Falling Down

If there’s one factor that completely separates a comedian’s live performances from his pre-recorded material, it’s the thrill of possible failure. You know: that chance that he could get out on stage and bomb his ass off. Like, the booing, jeering, heckling sort of bomb.

But sometimes laying an egg on stage can be a good thing. Just look at Bill Burr. Last year, Burr became a virtual messiah in the comic world for sucking it up so bad during a show in Philadelphia that the audience basically turned mob. But instead of allowing himself to be booed offstage, he snapped like a brittle twig and started returning the favor. For the next 15 minutes, Burr savagely brutalized the Philly crowd with a barrage of curses, insults, and slurs nastier than any episode of Yo Mamma. There were uplifting moments (“Let’s talk about Heart Disease, something you’re all going to fucking die of, and I’m going to laugh at your funeral”) and sad moments (“I hope your mother gets herpes in the center of her asshole”). But no matter what, Burr always kept his eye on the prize, punctuating each tirade with a verbal countdown of his remaining time on stage. He was like the comic version of Michael Douglas in Falling Down. And by the time he was done, the crowd was in tears: They gave him a huge, standing ovation. For Burr – who’s hosted his own HBO Special, released comedy CDs, and starred in the Chappelle Show – it was his finest moment.

Chance of a repeat? Slim. But anything could happen, as Burr takes the stage Friday through Monday at the Improv Hard Rock Live (5700 Seminole Way, Hollywood). Tickets cost $16 each night, save New Year’s Eve when they’re $75. Call 954-981-5653, or visit www.improvftl.com.
Dec. 27-31, 2007

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John Linn