Bill Burr is one of the more successful stand-up comedians of his generation. He has been performing in the comedy circuit for 30 years and his brand of humor has become more relevant than ever. His unique take on current events isn’t for the squeamish, politically-correct crowd. There are no cheesy feel-good moments in his shows- no celebratory “we’re all in this together” pats on the back a la Jo Koy. Oh no, sir. Bill Burr’s humor cuts close to the bone- so close in fact, that he has been branded a misogynist.
Considered a comedian’s comedian, Burr’s subjects deal with some of the most fundamental questions of what it is that makes us human- faults and all. His inability to suffer fools gladly makes for some of the most entertaining, if not cathartic, comedy routines out there. But how exactly did Bill Burr become one of the greatest comics of all time? Let’s take a look at Burr’s beginnings and how his journey led him to the top.
William Frederick Burr was born on June 10, 1968, in Canton, Massachusetts, and is of Irish and German descent. He would grow up in an emotionally abusive household- his father had a volatile temper. He graduated high school in 1987 and obtained a bachelor’s degree in radio from Emerson College in Boston where one of his professors was Infinite Jest writer, David Foster Wallace. He would work in warehouses, construction, and even as a dental assistant before pursuing a career as a stand-up comedian.
Bill Burr would get his first taste of performing stand-up comedy on March 2, 1992. The 23-year-old would move to New York two years later to further his career. His comedy act at the time was tame and didn’t contain swear words for fear of offending the audience and getting heckled.
What would follow were several lean years for the comedian before getting his break. In 1996 he made his first TV appearance in Comics Come Home 2 as well as being cast as Ryan Callahan in the sitcom, Townies.
It goes without saying that Burr’s success didn’t happen overnight. He would push and travel the country playing small clubs until he became a headliner.
He then experienced what could be described as an artistic crisis.
At age 37 he found himself sleeping on a futon- depressed and scared for his future. He had no manager, no booking agent, and barely got gigs. Ironically, the only thing that kept him from wallowing in total dejection was his passion for performing onstage but it was hard to market an aging ginger comic.
His misery would soon turn into anger which eventually found its way into his act. Realizing that playing “nice” wasn’t getting him anywhere, Burr decided to play the game by his rules- if he failed then at least he was true to himself.
He would start by shaving his head. His natural headful of red hair had to go if he was going to go all out as an inexorable malcontent. Not only was a bald comic funnier, but he also felt going bald was a big middle finger to Hollywood’s obsession with looks. It also made him look tough.
Now armed with new jokes teeming with angry urgency, Bill Burr was finally rid of the pressures he felt were holding him back. He was now completely comfortable being his true self. His newfound onstage swag and confidence were noticeable and his new act and image started gaining attention.
Better opportunities started pouring in. His years spent patiently struggling in the trenches would pay dividends as his experience enabled him to make proactive decisions to take his career to the next level.
The New and Improved Bill Burr
Burr is now enjoying the fruits of his labor. His shows are sold-out affairs and he is the first comedian to headline Fenway Park, performing to nearly 38,000 fans at once. He has appeared in the TV series The Mandalorian and AMC’s highly successful Breaking Bad series. He created and co-wrote the TV animated series F is for Family, loosely based on his childhood. His stand-up specials are available on Netflix and he keeps busy with his podcast. He is also preparing for his directorial debut with the movie, Old Dads.
While Burr is now considered a bonafide celebrity, the comedian remains low-key. He thinks he can avoid Hollywood trappings simply because he is not exactly leading man material. He prefers it this way and enjoys spending time with his family. You can tell he truly loves his wife in his specials- even when ripping on their relationship from time to time.
The birth of his daughter has had a sobering effect on the comedian. He’s been off the sauce since 2018 and is undergoing therapy again. In his latest Netflix special, he talks about how he adjusted some of his attitudes and that he now no longer “trashes women.' He now regrets some of his old jokes- at least in their delivery, wishing he had been more “playful” in his tone. This frank self-criticism comes as no surprise as the comedian is known for not pulling his punches. Clearly, the man has been working on improving himself.
Bill Burr’s current net worth is $12 million. Against all the odds, the aging red-headed comedian has finally made it. We can't wait for what he does next!