Published Jun 08, 2016Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.
There is perhaps no popular comedian more polarizing than Bill Burr right now. Most people either love his unapologetic working-class stance on the progression of Western culture, or they hate his often brutish attitude and delivery. It's either one or the other; like the aesthetic of his latest special, it's black or white. Regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, with Burr at least you feel something; he is never boring and his spirited presence forces you to listen.
I'm Sorry You Feel That Way was filmed in Atlanta in 2014, and showcases Burr challenging his audience to follow his energetic ranting through tempestuous waters. Domestic abuse, gun control and the absurdity of religion are just a few of the quarrelsome topics Burr urges his Southern crowd to scrutinize through his ludicrous, yet oddly logical lens. He captains the voyage with complete authority. Despite constantly alienating himself from the audience and backtracking to right the ship, he never relinquishes his control and often implicates the audience into guiltily agreeing with his skewed perspective.
Burr willingly lays down a contentious premise and heightens the tension by adding an unpopular opinion — even going so far as to comment on the silence of the crowd during his domestic abuse bit, "What? Did that get too weird for you all of the sudden?" He almost dares the crowd to disagree with him and the drama of this playfully hostile relationship propels the set beyond the parameters of a normal routine.
But no matter how far he strays from popular opinion, he always manages to circle back and redeem himself. Nowhere is his adversarial approach more refreshing than in his bit about predictable racism in old white celebrities. As he does so well, he discusses an inflammatory topic from the perpetrator's angle. By no means is he condoning the ignorance of others, but rather mocking the public's surprise that an octogenarian — in this case Donald Sterling — would have an out-dated perception of race, even going so far as to say, "For an 80-year-old white guy, that wasn't that bad." Burr puts Sterling's character into context when he adds, "this dude was born in 1934, that's 13 years before Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier. For the first 12-and-a-half years of this guy's life he watched all-white baseball — and it was fine. His parents were part of the generation that finished off the genocide of the Native Americans, alright? That's who taught him his ABCs." Burr isn't asking us to sympathize with Sterling, and he isn't trying to get us to like him, he is simply playing devil's advocate to persuade us to better understand the situation.
I'm Sorry You Feel That Way is replete with comedic bits that force us to examine modern scenarios that we as a society tend to ignore or condemn immediately. Burr never claims to be right or have any sort of solution to these issues, admitting, "I don't read. Follow someone else." But where others are quick to dismiss topics for the danger they present, little Billy Burr from Massachusetts attacks them full steam. It is his fearless attitude that has kept his sets relevant for nearly a decade and I'm Sorry You Feel That Way is no different.