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Bill Burr has never been afraid to speak his mind. But recently, it seems the comedian has taken a step back to observe himself.
That is apparent with his new Netflix special, Walk Your Way Out. This empathy, he says, may not be specifically aimed at making him a better comic, but a better person. Perhaps that has carried over to the stage. He’s stopped using homophobic slurs, and has backed away from more misogynist elements of past specials.
“As far as my mindset changing, I see myself having more empathy in my older age,” he tells the Daily Dot.
Perhaps. In a long bit from the new special, he targets overweight people for making the conscious choice to eat unhealthy food, saying they should feel ashamed of themselves. He takes a shot at his own body, but it’s clear Burr still has some issues with body image.
It’s bits like this that keep audience members on edge, waiting for a balanced resolution, while tipping desensitized audiences over the edge too soon, often letting them take away their own interpretation before the punch line.
At one point during the special, Burr shouts out to an audience member: “Shut up. The clown ain’t finished,” revealing his awareness that the audience’s interpretation of his jokes can quickly be taken the wrong way. That bit in particular is tricky, because if you word it the wrong way it will come out with a different meaning, he says.
While some of the jokes in the new special walk the line between politically correct and hostile, Burr manages to say a few things that leave no room for interpretation. At the top of the set—which was filmed in Nashville, Tennessee, before the election—Burr says if Donald Trump wasn’t so racist, he could deal with him being president because he’s such a dope that he wouldn’t be able to get away with anything. He also says there is no way Trump would ever go through with building a wall from California to Texas.
It’s taken a while for Burr to hit his stride. He says he’s a 25-year overnight success.
“I had to do it the way most of my friends had to do it,” he says. “We have to go out on the road for 20 years and just keep killin’ and killin’ and killin’ until hopefully word of mouth will get you there. Then you get a break here, a break there.”
Burr contributes some of his success to having positive comics around to push him into being better. Comics like Dane Cook and the late Patrice O’Neal. Burr recalls seeing Cook at clubs and mics almost every night when they first started off together.
While he’s had clear success on Netflix—the second season of his animated sitcom F Is For Family comes out this year as well—the birth of his daughter might change him even more.
“Obviously my life has changed,” he says. “And obviously some of my priorities have shifted… a lot of the cliches are true. I don’t know how to describe it. What happens is when you have a kid, you are a unique human being, so you are going to have a unique experience. No one can really tell you what you’re going to feel. But that will not stop anyone with a kid from trying to tell you what you are going to feel. And they always say, ‘Oh, just wait for this to happen. Oh, and wait for this to happen, blah blah blah blah blah blah.’
“Can you just shut up and let me enjoy it?”