As I wrote for Decider when this special came out last fall:
Don’t let the trailer fool you.
The rat-a-tat-tat of hot-button words rattled off by Bill Burr in the trailer for Paper Tiger, his fourth Netflix special (and sixth stand-up special, in all), makes him sound like just another middle-aged comedian disgruntled by what the kids believe these days. But Burr has always been more obvious than oblivious. Whether you, or even his wife, don’t realize it yet.
Hence the title. Though Burr may seem to enjoy challenging the audience with any particular premise, and challenge them he does here, especially in the first 15 minutes, it’s all just silly dumb fun for him. He’s very simply disgruntled. Always has been. That he tends to dig himself into a hole, requiring him to win you over, is all just part of the act.
Here’s a better clip, in which Burr expresses his anxiety about our robot future:
My review last year devoted a lot of electronic ink to Burr’s ability to thread the needle on hot-button issues, as well as how becoming a father has forced him to finally confront his long-running anger management issues, which may serve him greatly as a stand-up comedian, but not nearly as much as a father.
The story he tells in this hour about reflecting on the #MeToo movement, also, is worth reconsidering now.
As Burr is wont to do as a great comedian, he starts in one direction before pivoting the other way. After figuring jokingly that we should believe 88 percent of the women coming forward (why 88? why any number other than 100? it’ll soon become moot, don’t worry), he answers any of my or your parenthetical rhetorical questions by answering that America tends to forgo nuance and choose all or nothing. Even when that choice is unfair or impossible. But he also digs deep into his own personal history, first exploring his own sexual past, and then isolating an incident during a private comedy gig in which a woman assaulted him. It may not have looked or felt the same as any woman’s personal story you’ve heard, but it is Burr’s story to tell, and he comes to the same realization. “I swear to God, it was like a bully vibe,” he felt, because he knew in that moment that he couldn’t retaliate nor could he quite tell anyone at the time what had happened. And in that way, he could reach a deeper understanding for how and why sexual assault victims remain silent for far too long.
Which may help him become a better father to his daughter, too. If not also a better comedian ally to the women in his industry.