comic Bill Burr, in all of his comedic wisdom.
But don’t worry if you can’t go to the show, because Burr passed along some wisdom for Duquesne students.
“Watch out for credit cards. Keep your debt as low as you possibly can until you have options,” he said. “And if you’re in a relationship that’s not working, get out of it. Just say, ‘I’m not happy, this is not working for me.’ Have that awkward conversation and 25 minutes later, your life will be better.”