Everyman Bill Burr’s star rises

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Bill Burr — known for being an everyday guy who is a little more ticked off than the average Joe — may be entering a few phase in his career.

He’s still the guy ranting about political correctness, environmental issues and ridiculous celebrities, but with a new Netflix show on the horizon and a tour at bigger venues than usual, it appears more people are hearing him.

The Massachusetts native has been performing standup since the early 1990s, and saw his career start to snowball a decade later. In spite of having some high profile acting roles — he played con man Patrick Kuby in the ABC drama “Breaking Bad” — Burr isn’t too well recognized out of the world of stand-up comedy.

In that realm, however, he’s one of the heavy hitters. Burr, who has a degree in radio from Emerson College in Boston, has a weekly podcast titled “Bill Burr’s Monday Morning.” It’s showcased on All Things Comedy, a podcast network he developed in 2011 with “Daily Show” correspondent Al Madrigal. Burr’s wife — producer and director Nia Hill — often joins in him on the podcast, along with guest comedians.

Around the same time All Things Comedy launched, the A.V. Club called Burr “a solid comedian’s comedian” and in 2013 Rolling Stone named him “the new Louis C.K.,” saying he’s the “undisputed heavyweight champ of rage-fueled humor.”

Now that fuel seems to be propelling Burr into another echelon of fame: starring in his own show. The animated series, “F is For Family,” debuts on Netflix in December.

The show is set in 1973, and Burr says he wanted it to be a more realistic look at the era instead of being all “lava lamps and disco balls.”

“The kid who’s me, Bill, is about 11 years old. I wasn’t 11 until 1979, but the kid playing me is 11 in 1973,” says Burr of the show, which also stars Laura Dern, Justin Long and Haley Reinhart. “We wanted to push it more toward the early ’70s because it’s more fun to be back there as opposed to the late ’70s which has kind of been done to death.

“It’s like an animated show, but we tried to keep a level of reality.”

He says working with the cast was a treat, especially Dern.

“She’s an icon. She’s unbelievable,” he says. “It’s inspiring how completely open she is as a performer and just getting to watch her and Sam Rockwell, Gary Cole, Justin Long.

“What’s cool to watch is how they approach it. Some people dive right in, some people do baby steps, some people try big things, but how they get to that middle area where it’s working, everyone on the show is just awesome.”

Burr will hit the Fox Theatre on Sunday, a bump up from his usual local haunt, the Royal Oak Music Theatre. Last year, he co-headlined the Oddball Comedy Festival at DTE Energy Music Theatre.

Burr says his show at the Fox will be largely new and topical material.

“This year is the year in between specials when I’m putting stuff together, so you’ll see cornerstones of my next special.”

The 47-year-old comic says he likes the Midwest and sees the region’s potential and would consider investing in an area like Detroit.

“I’m a big fan of the Rust Belt cities,” he says. “Other than blowing my money on a tour bus, I would like to invest. Maybe do something that you ... like, go in there and help it out without (messing) it up.”

“I wouldn’t do the usual thing: ‘Let’s buy this (building) and kick it out and gut it and make it too expensive for anybody remotely in this area,’ ” he says. “There’s no fun in that.”

“I saw an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show and I saw that this celebrity chef had gone to Manhattan, made a name for himself and then went back to Detroit and created this scene and I got really inspired by that,” he says, speaking of the episode of “Parts Unknown” featuring Guns + Butter chef Craig Lieckfelt. “I was yet another person talking about politicians and how they’re not doing anything, and the reality is that I could maybe shut up and maybe do something.”

Talking about — or shouting about — politicians is a big part of Burr’s act. He says he’s neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but he does lean liberal. He thought so, anyway, until he got to Hollywood.

“These people are like Fox News in their politics, except all the way to the left,” he says. “There’s actually a smugness to the way (they view) so many of these states that they haven’t been to, this flyover concept. Oh you mean our food supply?,” he says.

“Johnny Carson came from Nebraska. Mark Twain came from Missouri. Ohio, all those people came from Ohio, astronauts, boxers, inventors, everybody, George Steinbrenner. That’s the type of stuff that will never get old for me and that’s why I love the road.”


Bill Burr

7 p.m. Sun.

Fox Theatre

2211 Woodward, Detroit

(313) 471-6611


‘F is for Family’

December, Netflix