Review: Bill Burr, “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way” (Netflix)

His latest stand-up comedy special eschews color, either literally onscreen or indirectly via color commentary cutaway shots of the audience.

Bill Burr’s “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way,” new this month to Netflix, is a stark black-and-white production. Look at Burr. Hear what he’s telling you. Watch as he acts out and emotes in a more joyous way than perhaps ever before. It’s not quite his own 50 shades of gray, although you may find yourself enjoying it so much you want to tell all your friends to dig in, too.

Or you may just want to rent a helicopter ride. Your call.

Burr filmed this in Atlanta, and after a brief mention of how hot it actually was then and how that might explain the South’s racism, he casually jumps right into the meat of his material. Which is just that, meaty. An opening foray into how you’d only see Burr go vegan or vegetarian if not for the lack of meat segues into a popular topic for Burr over the years. Too many people.

“They won’t just come out and say it. Nobody has the balls to say it. Look, 85 percent of you have to go. That’s it! That. Is. It. I have been bitching about the population problem for three specials in a row! Waiting, for some politician to have the balls to bring it up, but they won’t do it. We live in a democracy. A democracy. You can’t be honest in a democracy. You need the votes. You can’t run with that as your platform. Coming out there.” He puts the mic in the stand and begins bellowing: “‘AND IF I’M ELECTED, I WOULD IMPLEMENT A PROGRAM TO IMMEDIATELY ELIMINATE AT LEAST 85 PERCENT OF YOU! THIS PLANET CANNOT SUSTAIN THE SHEER NUMBERS – LET ME FINISH! – THIS WILL NOT BE ARBITRARY. UNDER YOUR SEATS IS A MULTIPLE-CHOICE QUESTIONNAIRE. IF YOU DID NOT BRING A PENCIL, YOU’RE ALREADY OUT! You can’t do that. You gotta be nice. You got to be fucking nice. Especially in this day and age, man. Everybody getting in trouble. All these god-damned groups out there bitch-moaning and complaining, and anytime anybody says anything – ‘You offended the group!’ – you’ve got to apologize.”

What? You want an apology out of Burr? Title aside, he’s even more sincerely blunt here: “You know, what, fuck you and your group.”

Actually, he sums it up even better after a couple of examples of things different groups expected apologies from famous people about over the past year.

“Look, if you’re being a dick, apologize. But other than that, go fuck yourself!”

In the past, Burr relished digging himself into a hole with audiences at the introduction of a premise, only to work himself back into their graces through determined effort, argument and amplified emotion.

You can’t hit a woman – in previous specials he tried to argue how you could – but now, he’s using a different tack, you can’t hit them because they don’t know how to fall, and that’s bad. Similarly, Burr looks at famous racists through a more realistic lens. When you’re chastising Paula Deen or Donald Sterling for revealing racist philosophies, remember how old they are, he says. “What did you think they thought?” Besides, at least Sterling is progressive enough to limit his racist restrictions to social media, right?

Burr is 46 now, no kids, but still cannot keep up with guys in their 20s with their taste in music and other matters.

But he’s married and happily ensconced in Hollywood, thanks to a plum recurring role in the critical and cultural series Breaking Bad, a choice supporting role in last year’s big-screen hit, The Heat, and two new TV projects in the offing — the already-greenlit animated series F is For Family on Netflix, and a starring role in an FX pilot called Pariah.

Perhaps those successes have freed Burr up onstage to let loose in a way we haven’t been accustomed to before.

Going Hollywood certainly has given Burr a front-pew view of the Church of Scientology, which in turn, has allowed him to reassess his biases toward organized religion. Burr acknowledges he’d stopped going to church himself, believing any church will brainwash you into saying whatever they say. They need to update the Bible like they update iTunes, he feels. So what to make of this new-age stuff?  “It just hit me one day, why does this shit make sense and theirs doesn’t?” he wonders. “I heard their story when I was an adult. I heard my story when I was like 4 years old.” Now he’s free to act “like an unrestricted free agent,” asking everybody what they believe.

As for everything else…

Burr feels as though he has caught up to his friends, at least in terms of conversation, by getting married in the past year. The only way for him to catch up on kid talk, though, may be adoption. What follows that premise is a wonderfully played-out scene in which he’s already imagining talking to one of his adopted sons about his other older adopted son, rescued from being a boy soldier.

If Burr ever has to face war or the apocalypse, then, well, he’ll learn to pilot a helicopter and get straight up and out of that jam!

Right at the hour mark of this 80-minute performance, Burr’s at full throttle in an epic tale with multiple act-outs about a helicopter ride he’d only heard about. Watching him re-enact it, though, is brilliant. Instant classic.

“Where do we go from here?” With 20 minutes left, Burr asks that question and quickly answers it with a clarion call to all married men or men with live-in lovers. If he’s not getting ever getting kicked out of bed to sleep on the sofa, why are you guys letting it happen? After hearing him out, it’ll be interesting to see how arguments play out in homes worldwide. Then again, kissing and making up in real life isn’t quite like how the movies want you to believe, either, Burr argues and illustrates.

As much progress as he has made in his personal and professional life over the past few years, Burr still can go to the well of some longstanding issues of overpopulation, race and romance. He still can get more riled up than you are about it, but so convincingly and assuredly so that you’ll want to take up your imaginary pitchforks and join him in the march toward a more realistic understanding of how we’re all supposed to get along. Well, the 15 percent of us who deserve to stick around.

“Let me finish before you start blogging!” Burr growls.

I remain willing, able and eager to always let Burr have the last word.

Bill Burr’s “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way” is available now on Netflix.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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