Bill Burr

Bill Burr

© Koury Angelo

Bill Burr: Live At Red Rocks

Review of his latest Netflix special

Bill Burr positions himself as the scourge of the woke snowflakes, winding up his new Netflix special by conceding: ‘I know I said a lot of divisive shit here tonight…’

Much of the provocative material is tempered by the tacit acknowledgement that he’s an idiot and dinosaur that no right-minded person should listen to. Nonetheless, some routines appeal to the worst instincts of  a reactionary, misogynistic, base and so leave  a sour aftertaste.

At his best, he defends the indefensible, goading the liberal minded with a hot-button statement, then using impeccable logic to justify the stance. The best example in Live At Red Rocks starts with the incendiary assertion that tackling sexism is women’s problem alone. But the carefully chosen   steps that got there are less contentious, as he  justifies the guilty laughs while flirting with the boundaries of good morals.

He’s also good at scratching away at the hypocrisy of what we really think compared to what we know we’re supposed to think – mocking progressive ideals by comparison to our human weaknesses. And there’s some eye-opening info about Coco Chanel, too.

At other times, however, he just stomps right over the boundaries, such as when it comes to justifying Sean Connery’s comments defending domestic abuse as ‘of its time’, while suggesting with more than a wink that maybe there is something in the old 007’s point of view. Even to the point that being nagged might be a justification for murder. It’s not a very good joke and feels nasty and dangerous - and not in the cool, edgy way.

Like comedians have done for decades, Burr portrays marriage as a prison, with wives ‘yanking down the dreams’ of their husbands. That’s why gay men are happier than straight men and lesbians, he argues: no women in the relationship. It seems a tired and lazy stance, with little of the moral nuance of the best of his inflammatory routines.

He also disingenuously conflates ‘cancel culture’ – wanting to silence voices you may find offensive – with men losing their job because for getting their penises out at work. But then he has always called the backlash against Louis CK a ‘witch hunt’.

The backdrop to some of Burr’s more outrageous statements is that he’s an angry, drunk, insecure man who treats people badly (he discovers empathy only after googling it) – all traits he inherited from his father.

Live At Red Rocks contains a strong, more philosophical segment that mulls this vicious circle of growing up in an environment where healthy loving relationships are not understood – thought it comes in the context of a more workmanlike routine about a drugs trip and how freaky the hallucinations were. Opening remarks about the pandemic are pedestrian, too.

But if there’s one thing Live At Red Rocks reveals is that it’s not how progressive or ‘anti-woke’ a routine is that matters, however much that appeals to tribe loyalty, it’s how original it is.

Bill Burr: Live At Red Rocks is out on Netflix today.

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Published: 12 Jul 2022

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