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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

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Burr brings the funny to The Pabst

It’s a pretty rare accomplishment for a stand-up comedian to receive a standing ovation from half the audience before telling a single joke, but Bill Burr managed to get such a response before starting his sold out late show at The Pabst Theater Friday night.

Constantly touring, Burr has proved to be one of the most prolific stand-up comedians currently working. His second show on Friday proved to be a marvelous showcase for a comedian who hit the perfect trifecta of material, self-assuredness and experience. Part of what makes Burr special is his ability to make everything look and sound so easy, creating an aura of effortlessness that is the byproduct of his dedication to his craft. Even his approach to shutting down hecklers (by completely steamrolling them) highlighted a comedian bringing his A game to the table.

Burr was able to transcend basic topics such as hotels vs. motels and airplane travel and present his fresh perspective. He marveled at the security of a hotel, while reflecting on his fear of motels when he was touring as a younger road comedian. The best joke from this material was when he talked about how the windows at a roadside motel allow those driving by to see what type of person is staying in the room and his classification of this as a "serial killer buffet."

When talking about his fear of flying, Burr said that it wasn’t so much the act of flying that scared him, but rather since he travels so often, the odds of being involved in a plane crash aren’t in his favor. He expanded on this, saying "I don’t like connecting flights, I like a direct flight. I like to go all in on one plane. I don’t try to split aces." Burr also added that he prefers to fly on big jets, since the captains of those planes are essentially star players of aviation, while those who fly the smaller propeller planes are the bench warmers of the industry.

There were several excellent sports-themed jokes told by Burr, who wisely added incorporated local elements such as references to County Stadium and the Packers pre-Super Bowl NFL Championships. He indicated his displeasure at super-teams such as the Miami Heat, reflecting that even back in third grade, kids picking teams avoided an imbalance of talent because they wanted fairness in competition.

Friday’s show also incorporated several other topics including what type of gun Burr would prefer to own, his Hall of Fame of Evil people, an analysis of sexual positions in romantic comedies and a hilarious story from his childhood about a cube steak dinner.

It was a surprise that his set was only about 70 minutes, because the performance felt far more substantial. After closing with a story about getting his only DUI (and expressing some surprise that Wisconsin doesn’t have drunk driving checkpoints), Burr once again received a standing ovation for his terrific performance.

The opening act for the evening was Nate Craig, who immediately endeared himself to the crowd with his effective shutdown of a drunken heckler. "These people paid good money to not listen to you spit on the person in front of you." Craig then launched into his take on Bernie Brewer and the tailgating atmosphere at Miller Park, which continued to win over the audience.

Originally from Madison (but currently residing in Los Angeles), Craig was very comfortable performing in front of a Wisconsin audience and did a great job catering his references. Exuding a confidence that mirrored Burr’s, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Craig return to Milwaukee as a headliner sometime in the near future.

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