In the ever-evolving landscape of stand-up comedy, accusations of 'selling out' are not uncommon when a comedian's material undergoes significant changes.
Recently, Bill Burr, known for his edgy and unapologetically honest style, has faced such criticism. Some fans claim he has 'sold out' due to the noticeable shift in his comedy to include aspects of his personal life, particularly his experiences as a father and husband. However, this change reflects natural growth and maturity, not a betrayal of his comedic roots.
These accusations appeared in the comment section of my YouTube channel after I posted a short video covering how Bill Burr uses controversy as a hook in his storytelling to create hyper-curiosity in his audience.
What is 'Selling Out'?
"Selling out" is a term often used to describe a situation where an individual, usually an artist, musician, writer, or other creative professional, compromises their artistic integrity, personal values, or authenticity in exchange for commercial success or financial gain.
The concept typically implies a betrayal of one's original ideals, authenticity, or the fanbase that supported them, in favor of mainstream appeal or profitability.
The problem with the terms "selling out" is that it's subjective. The definition gets out there in the matrix of society and some people believe that their definition of 'selling out' is the only definition.
Additionally, they may feel some emotional catalyst for claiming an artist is 'selling out' just because they're mad at the artist or feel disappointed.
I believe this is the case with some of these people who've been leaving their comments on my YouTube Channel.
Keep in mind, I don't want to simply discount their points of view. They took the time to leave these comments on the page so obviously they feel a certain way.
Their feelings are valid, but their definition of selling out doesn't match mine.
I find that people who leave these types of comments are usually broke and pissed about it.
Art Reflects Life
As a comedian and writer myself, who's been performing and writing for well over thirty years, I've experienced multiple evolutions in my own comedy. My material reflects my life. When I was first finding myself, I was doing observational material and I was very 'Seinfeldian', almost to the point of impersonation. It was my way of hiding behind a character.
Then I met George Carlin. He taught me that taking the "shit that drives you crazy and making it funny," might be a more cathartic approach.
He was right and I became more of a socio-political type of comedian.
George Carlin himself went through several phases of change in his own comedy.
Understanding the Evolution of a Comedian
Comedians, like all artists, evolve. Their comedy is a reflection of their journey through life. As they experience major life events – such as marriage, parenthood, or even personal introspection – their perspective inevitably shifts. This evolution is not a departure from authenticity but rather an embrace of a new, often richer, life experience.
Bill Burr’s Evolution as a Comedian and a Person
Burr's trajectory in comedy has been one of constant self-reflection and adaptation. His early career was marked by a more confrontational style, often dealing with societal taboos and the absurdities of life.
Now, as a father and a husband, his material naturally includes these significant aspects of his life. Discussing his family does not mean he has abandoned his roots; rather, he is exploring new dimensions of his life through his unique comedic lens.
Why Change in Material is Not 'Selling Out'
The term 'selling out' implies a compromise in artistic integrity for commercial success. However, Burr's shift in content does not equate to a loss of authenticity. Instead, it showcases his ability to adapt and remain relevant as his personal and professional life evolves. His comedy remains as sharp and witty as ever, but now it's enriched with the complexities of his personal experiences.
The Importance of Personal Growth in Comedy
Comedy that grows with the comedian is often more relatable and impactful. By incorporating his experiences as a father and husband, Burr connects with a broader audience who share these common human experiences.
His ability to find humor in the everyday challenges of family life not only broadens his appeal but also adds depth to his comedy.
Authenticity in the Face of Criticism
Criticism is a natural part of any public figure's career, especially for comedians, whose work is so subjective. However, labeling Bill Burr's natural evolution as 'selling out' misunderstands the nature of artistic growth.
I can almost bet that many of these critics have never stepped on a stage themselves or written a line of poetry or a song lyric and put it out to the public, because if they did they would better understand this:
As life changes, so does the lens through which we see the world. Burr's recent material is a testament to his growth as an individual and an artist, and this evolution should be celebrated, not condemned. In the end, true comedic genius lies in the ability to adapt, evolve, and continue to find humor in all stages of life.
Burr's edge is still there. His adrenaline fueled cynicism is still there. He even self-criticizes the changes he sees himself going through, so his authenticity is still there.
Evolving your material as an artist to reflect your life is not called selling out. It's called being an artist.
Critic or Troll?
The texture and tone of some of the comments that were left on my YouTube Channel regarding Bill Burr 'selling out,' had that niggling feeling that these weren't just honest criticisms. They felt more like "trolling."
Here's why: When I asked one of the commenters why he "felt" that Burr was selling out, he replied, "I don't 'feel' like he's selling out he IS selling out," and then he mentioned Burr's wife. That's when I knew they were trolls.
A troll is a festering figure that sits under a bridge and never changes, never evolves.
And while Bill Burr is growing artistically and crossing that bridge to a more evolved self, the troll is just sitting under the bridge doing what he does best, trolling.