“I wanna get a gun,” Bill Burr says first thing in his new special, You People Are All the Same. It’s a great opening line, allowing him to launch directly into the type of stuff he most loves to talk about. Namely, how everything pisses him off. He’s a funny man, but he is also a capital-D Dude. He considers himself too tough/motivated/in control for depression, he’s got a healthy cockiness to him, and he’s more than happy to argue that women nagging is the reason that men end up looking shocked and sad and ready to die in their final years. In fact, women are the cause of a lot of problems, according to Burr.
Filmed at Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Theater, People could’ve been the icing on Burr’s big year. This is his third special, following 2010′s Let It Go and 2008′s Why Do I Do This?. He appeared in a couple episodes of Chappelle’s Show in 2004, and has since found bit parts in movies and television, including seasons four and five of Breaking Bad. He’s got a popular podcast. Although he’s not exactly a household name, things seem to be trending upward.
Despite his attitudes about certain topics, his comedy is ridiculously accessible. Its mix of Everyman nonchalance and obvious intelligence walks a confident line between the high- and lowbrow. The catch, of course, is that it’s not always the most clever stuff. Jokes about how Burr “doesn’t get” plastic surgery and how he’s frustrated with the obviousness of statistics (“Most shark attacks happen in shallow water,” he says, mocking a friend. Of course they do, he responds, because that’s where the people are.) lack insightfulness, a fact driven home by Burr’s relentlessly enthusiastic and almost cartoonishly animated delivery. He’ll often ask, “Right?” at the end of a joke, as if he’s not sure that some of his assertions actually ring true.
Burr has touched on a lot of the same topics before. Old people are old, he doesn’t read, Cheesecake Factory is where fat people go, give white people a break, women nag men too much. These are all common comedic ground, and to be fair, there is funny stuff to talk about there, but only so much. At one point he belabors the idea that people shouldn’t say, “There’s no reason to hit a woman.” His point is that absolutes are dangerous, but it’s hard to feel sympathetic for a straight, white, American male in his 40s who makes an above-average living entertaining people in theaters all over the world. “I’m talking about hitting women, sweetheart, and I think you just added another reason,” he dismissively responds to a noisy audience member. He then tries to bolster his argument by saying maybe Rhianna was “screaming some crazy female shit in his ear” when Chris Brown beat the shit out of her. “Right?”
Elsewhere he touches on race, another favorite topic, but here the material is more nuanced. “You gotta hang out with everybody,” he says after explaining how he only recently learned—via a black friend—what it means to be ashy. “There’s too much information in the world, and every group of people misses a little bit.” This leads to a rewarding gag about itchiness and illegal firearms, mocking both whites and blacks equally. It’s thoughtful, like a lot of his material at its base, and carried through here to a funny conclusion that doesn’t use a culture of power to marginalize a group of people.
A lot of his female material’s origin becomes clear about a third of the way in, when Burr discusses how much he admires his dad. Despite some of the clearly bad behavior and opinions he acquired, Burr does actually sound like he’d be a decent father. Just play catch with your kids, he says. Discuss the important stuff (sociopaths, parental arguments, and Big Idea theories) while tossing a ball. “Don’t tell your mother I’m telling you any of this shit,” he concludes after several fairly hilarious pieces of advice.
Burr is a talented, funny comic, but too much of his great material gets buried by the grating, insistent stuff that borders on rampant, bald-faced misogyny. He repeatedly refers to women as “they,” as in, “that’s what they do,” as if all women collectively acted the same way in all situations. “There’s no help out there for guys,” Burr continues, discussing Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s marital infidelities. “Nothing out there to help you handle becoming rich and famous… That platoon of whores that’s gonna form on the horizon, like Braveheart, faces painted, skirts on, they’ll run down the hill and jump on your dick in front of your wife. They don’t give a shit. There’s not even a handbook out there.” Right, guys? Maybe rich, famous, powerful men shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions with all these whores lurking around every corner? Riiiiight.