Bill Burr is back, and he’s taking on Cancel Culture anew.
The bad news? That portion of Netflix’s “Bill Burr: Live at Red Rocks” is neither as fresh or biting as his previous takedowns. His 2019 special, “Paper Tiger,” eviscerated woke theatrics so thoroughly he nearly derailed the Cancel Culture train single-handedly.
The Massachusetts native’s new anti-woke bits? It’s like a classic rock band phoning in its greatest hits.
“Bill Burr Live at Red Rocks” starts poorly but slowly hits its stride by shouting truths others fear to whisper. Again and again. It’s amazing what a stand-up comic can achieve that way.
Burr’s angry style has a purpose and an origin story. Once more, Burr pulls back the curtain on his childhood, the source of his comic rage. It’s cathartic and hilarious, revealing and relatable.
He’s a great storyteller even when the jokes lack the snap of his best material. The special may have its lulls but just wait. He’s about to share something real any minute.
Burr starts with some pandemic hot takes targeting both sides of the aisle. He pokes the Left, then rattles the Right. No problem there, except the gags aren’t novel or sharp, leaning heavily on over-used cultural tropes.
He caps the bit with a “Hunger Games”-like parody … but even here the wit isn’t as biting as required.
Burr also conflates Cancel Culture with egregious acts, suggesting Harvey Weinstein’s reign of terror ended due to a cultural shift, not illegal assaults. It’s notable that the Colorado crowd isn’t as lively as you’d expect at first.
Has he lost his edge or started resting on his considerable laurels?
Burr dovetails into an extended riff on woke white people pretending to care about black Americans. Better, and sharper, but it still feels incomplete. The laughs are scattershot, the social X-rays blurry.
He scores a brief bullseye by pointing out BLM-supporting shop owners who boarded up their stores fearing … BLM-inspired violence. Daring stuff, no doubt, and given a deft balance of wit and truth.
He’s still clearing his throat, though.
Complaining about cancel culture attacks on John Wayne and Sean Connery also feel dated, but it’s hard to record a show knowing it’ll go live six-plus months later. He hits more fertile ground by noting how Cancel Culture strikes at random, ignoring more serious sins for lesser thought crimes.
Coco Chanel blazed a trail for female entrepreneurs, and she was a Nazi sympathizer. “It’s half her Wikipedia page!” he cried.
His brashest bits involve feminism and its inherent hypocrisies.
“I know [feminism is] gonna fail. I take comfort in that, but I’m not rooting for it,” he cracked before teeing off on women’s sports’ inability to draw a crowd.
“This is your f***ing problem,” he wailed, noting the microscopic crowds greeting WNBA games over the past 20-odd years. How small are those arenas?
“Nobody in the WNBA got COVID!”
Men can’t be expected to follow their favorite teams and the WNBA, too.
“We gave you a f***ing league, nobody showed up,” he said. “That place should be packed with feminists.” Instead, they stayed home and watched “Real Houses of Insert the City of Choice.”
Women should rally behind the WNBA “the way you support a fat chick who’s proud of her body and is no longer a threat to you,” he said.
Funny. Cold. Devastating.
— Netflix Is A Joke (@NetflixIsAJoke) July 12, 2022
“C’mon, we’re outside. We’re in the woods. We can be honest,” he said, gesturing to one of the country’s most majestic outdoor stages.
The Colorado crowd did grow quiet a time or two, particularly when Burr brushed up against subjects we’ve been told are no longer up for debate.
His comic asides, fueled by some curious fan reactions, gave the special some of its most insightful moments. Burr may be the modern Tim Allen when it comes to men’s issues, but he’s not above dissecting his inner dudebro.
An extended tale of his first time taking mushrooms riled up the crowd, even if the laugh quotient faded during the sermon. The experiment led to a wide-ranging look at the comic’s anger issues, the rage that drives his wife to distraction and the father figure who inspired fear in his every move.
At times, “Live at Red Rocks” is more therapy session than stand-up, but Burr’s storytelling chops never flag.
Burr isn’t looking to tug at our heartstrings, but hearing him comfort his young daughter after he blew his cool, again, at home is powerful stuff.
Burr wraps with two incendiary bits about lesbians and abortion. It’s hardly the way to assuage a modern comedy crowd, let alone stave off the Twitter mob. He brings insights to each topic along with a willingness to offend.
Best of all, it’s funny, not clapter bait.
Agree? Disagree? Do you have to do one or the other during a stand-up special? It’s comedy, and Burr remains a master at the form even with a few rough patches.