Burr-ning Down the House
Last night I saw Bill Burr at the Fox. From my perch in the Upper Dress Circle, squeezed between my none-too-diminutive boyfriend on the right and to my left a hulking tree of a man who devoured all the armrests and radiated body heat like a giant blue star, I peered down at the bald, irascible comedian while my face veered into hurts-from-laughing-too-much territory.
Burr traversed his well-known shtick--"Politically Incorrect But I See His Point And Hey We're All Sort Of Thinking It Anyway"--dismantling everything from the state of the #MeToo movement: "I was sexually assaulted last year when this woman came off stage right as I was about to go on, and she flicked me right in the tip of my dick. Where's my hashtag?" / "Does anyone out there really feel physically threatened by Aziz Ansari?" to the state of Georgia: "What kills me about you guys is that you look down on Alabama. That's like people from Vermont looking down on New Hampshire" / "It must be hard to be stuck with that accent, everyone just automatically knocks 40 points off your IQ" and peppering his rants with disclaimers of the "angry-because-I-can't-adequately-express-my-emotions" variety. He was even more pitiable because the whole time he was nursing a cold, often pausing mid-rant to cough into his sleeve, a box of Kleenex propped next to his water bottle.
Even more fascinating than watching Burr's act was observing the assortment of crowd he seemed to draw. Homogeneous only in skin color (come to think of it, apart from myself, I don't remember spotting a single other non-white person in the audience), they seemed to come in all ages and from all points on the socioeconomic spectrum. Before the show, the crowd lining up to pass through the theater's metal detectors was a curious blend of preppy, gangly teenage boys; their college-age counterparts (some of them un-ironically sporting MAGA hats); male twenty-somethings in identical J. Crew button-downs accompanied by their well-coiffed, over-dressed, over-perfumed dates (most of whom probably had no idea what they were getting themselves into and would most likely spend the evening only pretending to enjoy themselves, if that); nerdy hipsters whose wan pallor betrayed a fervent aversion to outdoor activities; and middle-aged couples in suits and pearls, still keeping up the facade of Southern propriety whilst willingly paying a deranged, stark-raving Yankee to defecate all over their Bible-belt morals.
The house was packed, the laughter generous, and as I sat there grinning as much from his subversiveness as his comedic wit, I couldn't help but recognize how someone like Burr is in the unique position of being adopted by both political wings. He dismantles arguments on both sides and has publicly shown distaste for both parties, yet each side fancies him a champion of their specific cause, an ally who ridicules the opposing team and tells it like it is. It's disheartening to note that, as far as we've come, you still need to be a white man in order for your jokes to be taken as gospel, to not only be seen as more than quaint observational humor but brandished as examples of serious political discourse on both sides of the aisle. It's an interesting position to be in, but Burr seems to have taken it all in stride, wielding his power as he's always done--with anger in his heart and indignation on his tongue.