Ranting and Raving

Comedian Bill Burr runs his mouth on what's going wrong with pop culture, relationships and the world at large

Comedian Bill Burr brings the attitude to Moontower Comedy

Bill Burr
Comedian Bill Burr Photo by Koury Angelo

On Wednesday, April 24 when the Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival comes to Austin, you'll be shocked out of the normal work week routine.

Ahead of the festival, we’ve already spoken with a master of dark comedy and a comedian/radio host/best-selling author, and today’s subject is also not afraid to speak his mind.

Bill Burr is a virtuoso of the on-stage rant, utilizing his fiery personality to pick apart what’s going wrong in pop culture, relationships and the world at large. He took the time to talk with CultureMap about comedy, breaking out into acting, and explaining why he is fine with keeping his podcast under his own control.

CultureMap: You’re coming into town for the Moontower Comedy Festival, but this isn’t your first time in Austin, correct?

Bill Burr: Yeah, I performed there at a local comedy club a couple of times — Cap City Comedy Club.

CM: So what was your experience like performing here?

BB: Well I went there [and] I wanted to go to a Longhorns' game, and because of the flex schedule it went from a one o’clock game to like a seven o’clock game, so not only did I not get to go to the game, there was like nobody at my show. [Laughs.]

But I remember they had a lot of cool Stevie Ray Vaughan stuff.

CM: Scheduling anything during football season is difficult. Is your upcoming trip to Moontower in Austin coinciding with a big comedy tour?

BB: I wouldn’t really call it like a tour. It’s just like, I’m a comedian and every weekend I go out and I do shows, but I do have a big theater tour this whole year, though. It’s really exciting; it took me 21 years to get here.

CM: Some of that success in comedy has expanded into you branching out into acting. Is this something you’ve wanted to do for a while, and where would you like to take this part of your career in the future?

BB: Who wouldn’t want to be in a movie, you know? … I like doing the comedy stuff and the drama stuff, so hopefully with any luck it will keep going because that’s an entirely different ball game from standup and such.

[You have to] keep auditioning and improving yourself with acting, whereas comedy, you know, you come through town, people see you're funny, and they just book you again. You don’t have to re-audition to play the same club.

CM: Now that Breaking Bad [Burr performed in the recurring role of Kuby] is wrapped up, what are the next acting roles on the horizon for you?

BB: I got a movie coming up called The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy that comes out in June, and I just wrapped one called Walk of Shame with Elizabeth Banks.

CM: So how does it feel getting to work on the big Hollywood productions?

BB: Oh, it’s great. You feel like you won a radio contest… The fact that it’s going to be shown in movie theaters is pretty amazing. Who doesn’t want to be in a movie? [Laughs.] So it was definitely cool and everybody I got to work with was awesome.

I’m starting to believe that [the] whole celebrities behaving badly thing is really the exception rather than the rule, because I’ve done enough of these. I just don’t see how long you could possibly work being an absolute “prima donna.” I mean there’re so many people that just want to be in a movie, but if they’re being a jerk I’d be like, “Alright, we’ll just wait for the first one to flop and then we’re done with you.” [Laughs.]

CM: You’ve also found some success with your own weekly podcast, Monday Morning Podcast. Has this been another good way for you to air your grievances outside of standup sets and to further promote yourself?

BB: Yeah, it’s a two-fer thing. It’s one, obviously, to promote my career and where I’m going to be doing standup. It was also one of those things where I do it on Mondays because I remember when I had a day job, Mondays sucked. So it’s something to look forward to, and it works out good for everybody. I get to promote my things and people get a laugh on Mondays.

They kind of use them as a way to get through something they don’t want to be doing.

CM: And plenty of comedians have found success through their podcasts, such as Marc Maron getting his own TV show through the success of his WTF podcast. Would you consider the same treatment for your podcast?

BB: No, I don’t want to turn my podcast into a TV show… It’s mine, so that means I can’t get fired from it. There’re very few things in show business where they can’t be taken away in a split second. My listener-ship can go up and down or whatever, but I’ll always have something to do as long as I continue to do that and the standup.

That’s what I love about both of them. These are two things that show business can’t take away from me. Everything else, you know TV shows and acting, that’s their stuff and they let me do it, and when they decide they don’t want to let me do it anymore there’s nothing I can do about it.

If you can work for yourself in this business, you can have a way better time than being under somebody else’s thumb and wondering when the other shoe’s going to drop.

CM: A big part of your discussions and standup routines is picking apart and even ranting about some of the things wrong with the world. Is it therapeutic for yourself and even for the audience, you think?

BB: I think it’s more that the audience knows I’m an idiot, so they don’t take what I say too seriously and everybody just has fun. I’m kind of like the loud guy in the bar that makes a little bit of sense, and then you remember that I flunked everything in high school so you just laugh at me.

CM: Is it easy for people to see this as just how you are in life outside of comedy?

BB: The nature of the beast is that people watch you do standup for an hour and just think that’s your entire personality — that I walk around ranting and raving in my underwear at home.

CM: So are you excited to come back to Austin to headline for Moontower?

BB: Austin, just in general, has a great representation. I’ve never heard anybody go “Oh God, I gotta go to Austin. This is just going to suck.” I’ve never heard anybody say that; everybody is psyched. People call me up and go “I see you’re in Austin. If you need an opener, can I come along?” It’s probably one of the highest rated cities out there, as far as comedians going.

CM: Well that’s good to hear. A lot of comedy fans are looking forward to seeing you here.

BB: Ok, cool. Well, thank you for letting me run my mouth.

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Bill Burr will perform at live at the Paramount on Friday, April 26. Single tickets are sold out, but a few badges are still available.