Bill Burr Looks Back on His First Ever Stand-Up Show: ‘I Completely Forgot Everything I Was Gonna Say’

Comedian also talks the second season of his Netflix show “F Is for Family”

June 7, 2017

Howard welcomed comedian Bill Burr back to the Stern Show on Wednesday to talk all of his current projects, including a successful podcast, a second season of his animated series “F Is for Family,” and his 2017 Netflix comedy special “Walk Your Way Out,” the fifth stand-up special of Bill’s career. While some comics might have a hard time shelving jokes after they’ve told them on a special, Bill told Howard he actually looks forward to it.

“My favorite thing is the day after I shoot a special and it all goes away and I get to start over again. It’s my favorite thing,” Bill said. The process for coming up with new comedy for a special is a long one for Bill – he told Howard he tries out material for over two years before he inserts it into his main act. Before he shoots a special, he’ll do 10 to 15 minutes at various clubs around the country, testing out his jokes on different audiences.

“It just becomes like a skill,” Bill told Howard.

Howard asked Bill about the first time he ever tried stand-up and the difficulty he faced while trying to come up with his debut comedy routine.

“I remember sitting down, staring at a notebook … and just having no idea what to do. And I just started writing,” Bill said. “I had shit.”

But at least he had something. However, once up on stage, Bill didn’t tell his joke quite the way he’d planned. “I completely forgot everything I was gonna say. It was like an out-of-body experience.”

Bill told Howard he didn’t “tank” on his first night and he certainly didn’t quit. He kept at it and eventually his act got better. Bill came up in comedy around the same time as fellow stand-ups Robert Kelly, Dane Cook, and Patrice O’Neal, but he admitted to Howard there was a time where he feared he wouldn’t make it as a comedian.

“There’s a core group of you and then it goes to the next level. It’s like a rocket taking off,” Bill said, comparing those that quit comedy and go work in a different industry to the pieces that fall off of a space shuttle as it takes off. Bill shared a memory of working a club one night with 12 years of stand-up comedy under his belt. As he looked around the room and saw the same old wait staff that had been there the previous years he’d played the club, something scary occurred to him.

“All of a sudden, this thing hit me, it was like, ‘Am I that guy that doesn’t make it?'” Bill said. “I had a fucking panic attack.”

Howard wondered why he didn’t just talk to someone about how he was feeling. “I wish I knew to do that,” Bill replied. “Trying to talk somebody back into their dream is fucking exhausting.”

So exhausting that Bill said he’ll only try to pep someone up the first time they come to him – after that, he might suggest they actually try something new. “I’m gonna do it once. And the second time, I’ll be like, ‘Well, maybe you should sell cars, man,'” Bill joked.

His big breaks eventually came – Bill pointed to opening for Dave Chappelle and being on the Stern Show as his major career boosters. As far as how he become funny, though, Bill said it was actually summer school that helped him in that department.

“If you go to summer school, you became a better comedian,” he explained. Bill went to summer school twice and said the kids there with him were a collection of the biggest class clowns, rebels, and goofballs from three area towns.

“I remember going there thinking I was funny and thinking that I knew how to disrupt the class,” Bill told Howard. But his fellow summer schoolers were willing to go much further for a laugh than he was and they didn’t care if they got in trouble while doing so.

“What I loved about them and what I was so fascinated by is, they didn’t think consequence,” Bill told Howard with a laugh.

Thinking of consequences was something Bill said he was doing a bit too much almost a decade ago. “I was getting really into conspiracy theory right around 2008 with the banks going down and nobody fucking doing anything to them,” he said. His fear was the dollar would collapse leaving the U.S. in a state of chaos. Furthermore, Bill was worried that if he had to escape Los Angeles (where he still lives with his wife and daughter) he wouldn’t be able to leave the city known for it’s congestive traffic.

The exit strategy he came up with: a helicopter.

“I was thinking how the fuck do I get out of here and the only way out was up and out with the helicopter,” Bill told Howard.

Bill completed helicopter flying lessons and is now a certified helicopter pilot. But Robin asked how Bill was planning on getting to a helicopter in the midst of a disaster.

“Look, I didn’t think it out!” he told her as she giggled.

Howard was curious where Bill would even fly to if he was able to get to the chopper.

“I didn’t know where I was going,” Bill told him. “I was going to stay up in a hover.”

The second season of Bill’s Netflix series “F Is for Family” is available to stream now and Bill revealed the unexpected challenges he faced during the first season of the animated show.

“I didn’t realize … when you start a show, you don’t know what anybody looks like,” he told Howard, explaining that he and the show’s crew spent around six weeks working on the appearance of the characters, including minute details like their noses, eyes, and skin tone. Luckily, he has a seasoned pro there to help him out along the way—Mike Price, longtime writer and producer of “The Simpsons.”

“He’s the one, when I’m freaking out, [he says,] ‘Nah nah, it’s going to be fine,'” Bill said of the show’s co-creator. “He always calms me down.”

Season 2 of Bill Burr’s series “F Is for Family” is now streaming on Netflix.