Bill Burr – O2 Academy, Glasgow, Wed 4 Dec 2013
The US comedian struggles with venue difficulties but wins out overall
There are a couple of stumbling blocks on this first date of Bill Burr’s UK tour. Glasgow’s O2 Academy is a tad too expansive for a comedy gig, leading to problems with both sound quality and temperature (rather than complain about audience members pirating his material, Burr requests that people ‘share it as much as possible – if we get enough people interested, we can maybe get a venue with heating next time’). There are ill-defined barriers between both language and acceptable levels of heckling: Burr often appeals for a bit of audience interaction but has to retreat in the face of an echoey hall full of Glaswegian accents, while for their part, locals are somewhat lost at sea when it comes to American sports analogies. A third issue is the repetition of material: thanks to Burr’s gradually increasing profile, more people are likely to have seen his specials or appearances on shows like Conan, and so his paranoid rants on motel safety or which gun to by are less than fresh.
For all that though, the material is still very funny: his riffs on the league tables of dictators, Vatican tourism, arguments with his new wife and phony paranormal investigators all hit home, while more off-the-cuff observations – including a relationship he develops with a bloke in the front row who keeps using his phone – are jaw-achingly hilarious. He’s a solid performer, and there’s a genuine sense of gratitude from both him and the audience come curfew, but for shows outside his US comfort zone, a more intimate venue where he could truly communicate with the crowd would be a massive benefit. Plus, his fans wouldn’t have to wear mittens.