Time for irreverence
Bill Burr on not being an asshole, ‘F Is for Family,’ and why he loves the Brady Theater
There is no mincing words with Bill Burr. He has made a living entertaining people with his unapologetic takes on cities with two sports teams, overpopulation, inspirational speakers, nuclear proliferation, equal rights, and everything in between. His Monday Morning Podcast has been an avenue for fans to hear his rants on a weekly basis since 2007. Burr is all over Netflix these days with his multiple comedy specials, including his recent “Walk Your Way Out” and his hit animated series “F Is for Family.” All of these projects keep Burr busy and allow him to do what he does best: get things off his chest.
Burr is also a new father. When I spoke with him, he was in the middle of feeding his daughter lunch. He bounced between answering questions and tenderly calming his hungry child. We talked about his comedy career, his animated series (now entering its third season), fatherhood, and his show at Brady Theater on March 30. Find tickets and more info at bradytheater.com.
Andrew Deacon: How is fatherhood going? Any advice for new parents?
Bill Burr: It’s going good. My advice is don’t listen to the negative parents that are preaching gloom and doom. The people that tell you you can say goodbye to sleeping in, or warning you about when the child hits a certain age and this horrible thing will happen—those people sound like terrible parents. I would like to sleep more and have more conversations with my wife, but the payoff is just so crazy. I’ve enjoyed all of it. That would be my advice. Listen to someone who is happy to be a parent. Don’t listen to somebody that sounds like a cop that should have retired ten years ago. It’s an awesome experience.
Deacon: Has being a father changed your outlook on life?
Burr: Yeah. I never really watched these shows about something that happens to a kid or to someone’s family, something tragic. When you watch a movie or a TV show, you can’t help but insert yourself into it. I can’t watch anything that happens to a kid, or [when] one parent dies and the family has to figure out what to do. I can’t watch those anymore. I never really did before, but now I definitely can’t handle it.
I remember for years people would say, “You just don’t get it until you have a kid.” I always hated that. As much I hate to admit it, they were right. Despite that, I wouldn’t ever tell that to someone that doesn’t have a kid. It’s kind of an asshole thing to say to somebody.
Deacon: Your Netflix animated series “F Is for Family” is a big hit and was picked up for a third season. Was it always a goal of yours to make an animated series?
Burr: No. What happened was whenever I pitched an idea I would hear, “This is too misogynistic,” or, “What will this do to kids?” Every idea I pitched, they didn’t want to do it. So I said, “To hell with it. I’m not wasting my time.” When you get yourself involved in a deal with a network, it takes you off the table for the next year. You can’t work on anybody’s show because they want it to be an exclusive thing. They put you on a shelf and tell you they want “an edgy show” and “to push the envelope.” … Then you get into business with them and they take your knees out from underneath you.
It’s like finding the person you’re supposed to be with in life. You say, “I’m just going to be single. I don’t care anymore.” And then all of a sudden that person walks into your life. That’s what happened. One day I was walking down the street, and I wondered, what if I animated these family stories I had been telling on stage for years that were killing? Then, all of a sudden, once everything started getting labeled—physical abuse, bullying, gender neutral—people started feeling bad for me. I felt like I was on “Oprah” rather than on a stand-up stage.
It wasn’t until I met Vince Vaughn and everyone over at “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show” that the show started coming together, and it changed my life. They introduced me to the great Mike Price from “The Simpsons,” and then here we are in season three. And, by the way, now on “F Is for Family” [we] have two Oscar winners doing voices, Allison Janney … and Sam Rockwell. I gave up on getting a live-action television show on the air and just decided to do a silly cartoon, and the next thing I know I’m working with people that won Oscars. How crazy is that?
Deacon: You have a great core cast with Laura Dern, Justin Long, and, as you mentioned, Janney and Rockwell. How were they chosen?
Burr: Some of it was casting. Some of it was ideas people had. Rockwell and Long were friends of Vaughn from working together. Someone brought up Dern and I thought, “She would do this?! If we can get her, absolutely.” Then we have these absolute killers like Mo Collins. She does so many voices on the show. Trevor Devall is also on there. Josh Adam Meyers, who plays DJ Howling Hank. There’s just a tremendous amount of talent on this show.
Deacon: I see some of my dad in the character you play, Frank Murphy. He skirts the line between cold and compassionate. Who is he based on?
Burr: Yeah, it’s all of that. It’s my dad. It’s me. It’s other people’s dads in the writer’s room. Then it’s about a guy you’re not allowed to be anymore, for better or worse. A lot of people trash millennials, and, you know, I was making fun of how everything is being labeled now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think people’s hearts are in the right place, but I don’t think everything was bad pre-2000s. The show takes place 45 years ago, but he’s dealing with a lot of the things people are dealing with now.
Deacon: So, the last time you performed in Tulsa was in 2013.
Burr: Has it been that long? I have to be honest, that was one of my favorite theaters to play. I love the city. The guy that ran the Brady Theater had a late ‘60s or early ‘70s Cadillac that he let me take for a spin. I felt like I was in “A Bronx Tale.” It was awesome. The food there was great, too, so I’m really looking forward to it.
Deacon: Has your performance changed much since then?
Burr: I think it’s the same level of ignorance I brought in 2013. I haven’t changed. It feels like a good time to be irreverent.
Deacon: When you started doing comedy, what direction were you trying to take?
Burr: I was always trying to be myself, and I was always trying to be good at it. That’s what I was working towards. Finding your voice as a comedian can be mistaken as finding a hook. A hook is not your voice. Your voice is you going onstage and saying what you’re thinking. I feel like people that come up with those terms are people who don’t do what they’re talking about. There’s a lot of that in sports, when people who haven’t ever played at a collegiate level will criticize professional athletes. I’ve been guilty of that a thousand times a year.
Deacon: I know a few people that criticize athletes when they don’t perform to the best of their ability.
Burr: I love when fans question the ability of an athlete to handle pressure. You’ll hear someone say, “Well, he just didn’t get it done in the Super Bowl!” Did you even get it done at the supermarket today? You probably forgot the avocados your wife wanted. How many people tried to tackle you when you tried to get the Sweet’n Low? They always excuse it by saying, “If you want to play on the big stage, then you have to take the criticism that comes with it.” Absolutely. As long as you realize you have no business criticizing me, then I will take that criticism.