Comedian Bill Burr began writing, producing and starring in his Netflix animated series, “F Is for Family,” about the same time that he started pitying millennials.
In hilarious anecdotes shared onstage, the Boston-bred comedian has recalled stories from his 1970s childhood involving his alcoholic, racist father to the time he climbed a tree to dodge fireworks shot at him and his friends by neighborhood bullies. Parents left children unsupervised. Cars belched leaded gas. And as Burr recounts in “F Is for Family,” kids peed in a trough in the Fenway Park bathroom during Red Sox games.
When these unsettling dispatches from the ’70s prompted groans instead of laughter from an audience three years ago, Burr decided these stories would be better delivered through an R-rated sitcom.
“Millennials were like, ‘Oh, that’s mental abuse’ or ‘Oh, that’s physical abuse.’ People were judging it,” Burr says of recent audiences from his home in Los Angeles. “I feel bad for millennials. It’s not their fault. It’s who they were raised by. You have this bad generation of parents who were just trying to create a painless childhood, which doesn’t exist. I swear to God, it’s like performing for old people. But it’s not their fault.”
“F Is for Family” is hardly the first time Burr has made his audience uncomfortable. Burr, who will perform Thursday, Dec. 14, at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, began his 2014 standup special, “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way,” with a disclaimer: “If you have strong religious beliefs, politically correct opinions, or are easily offended by crude language, consider yourself warned.” In 2008, he described women as “psycho robots who don’t run out of batteries.” In his 2017 Netflix special, “Walk Your Way Out,” he said, “I think about overpopulation all the time, and I think I’ve got the plan: randomly sinking cruise ships.”
The perceived sensitivity of modern audiences plagues Burr, who’s busy filming the third season of “F Is for Family,” a semiautobiographical series following the fictional Murphy family in 1970s Boston. Burr portrays Frank Murphy, an all-American, beer-drinking patriarch, in a cast that includes Justin Long, Laura Dern and Sam Rockwell. Nailing the gritty realism of his childhood was an important goal, Burr says.
“I hate absurd comedy,” Burr says. “Where I keep it real [on the show] is you can’t have the kids cursing at the parents, but if they do, there’s consequences. The tone has to fit, because the show is also an amalgam of everyone’s childhoods. The first episode where the kids are up in the trees and the guys were throwing stuff at me? That happened to me, only instead of fireworks it was rocks. They threw rocks until their arms got tired and such.”
In November, on his “Monday Morning Podcast,” Burr defended fellow comedian Louis C.K. Describing recent revelations of sexual misconduct against women by male celebrities as a “witch hunt,” Burr predicted the career of fellow comic Louis C.K. will rebound, even though C.K. admitted to pressuring women to watch him masturbate.
“They punished [Louis C.K.] the same way they punished Harvey Weinstein,” Burr says. “And Harvey Weinstein, they said he allegedly raped somebody. So you either underpunished Harvey or overpunished Louis. But, look, the guy is f----- up, and he’s definitely paying the price, and I know he’ll be back.”
If Burr has reputation for airing his grievances in lurid detail, recent milestones in his life have mellowed him out. At 49, he’s the father of a 10-month-old daughter, and he’s shortened his road tour to stay home.
“Most of us are working 14, 16 hours days missing their kids growing up,” Burr says. “I’m sitting in the editing room until midnight these days. I don’t know how people have time to sexually harass anyone if they’re in this business.”
Burr pauses. He offers another disclaimer. “That was supposed to be a joke,” he says. “I don’t mean that literally. Make sure you put that in.”
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