Bill Burr sells out (two shows at Pabst Theater)
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A true comic’s comic, Bill Burr has made a 20-year career out of spitting venom and inspiring thought through fearless, impassioned, and borderline genius social commentary. Whether ranting about gender roles and race in his three increasingly brilliant specials, or waging war on the city of Philadelphia (and winning!), the veteran funnyman has never minced words or pulled punches on stage. While Burr’s pedigree as a stand-up has translated to increased opportunities in radio and television—including a recurring role as Saul Goodman lackey “Kuby” on Breaking Bad—success hasn’t changed the comic’s kvetching tone or impacted the dedication to his craft, as evidenced by his 80 minutes of uproarious opining Friday night during the first of two Pabst Theater shows.
Walking onto the stage, Burr didn’t even wait until the packed theater’s enthusiastic welcome had finished before launching into a brand-new saga regarding apparent water damage to the ceiling of his Los Angeles home, which he had learned about that morning. The recent development provided a smooth transition to biting commentary about the insurance industry. “How does it feel to be a cog in the wheel of a giant piece of shit?” Burr asked insurance adjusters rhetorically, before narrowing his focus to the idea of meteor insurance and his disappointment that nobody died from the recent meteor that struck Russia because of how rare meteor fatalities are.
The morbid overtone held for the majority of the show, and the crowd gleeful held on for the ride as Burr touched on his atheism and the folly of spiritual rhetoric like “I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” which found him screaming “NO! It was meant to be, but you fucked up!” Burr’s paranoia and tendency to over think things also berthed sidesplitting bits regarding the Illuminati, how he’d escape a hotel fire, and a skillfully painted description of how quickly society would unravel if the world lost power.
Eventually, Burr took a break from the hypothetical scenarios and reset his sights on the ongoing flaws of society, such as overpopulation, saying, “We’ve been out-fucking the death rate for a long time.” He vaguely touched on the issue of guns, saying he didn’t need anything more than a .22 for protection. When his remarks inspired mid-joke chatter from an audience member who “wanted to get his money’s worth,” Burr berated the man’s “non-fucking-sequiturs,” asking him, “What is your money’s worth? Do you want to fucking come up here and talk?”
From there, he held the crowd captive for a strong finish regarding Joseph Stalin being unfairly overshadowed by Adolph Hitler, equating the former’s 25 million kill total to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and Hitler’s six-to-nine million kills to Hootie And The Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View. Unorthodox, offensive, and oddly insightful, Burr earned his standing ovation with a true-to-form illustration of the bold and definitive style that’s rendered him a modern comedy legend.