Bluster, Bile and Big Laughs — Courtesy of Bill Burr
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes the biggest laughs come from the greatest discomfort.
By Robert Dean
Bill Burr’s latest adventure in comedic misanthropy is nothing short of brilliantly poetic. The starkly black and white I’m Sorry You Feel That Way is 80 minutes of the foul-mouthed comic’s rants, ranging from what it’s like to be the old guy in the room to saying yes to marriage despite his deep misgivings about trust and human nature.
At his core, Burr is an observer of the absurd in the vein of Pryor and Carlin. He shares their willingness to say things with a piercing, earnest truthfulness that’s biting yet sincere. Within the first minute of I’m Sorry You Feel That Way, Burr drops a bomb with a quick quip about the heat in Atlanta, offering: “I understand the racism down here. How would you get along with anyone?”
He’s committed to his outsider status as an honest, asshole rebel.
With his tone established, Burr never looks back, letting the viewer follow him down a rabbit hole of ridiculous honesty. He slices through pop culture with an X-Acto knife, taking on everything from Donald Sterling’s decrees about who can appear on his mistress’s Instagram posts to America’s strange obsession with the NFL draft, a time when watching collegiate unknowns become members of your favorite football team becomes a matter of life and death. He pushes just the right buttons when he calls out bros in player jerseys, clutching on to the hope that this one player will turn their team’s sinking ship around.
Comedian Jeff D explains Burr’s vicious, fearless talent, saying, “When I try to write about the same subjects, it comes out angry and impalpable — it would turn audiences against me.” Burr, however takes the same social commentary “and rams it down your throat — and it is funny every time.”
Even when visiting Conan, Bill Burr can’t keep his trap shut. Nothing’s off-limits, not even cancer.
It’s moments of guile like these that give I’m Sorry You Feel That Way its vision, but which also cast light on Burr’s decade-plus-long career. Despite regular late-night TV appearances, he’s not quite a household name. Unlike some of his peers, Burr has stayed resolutely committed to his outsider status as an honest, asshole rebel, unwilling to be a shady salesman for cheap laughs on conventional TV comedy vehicles. Perhaps the times have caught up to him — now he can be himself, only illustrated, on his forthcoming animated series, F Is for Family.
At best, Bill Burr may be the new thinking man’s comic; and at the very least he is the reigning maestro of offensive, lyrical comedy. And for that, we salute him.