Veteran comedian Bill Burr, who plays Saul Goodman’s henchman Kuby on Breaking Bad, describes how to play a tough guy and why nothing’s funnier than a man running from the cops.
Q: Have you worked any of your experiences on Breaking Bad into your stand-up routines?
A: If I go on a radio show, I might tell some self-deprecating story of me blowing a line, but for the most part it’s like a locker room: What happens there stays there. I’m trying to get more work, not less work, you know?
Q: Did you learn anything from any of the actors on set that you incorporated into your own performance?
A: I will tell you this: I hung around the set as long as I could. I watched Bryan [Cranston] and Bob [Odenkirk] do a scene in the law office and I felt like I was watching 10 years of acting class. Watching the adjustments they made — they make it look easy. I also tried to hide how much of a fan I was of the show. I poked my head into the superlab and I had my poker face on, but I was totally geeking out. I’m one of those guys that would have bought the Winnebago if they hadn’t burned it down.
Q: Who’s the funniest guy on Breaking Bad (besides yourself, of course)?
A: I’m speaking as a fan. There’s so many different laughs on that show. Jesse’s character is always saying something funny, and then tagging it with the word “bitch.” Hank when he was grouchy and saying mean and insensitive things. That show is the kind of humor I think is real life humor. I mean, how many times has Mr. White had his windshield broken? Every time it gets fixed it gets blown again. And that happens to me!
Q: In Season 4 you play a tough guy forcing Ted Beneke to cut the IRS a check. You ever collected on a debt like that before?
A: Not at all. If anybody like that showed up at my door, I would give them everything I have. That’s why it’s so fun to play this guy.
Q: Did you base your character off anyone?
A: I met this guy one time who used to do security for the Rolling Stones. He said the reason he got hired was not because he kicked the shit out
of anybody, but because he didn’t have to. And that was sort of the vibe. I looked at the scene and I tried to go into it like a guy who works in customer service, like, “Hey how ya doing, we need this check, just write it and then we’ll cash it and we’re all good and you don’t have to get hurt and we don’t have to make a mess.” This guy doesn’t want to get into a fight. That’s messy and it hurts your hands.
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Q: How does Breaking Bad compare to other projects you’ve been a part of?
A: I’ve done nothing drama-wise on that level. I get to have these little roles in these great movies, maybe that’s my career. I’ll be the truck driver in the next Godfather, and I’ll take it.
Q: If you had to play one role for the rest of your life, would you rather it be tough guy or comedic?
A: Tough guy because you can also do comedy in those roles. I mean, take Scarface: Pacino’s funny, even when’s he’s doing something crazy. I think about when I watch those cop shows, with people running from the cops and stepping on the gas in their cars. Once you see the helicopter, it’s like dude, you’re not getting away! They’re throwing the tire spikes and driving in reverse like 40 miles an hour, but that’s how much jail sucks — you see a helicopter following you and still think you got a chance. I think there’s so much comedy in that — but those are like, bad guys. That’s why I love Breaking Bad.