You might have seen comedian Bill Burr on Breaking Bad, playing Saul Goodman‘s redheaded henchman, Kuby. Or during one of his regular appearances on Letterman, Conan and Fallon. But to really get a sense of what Burr’s about, you have to see him live – raging about everything from overfed children to racism – during one of his near-endless string of big-venue dates. “I’m an unbelievably flawed human being,” says the 45-year-old stand-up. Or, as he put it in a classic bit, “Like, I went to this place and I’m ordering food. The guy behind the counter asks me if I want a cookie. All of a sudden I have this unbelievable urge to blast this guy right in the face. I’m not trying to be paranoid, but what kind of a man asks another man if he wants a cookie?”
Burr released his third hourlong special, You People Are All the Same, last year, selling it for $5 on his website. He’s been working in comedy since the early 1990s; his first high-profile gig was on Chappelle’s Show. Since 2007, he’s hosted the popular “Monday Morning Podcast,” and he recently launched the podcast network All Things Comedy with The Daily Show‘s Al Madrigal because, Burr says, “Artists start scenes, and then the businessmen come in and own everything.” But Breaking Bad was a whole new level. “It was a huge moment for me,” he says. “It was like getting sucked into your TV.”
As an Eddie Murphy-obsessed kid growing up in Canton, Massachusetts, where success was measured mostly via sports (“You either sucked in gym class or you were good”), Burr never dreamed of a career in comedy. But working in a warehouse after college, he met a guy who loved stand-up as much as he did. “He said, ‘One of these nights I’m gonna take a shot of Jack Daniel’s and go up onstage,'” Burr recalls. “I said if he can do it, I’m gonna try it. And thank God I did. Because I sucked at everything else.”
This story is from the November 7th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.