Bill Burr ignores critics, focuses on comedy

By John Lavanga / A&E Editor

As a comedian, actor and radio personality, Bill Burr has developed a following for his blunt, everyman style of humor. Burr never holds back, going on riffs about his issues with women, American education, The Oprah Winfrey Show and the tribulations of dog ownership. 

In anticipation of his performance at Heinz Hall on Friday, he spoke to The Pitt News about his role on Breaking Bad, the key to comedic acting and why he’s never going to worry about offending his audience.

The Pitt News: Some of your comedy can be fairly edgy. Do you ever worry about offending the audience?

Bill Burr: People are smart. They realize that they’re at a comedy show and that somebody’s up there telling jokes, and jokes are not meant to be taken seriously. You can decide as an individual that you want to take certain jokes seriously and other jokes are just jokes to you. But that’s not on the comedian, that’s on the person listening.

TPN: But in the age of blogs and Twitter, there’s always the worry that you may offend a larger group. Has that made you more sensitive?

Burr: What are they gonna do to me? I don’t have a television show, so you can’t threaten to take my TV show away. I tell jokes in strip malls. There’s nothing you can do to me.

There’s two kinds of being offended. There’s an individual thing and then you have an agenda and you have a cause. People who have an agenda and a cause, it’s a waste of time to get offended at somebody when they can’t attach it to anything.

You have to have a TV show or something that brings advertisers so they can threaten those, and then that causes momentum and then local news or whatever picks up on it because it’s an easy story … At the end of the day, it’s a pony and dog show.

TPN: How did you get involved with Breaking Bad?

Burr: I was a big fan of it and I kept bugging my agent, and that got the ball rolling. Vince [Gilligan], for some reason, thank God, decided to take a chance on me and it worked out. Because he did … I seem to get as much dramatic work as I do comedy. Which is great, because, ya know, the old variety being the spice of life.

TPN: Do you see any difference between comedic acting and dramatic acting?

Burr: I don’t see any difference. Your character believes whatever they’re saying, whether it’s drama or comedy. If it’s comedy, the situation, the words and all of that are written. The laughs will handle themselves. All you have to do is believe what you’re saying.

Look, you ever see a fender bender? Two people get into a car accident and then they start yelling at each other? To those two people, that situation is not funny. But you’re sitting there watching it and it’s f*cking hilarious … Your car isn’t damaged. You don’t have to call the insurance company. You don’t have to go to court. You don’t have to worry about possibly getting sued. But all those thoughts are in those two people’s heads. So their emotions are heightened and they’re screaming at each other because they both think they’re right. You don’t have to be wacky, you just have to try to win.