Back in 2014 I skipped out on seeing Bill Burr for some crappy work-related gathering. Gods I was an idiot. Over the years since then, Bill Burr has become my favourite comedian eerily in sync with my inner most rage against the machine. With him announcing a date in Helsinki in my first year here it just felt like the shitty stars aligned. It looked like the Finns felt the same way with his first show selling out quickly and with the hastily added second show later on in the night following suit. From my initial impressions of the Finns I figured Burr’s sense of humor would fit right in.
Bill Burr is at the top of his game. He strolls out, eyes on the floor, and with a laid-back swagger he finds the microphone and never lets go (albeit with a million fidgets of the mic stand with his other hand). Starting off with an impromptu commentary on Finnish sauna competitiveness, over the next hour he would cajole, berate, rage, question, and simply ask “Why?” over a range of subjects areas; Finland, Michael Jackson’s “alleged” playdates, disabled people, women, Iceland’s zoo, men, liberals, nerds, the military, hippies, “mouth-breathers”, conservatives, millennials, Trump, Nazis, Hitler, free climbers, marriage, relationships, and himself. “I hate all of ’em. I just like to annoy people”. You and me both, Bill. You and me both.
I found the Finnish crowd to be 99.99% on board and ready to head down the rapids with Burr but I was surprised at the amount of people who just wanted to be part of the act. From the “mouth-breather” behind me shouting “You’re bald” after Burr started talking about Finland’s involvement in WWII (“I know I’m bald, I shave my head. Whadya want?”) to a number of negative (and passive aggressive) shouts during the set. They weren’t necessarily against Burr but kind of negatively affirming his content. It was weird. It didn’t go un-noticed. “Man, you’re so aggressive here”.
The uniqueness of Burr is both his story-telling and his points of view. His story-telling puts us in a world where red-necks, women, millennials, and dumbasses (among others) have voice. His voice. His hilarious voice. He knows what these people say and how they say it and he turns the dial up to 11 to make it funny. His points of view are a personal and pointed revolt against mass movements of idiocy that are prevalent today. Hate Trump? Fine. Don’t hate his hotels, they’re amazing. And so on. He peels away the very thin layer of surface-level society to reach in to the stinking bowels of what makes people tick. Is it likely to offend some? Hell yeah. Is his material controversial to some? Yes, indeed. Good. Whatever Bill Burr says, we need it. Maybe when the veneer is stripped away from societal norms via comedy then people will begin to see we are all just eating the same shit sandwich here.
A word on the venue. The Kulttuuritalo makes you check your coat for 3 Euro. So after spending a nice relaxing and fun evening at whatever you’re seeing there you then need to line up with the huddled masses in a smelly scrum to get it returned. Not fun. No good. Lesson learned. Never bring a coat to the Kulttuuritalo.