Bill Burr pulls no punches at Wilbur
Somewhere around 11 p.m. Saturday, Bill Burr stabbed himself in the neck. He was punctuating an elaborate joke that involved a motorcycle, an accident in the middle of nowhere, and a hovering vulture.
When he poked himself with his microphone as if it were the vulture’s beak, he winced. The jabs had been more forceful than he’d planned.
“Two shows in and I’ve got an injury,” Burr muttered. The comedian born and raised in Canton was celebrating his hard-earned ascension into the stand-up elite with an unprecedented, almost entirely sold-out 19-show run, two sets every night this week, at the Wilbur Theatre.
During the late show of his opening night Saturday, after assaulting his own trachea with the sole tool of his trade, Burr anticipated a reviewer questioning his resolve. “Is Bill Burr Dogging It?” he said in an overly concerned voice, imagining the scandalized headline.
No, Bill Burr, 46, is not dogging it. On a roll in Hollywood following his part on “Breaking Bad” and the announcement of an upcoming animated sitcom for Netflix, he surely has no financial need to put himself through the rigors of 10 straight nights of stagework.
But there he was, throwing all his considerable, cantankerous energy into a 90-minute set full of blistering, relentlessly funny tirades about the war of the sexes, teaching a gorilla to use sign language, and the type of person who vacations on a cruise ship.
“I’m in an awful mood,” he apologized as soon as he took the stage, after being introduced by his appropriately sharp-tongued opener, Worcester’s Dan Smith, who self-identified as a “chunky, 5-foot-5 garden gnome.” For Burr’s fans — and there seemed to be very few in attendance who were unfamiliar with his irritated, high-pitched stage persona — that was great news. His comedy hinges on his own wrath, and the delight he takes in expressing it.
Opening with an unscripted rant about the Patriots’ Deflategate controversy, he joked that the severe reaction to the report that Tom Brady may have tampered with game-day footballs must be a product of furious envy of the All-American quarterback.
“Is it the dimple on his chin?” asked Burr, who talks a lot of sports on his “Monday Morning Podcast.” The supermodel wife? “How many aces can one guy be dealt?”
Leaning on his mike stand with his left elbow, the microphone in his right hand, he launched into an extended bit about Kanye West’s ego, his own “dictator thoughts,” and a weird nightmare in which a little girl told him he was going to kill himself.
No chance, Burr brayed: “I’ve done too much bad [stuff] in my life. I don’t want to meet God anytime soon.”
Burr accentuates his most abrasive material with an infectious cackle. He’s well aware that his audacity makes him an angry bull in the china shop of routine civility.
In that way, he’s a quintessential Boston comic. Whatever your threshold, he’ll cross it gleefully, tracking dog poop on his shoes.
“Women are really complaining a lot lately, huh?” he said near the end of his set, knowing full well that the incorrectness of merely addressing a hot-button issue like income inequality would earn him loud laughs of the “did he really just say that?” variety.
He’s had some of this set under his belt for a while now. Fans have heard his jokes about wanting to buy a Corvette, the car of his youthful dreams, for instance. When his wife suggests he’d look pathetic behind the wheel at his age, he retorts, “When was I supposed to buy it — when I was working at Wendy’s?”
Though he’s riding a career high right now, he’s not destined for any leading-man roles. Burr knows who he is.
“I’m the ‘dude, bro’ guy,” he said. That’s what the heavy Boston accent says, anyway. He’s a lot cagier than that.
At: Wilbur Theatre, late show, Saturday