On podcasting as career tool and place to be a jerk
Published: April 6, 2011
Recher Theatre, Friday April 8, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
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Bill Burr is an accomplished standup comedian who for the past four years has been broadcasting The Monday Morning Podcast, the latest of which at this writing (March 28) currently enjoys 12 bars out of 12 in the “Popularity” column on Apple’s iTunes Store. Burr has a Twitter and a dot-com, he is one of the writers and stars of a short film called Cheat, which has been selected to run in the Tribeca Film Festival, and most importantly for us here in Baltimore, he is appearing at the Recher Theatre in Towson for two performances of his standup comedy show “You People Are All the Same.”
We joined Burr via telephony to his apartment in Los Angeles, Calif., at 8:45 in the morning, Pacific Time. So as not to wake his girlfriend, Burr had been standing in the apartment’s laundry room since 7 a.m., participating in phone interviews with People Like Us every 15 minutes or so.
City Paper: On your podcast you seem to be completely automatic, unfiltered, somewhat unpleasant, even. Is that because you do not prepare for it?
Bill Burr: No, I’m just fucking around. Whatever topic gets brought up I just go off on it. I just do it. I select the questions that have an appeal to me, but I don’t write down anything or work it out, that would be way too much work. (laughs) I just go on and try to get on a roll. I’ve done podcasts for, like, 37 minutes or something and it kinda dies and I just stop it, hit erase and I just start over again.
CP: So it’s just you being a real human being.
BB: It’s me being a jerk. Like I said, I go off on everything, and it’s funny, people love the podcast and they laugh, but there is a certain segment of people, they laugh at everything until you come around to something they’re into and all of a sudden they get all sensitive. I’m not funny anymore, I’m making statements, and they would say, “You know your statements about obese people, your statements about potheads, or, your statements about my football or hockey team, you know” . . . It’s me being silly, you’re not supposed to take my podcasts seriously. People asked me a question, “If you’re in a gymnasium, and it’s full of 6-year olds, how many you think you could kill before they overtook you?” It’s a ridiculous question, but I answered it, and it was funny. I do it every Monday, because I remember when I had a real job I hated going to work on Monday, so it’s just something that’s supposed to make you laugh, it’s supposed to be over the top, it’s supposed to be ignorant, it’s supposed to be all of those things, and you’re not supposed to take it seriously, and it’s kind of a way that I weed out certain people. Like if people ever send me an e-mail that they’re offended by my thoughts on potheads—you know somebody said that—he goes, “Yeah, I’m thinking about unsubscribing,” and I just said back, “Then fucking unsubscribe, I’m not making any money on this thing.”
CP: What is your position on potheads?
BB: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with smoking weed. I was making fun of them as a beer drinker. I said it’s bullshit, weed is like alcohol—some people can handle it, other people, it consumes their lives. When you watch Intervention, they have booze bags, coke heads, meth heads, people on heroin, Oxy, huffers—those people who inhale cleaners—they never have a pothead, they never have that wake-and-bake guy, you know, has to be high or he can’t do anything because he can’t deal, those guys that sit on the same fucking sofa for 20 years, eating Doritos, they’re not hurting anybody but not accomplishing anything, they just kind of live their life in this fucking haze, what about those guys? So a half-dozen pot smokers got upset. They said, “You hate weed.” I said, “No I don’t, I think it’s great. I think if you smoke it through one of those vaporizers it’s one of the healthiest highs you could have.” I had one guy send me an e-mail, he said every night before he goes to bed he takes a couple of puffs of weed. He was saying that he had it in control, you know, gets himself a nice little high and goes to sleep. What if I had a coupla beers, got a little buzzed, every night before I went to bed, you know? People would be like, “Dude you gotta drink two beers to go to bed? Alcohol as a sleep aid, what’s going on with you?”
CP: What do you get out of the podcast?
BB: A number of things. First of all, I love doing it. It makes me a better comedian because I’m basically improv-ing for an hour, just trying to keep the plates spinning, and I’ve gotten fans all around the world who show up to my comedy shows now. Podcasts are your own radio show, but the main thing is there’s nobody telling you what you can and can’t say. Creatively it’s a lot of fun because I go way more over the top than I will in my standup act.
CP: You are a big proponent, wielder, of the word “cunt.” Are you in some sort of lobby to introduce it into the American vocabulary for its United Kingdom usage?
BB: It’s a word that I used, and I didn’t censor myself when I got on the podcast. I kinda got known for that, I guess.
CP: Outside of watching crime movies from England or Scotland or something, I don’t see anybody using the word “cunt” the way you use it.
BB: Well, you know, if I can be remembered for anything. (Laughs) When I get my star on the Podcast Walk of Fame, maybe that’ll be my calling card. I don’t really call women that, I kinda call other guys that. The first time I heard it was, you know that Led Zeppelin movie The Song Remains the Same? There’s a point in that where they find out at the Madison Square Garden gig that someone’s been selling bootleg Led Zeppelin merchandise, like T-shirts and stuff. [Band manager] Peter Grant is yelling at this guy, and the guy’s making the excuses, going, “Well how the hell am I supposed to see every inch of this place?” And Peter Grant goes, “Well you’re in charge of security, you silly cunt,” and I just roared with laughter, I thought it was hilarious, and I think that was the seed of that, like 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve done a number of gigs in England and Scotland and Ireland and they just sort of throw that word around. These two announcers for soccer over in England, they both got fired because they were laughing at highlights for women’s soccer. They started a women’s soccer league over there and the level of talent versus the guys, it was laughable, so these guys laughed, and they ended up losing their jobs. One of the English listeners was describing how well they had it—and how bad they screwed up—he described the life they had as announcers and the money they were making, he said they were “a couple of cosy smug cunts,” which basically meant, you know, they had it made. “Cosy” and “cunt” in the same sentence is just hilarious to me, so maybe that’s what it is. I don’t want you in the article to make it seem like I’m saying “cunt” for an hour, but it certainly comes up, in the podcast.
CP: You use it in its proper United Kingdom way.
BB: Yeah. I think it happened, like I hang out with a buddy of mine, Joe Derosa, and I dunno, without ever really discussing it, we just kinda used the word.
CP: Is Joe Derosa in Cheat?
BB: Yeah, not only is he in it, he directed it. It stars me, Joe Derosa, and Robert Kelly. We want to start our own little gang. When you look out there in Hollywood, that’s basically what it is, it’s all gangs. Judd Apatow has got his crew of guys, Adam Sandler has his crew, sometimes they cross-pollinate, so we’re trying to get a crew together, because we look up to those guys. You want to be on the other side of the table. You can’t spend your whole career, in this business, with your hat in hand auditioning for parts because it just makes it so much harder. If you can actually write and create something and then shoot it, I mean if you’re the one who created it, you’re gonna be in it, and then you’re always employed.
CP: You can control what you produce.
BB: That’s exactly what we want to do. So I’m always gonna be doing standup, I’ll always have The Monday Morning Podcast, which I really believe at some point will be a five-day-a-week show, because that’s where everyone’s going, people aren’t listening to radio anymore, they’re listening to podcasts because they’re uncensored.
CP: You’re doing two shows at the Recher. That sounds very draining.
BB: No, not draining at all. The flight to Baltimore will be draining.
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