Bill Burr has a habit of popping up in some unexpected places on screen. “That ended up becoming a recurring theme in my career,” he says on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast, “where I somehow get to paratroop into these great things and be a small part of them.”
It happened with Breaking Bad nearly a decade ago when Burr joined that show in season four as Kuby, one of Saul Goodman’s fast-talking henchmen. Now, he is set to appear in the highly anticipated Star Wars series The Mandalorian.
Asked if he was a big Star Wars fan growing up, the 51-year-old comedian quickly replies, “No, not at all.”
“I was just too old by the time I saw Star Wars,” Burr says, even though he was just 9 years old when A New Hope was released. “It was geared towards kids and I was watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High by the time it came out.”
Burr elaborated during a 2015 interview with Conan O’Brien the night before The Force Awakens opened in theaters. “Somehow I missed that movie when it came out,” he said of the original. By the time he finally saw that film in his twenties, he viewed it as a “cheesy self-help book put in outer space with, like, Muppets.”
Mocking fans who were at that moment waiting in lines to see the highly anticipated sequel, Burr asked, “Why does it matter? Why is it this important?”
Burr got introduced to The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau through their mutual friend Mike Binder, who directed Burr’s most recent Netflix special Paper Tiger. Favreau’s Swingers co-star Vince Vaughn is also an executive producer of Burr’s animated Netflix series F Is for Family.
Favreau is apparently a listener of Burr’s long-running Monday Morning Podcast, where the comic rants a lot about sports and occasionally makes fun of nerd culture, including Marvel superheroes, Game of Thrones and the Star Wars universe. “Anytime a Star Wars [movie] came out I always made fun of them,” he says. “‘How old are you? Why are you still dressing like Boba Fett?’ and all this shit.”
A while back, Favreau came up to him at a birthday party they were both attending and told him there was a part in the new Star Wars TV series that he thought Burr might be good for. Burr replied, “Jon, you know I make fun of Star Wars all the time,” suggesting that he give the role to someone who cares about that cinematic universe.
“No, I think that would be funny,” he says Favreau told him.
Burr’s wife Nia Hill was the one who ultimately convinced him to accept the offer. “She gives the best career advice,” he says. “Not that I was going to say no to Jon Favreau. I don’t give a shit what he was doing, I was going to say yes.”
The experience may have even turned Burr into a Star Wars convert.
He says the shoot “ended up being this amazing experience,” adding, “It was really, really fun in the way that they shot it.” Burr heaps praise on director Rick Famuyiwa, who previously made the film Dope and helmed two episodes of the The Mandalorian’s first season, which premieres November 12th on Disney+. Before he says more, Burr catches himself and says, “I don’t want to get in trouble, but the way he shot it I was just like, ‘Oh wow, this isn’t your dad’s Star Wars.’”
Burr is not quite clear on what he’s allowed to reveal, if anything. “These Star Wars things, it’s like talking about the Federal Reserve or something,” he says. “The technology was just next level,” he adds, explaining that he got dizzy during one scene because the background was moving behind the other actor. “Is this what vertigo feels like?” he remembers thinking.
Before Disney put out the official trailer for the show at its D3 expo this summer, Favreau showed it to him personally. It was Burr’s last day of shooting on the show and the creator pulled him aside to check it out. When he saw the opening shot of Stormtrooper heads on stakes, he thought, “What the fuck is this? I’m in this?!”
“If you look at it, it looks like a Spaghetti Western,” he says of the limited footage that has been released. “It just looks so fucking badass.”
Burr thinks that most of his fans, who may be similarly anti-Star Wars, aren’t quite aware yet that he’s in the new show, but is sure they will find it “funny” once they figure it out. “What’s cool is that I have a lot of sports fans that listen to my podcast, so what I’m hoping is that this will drive them into the kind of sci-fi that I like,” he says, citing more “gritty” films like Blade Runner as an example.
“I can’t wait for it to come out,” he says of The Mandalorian, claiming that he would watch it even if he “wasn’t in it.”
Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: Comedy Bang! Bang! host and director of Between Two Ferns: The Movie, Scott Aukerman.