Bill Burr at the Orpheum Theatre, JFL NorthWest, 3/7/18
If there is anyone in comedy that knows how to pack a theatre full of cult-like followers for three straight nights, it’s Bill Burr. As comedy fans wove in and out of eager fans toting beers and seeking selfies, it was abundantly clear that virtually every person in attendance had seen him live before at least once and knew the punchline to every bit from his previous stand up specials such as Walk Your Way Out and I’m Sorry You Feel That Way. And what better a venue than the Sistine Chapel-esque Orpheum Theatre for a night of side-splitting hilarity during the JFL NorthWest festival.
Opening for Burr was friend and fellow comedian, Paul Virzi, who started strong with some gut-punching remarks about the talking and tweeting hair piece that is currently the leader of the free world, also known as the POTUS. Stand up isn’t stand up nowadays without at least one Trump related quip or observation. Virzi then went on about his jealousy for us as Canadians, suggesting “someone should negotiate a trade – Trump for Trudeau,” while hilariously referring to the Prime Minister as a GAP model. “Have you ever dedicated a Saturday to a stranger?” he asked before diving into the do’s and don’t’s of political debating in the comment sections of platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. Not before long, his time was up, but he made damn sure that the crowd was aware of one important yet overlooked fact before he left the stage: Jeffrey Dahmer was not racist.
Moving on to the main event was the man everybody was waiting for, the crowned prince of politically incorrectness, William Burr. Breezing past the introductory applause, he dove right into his signature grumpy, I’m-too-old-for-this routine. Commencing with some strikingly relevant commentary about the Oscars, which had only happened a night or two before, this meant only one thing; brand new and untested material, which much to my surprise got a great response from the crowd.
No one was prepared for the onslaught of Frances McDormand punchlines which were occasionally peppered into his routine over the course of his 90-minute stage time and guaranteed to trigger any snowflake with ‘hashtag [insert social justice issue]’ in their Twitter bio. Piggybacking off the topic women’s issues, Burr gave his honest opinion of what a female president would look like (he was actually more supportive than offensive: ‘women should be given an equal chance at screwing up a job that 45 men have already screwed up’), as well as alternative punishments for Hollywood execs accused of sexual harassment/assault and the untold drawbacks of equality before divulging details of his own experience with sexual assault (let’s just say a mystery female comic ‘grabbed him by the p****!’).
A major highlight of the night and Bill Burr’s all round performance was his physical comedy. The audience wailed from hysteria for a whole ten minutes as Bill debated the merits of the new $10,000 sex bots versus the 20th century blow-up doll, speculating as to which poor sap was the beta tester for these products.
“My wife always asks me where my anger comes from,” he said before exploring the deep, dark, intimate, and down right funny blunders of his childhood and the strained relationship he had with his father as an adolescent. It’s been incredible to watch this man mature over the last ten years of his comedic career; going from bits about his disdain for the sterile, settled down family life, then slowly graduating to material about his newfound marriage, his wife’s pregnancy, and ultimately fatherhood. One thing’s for sure – Bill Burr may be politically incorrect, but his heart’s always in the right place.