The Bill Burr edition

A couple of weeks ago, Bill Burr’s conversation with Neal Brennan popped up on my podcast feed. Bill is a goddamn genius and one of my favorite comedians ever. I hadn’t watched his comedy or heard his podcasts in a while, so I’ve been bingeing on his podcast episodes and videos ever since.

He has this beautiful ability to dance around touchy topics, poke fun at people’s absurd beliefs, and make them mad, but not enough to stop listening to him. It’s a joy to watch him make people squirm as they laugh nervously and make faces like they’ve had a bad Botox job.

I’m a comedy geek. It’s weird, but I’ve heard more stand-up specials than watched them. It used to take me about an hour to drive to work, so I used to listen to comedy specials—yeah, I’m a weirdo! I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve laughed out loud like an idiot at traffic signals, much to the concern of commuters around me.

I like Bill because he’s the classic Everyman. He worked his way up from nothing and toiled for decades before becoming famous. He’s the opposite of an overnight success. As a middle-class Indian, that’s a story I can identify with because that’s the story of most people in India, including my peoples.

For me, what makes comedians special is that they are the sharpest observers of the human condition. They can cut through the eighty layers of bullshit and see all the absurdity, filth, grime, and nobility of humanity in full HD.

This is why I think comedians are modern-day philosophers, even though they hate that description. I had written about this in a previous post.

Whenever you listen to Bill, it’s guaranteed that a few things will be etched on your brain forever. It’s not all shits and giggles, though. Bill is great at giving practical advice and answers. He’s been answering ridiculous and downright whacky questions on his Monday Morning Podcast that he’s been doing since 2007.

Whenever you listen to Bill, it’s guaranteed that a few things will be etched on your brain forever. It’s not all shits and giggles, though. Bill is great at giving practical advice and answers. He’s been answering ridiculous and downright whacky questions on his Monday Morning Podcast that he’s been doing since 2007.

Whenever you listen to Bill, it’s guaranteed that a few things will be etched on your brain forever. It’s not all shits and giggles, though. Bill is great at giving practical advice and answers. He’s been answering ridiculous and downright whacky questions on his Monday Morning Podcast, that he’s been doing since 2007.

So I figured I’d share a few things that I loved with you.

Own your shit

Artists and creators almost always get taken for a ride because of their naivete. I’ve heard Bill speak out against the mistreatment of artists numerous times but this conversation with Joe Rogan stood out in my head.

Bill Burr: Every every time you get in business with, like corporate guys, this is how it works. It’s like the check, OK, we’re in business to make money from them and then you get in business with them and the check goes to the corporate guy and then you get your cut off of his checkbook. So right there I am immediately in a situation where there’s no way I can steal from him, but he can rob me fucking blind.

Joe Rogan: Right. And you can add a bunch of expenses on the things

Bill Burr: That front end load expenses to make it look like they’re losing money and.

Joe Rogan: Yeah. It’s Hollywood accounting.

Bill Burr: Yeah. No, it’s stealing. It’s stealing is what it is. They just call it Hollywood accounting, but it’s not Hollywood accounting. It’s, it’s corporate accounting. It’s scumbag accounting. That’s just and it’s how they do it.

Bill Burr: And I just I just love telling these fucking stories because these are the things that you like. What’s great about podcasting is you can say this. This is for every person out there as a fucking business.

And, you know, there’s that thing where you want to take it to the next level. And then these these guys come in and then they’re all just like, yeah, well, hey, we’re going to take a piece of it. And they take a big fuckin chunk out of it. And what they do is their risk is all the way down here. Yours is up here.

And then somehow they just I’m telling you, like you better you better to sell twenty thousand copies on it. A hundred percent then twenty million and not own any of it. You’re going to make more money. That’s just how the game is played. And those fucking guys who steal from people, they they sleep very comfortably.

Even though Bill is talking about this in the context of entertainment, it applies to all anybody who posts anything on the internet. It doesn’t matter if you are writing a blog, starting a podcast, or sharing images: own your shit. Relying on platforms rarely ends well.

I’ve been following media and platforms for over a decade now, and I’ve seen the same story play out over and over again. Creators jump on the shiny platform of the moment and put in an effort to create stuff for the platform, but the platform changes its terms or dies, and creators are screwed.

This debate is playing out right now over Substack’s new follow feature. Substack introduced a feature that allows readers to follow writers without having to subscribe to their newsletters. Writers have been complaining that even though they’ve been gaining followers, it’s not translating to more email subscriptions. The whole pitch of Substack from the start was that “you own your followers,” and that’s changing. It feels like Substack wants to be more of a social network than an email newsletter platform.

Before this, there was Twitter. People spent countless hours building their following and are now at the mercy of a lunatic. There are countless examples of platform horror stories from Vine, Medium, Facebook, Facebook Bulletin, and YouTube.

Today, thanks to tools like WordPress, Simplecast, and Ghost, owning your creative output has never been easier. The Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) guys had figured this shit out decades ago.

Don’t allow yourself to be a hostage to the whims of platforms. Their incentives will never be the same as yours. Be smart and leverage them, but don’t let yourself get locked in. Take this blog, for example. It is published on Substack and my own WordPress blog. Even if Substack dies tomorrow, all of my work stays on that site.

The same logic applies when you’re working with other people as well. Whenever you start something, don’t say yes to ridiculous terms and let other people own your hard work.

Know what you suck at

Bill was on Howie Mandel’s podcast, and it was brilliant. I wanna share two amazing things that Bill said. The first was about knowing what you’re good at and not wasting time on something you suck at.

Howie Mandel: My philosophy, I think the smartest people in the room are the people who know what they don’t know, you know, and people who know what they who think they know.

Bill Burr: That’s how I got to a lot of things that I got, was I always knew what I sucked at. So I didn’t have to waste time like when I played drums. As much as I love playing drums, when I would go to a music store, I always tell this story, I would go in and I would see some kid half my age sit down at the drums and pick up a guitar.

And you could see he, he was expressing himself already. He had it. And I was like, I was trying to figure out what he was doing. I just knew I was just like, “You, you enjoy drums. You’re a fan of music, but you are not a musician. This is not your calling.” So I just kept moving around. I’m like, “Alright, suck at that, fuck that.”

Whenever we are investing in companies, my boss, who used to trade for a living, always asks the founders, “What’s the stop-loss?.” In trading, a stop-loss is a specific price at which you cut your losses and get out of the trade. When he asks that question, he’s asking, How do you know if what you are doing isn’t working, and what’s plan B? That always stuck with me because it’s such great advice.

Not everything you do in life works, and that’s ok. But what matters is trying new things and moving on when you don’t enjoy something or if you aren’t good at it. Life is long, and there’s always something you’re good at. You will only find it if you fuck around and find out.

Sticking with something you suck at and don’t enjoy is a guaranteed way to be miserable and full of regrets. It’s risky, but that’s life, bro. If I think about my own career, I’ve distributed flyers on the streets, sold electronic goods and water bottles door to door, and done tons of other random things before finding something I enjoyed doing.

Getting knocked up

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” This is a common platitude people throw at you if you’re going through tough times. I’m not past it either. I use the line whenever people talk to me about going through bad times, but I don’t know if it helps. Bill had a brilliant way of talking about the two sides taking knocks: they make you stronger but leave marks.

Bill Burr: Everything in life, all the pain that you have in life, it just makes you, if you survive it, it makes you tougher. If you don’t give into it, you know, that’s the thing that you learn on the way, is like you can make the choice. You never run, people, you know often say “everything’s going great, then this happened.” It’s just like, well, that happens to everybody. Yeah. You should just, you got to use that as a, as part of your story to get in there. But if you make, you, you have the power to be, to let that thing take you out.

Neal Brennan: There’s a thing that post-traumatic stress, and there’s also a thing that no one ever talks about, which is post-traumatic growth, which is like, yeah, you can grow from this shit.

Bill Burr: You’d rather not.

Neal Brennan: You’d rather feel bad for yourself.

Bill Burr: No, you’d rather have not have that shit happen.

Neal Brennan: Of course. But I’m saying is, it’s going to happen. And the thing that I feel like you maybe didn’t have the right balance of was like, how much of this shit is just making me tougher? And how much of this is making me tougher in a way that’s not helpful?

Bill Burr: I mean, I would say like 85% of it was not helpful. It wasn’t. I mean, to this day, my, my energy sucks. Like when I go to a party, like, I am that fucking traumatized person that is feels comfortable being over in the corner and like not talking to anyone.

Having said that, if your friends tell you they’re going through some bad times and ask for advice, I don’t know what else you can say.

Or I don’t know.

Maybe it all comes down to how you deal with bad shit. I’ve always been terrible at it because I repress everything. One of these days, I will explode, and some shrink in Bangalore will get rich from just treating me.


Having hobbies does wonders for you. You learn new things, you meet new people, your thinking becomes nuanced, and you feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. There’s also the added bonus that your next career might start as a hobby.

I watch a lot of, uh, old shit. And then I watch, um, I watch a lot of sports, I think. But and then I’m totally into like music and shit like that, and fucking aviation, and baking. Like, like zillion, fuck it’s like my ADHD, I just fucking, I gotta be doing something and learning something. But comedy is the only thing I ever really stuck with. So was the only thing I ever really kind of got good at. Everything else, I kind of, you know, jack of all trades.

Perhaps the most important thing about hobbies is that they stop you from letting work define your identity. This is a tragedy that afflicts people today and it’s sad.


I accidentally came across this video clip in which Bill explains his money philosophy, and it’s brilliant. My own money philosophy is similar. I’ve quoted a lengthy excerpt, and I hope I don’t get sued. I just realized doing something that would get me sued for copyright is a terrible thing to do financially, but imma risk it because this piece of advice is so good.

I work for India’s largest broking company, and it’s like having a front-row seat to how India saves and invests. I get to see how different types of people handle their money. What always blows my mind is that, often, the smartest people do the dumbest things with their money. There’s zero correlation between IQ and how good people are with their money.

Bill Burr: How’s your relationship to money changed since you’re now making money?

Um, I try to, try to remain debt free. So, um, there’s no 401k for a comedian. So I try and, I’m not into the stock market, I’m not into banks. I mean, I play the game, sort of required to put a certain amount into the 401k and then I just put it on the crap table, right?

Um, but my philosophies when I was investing was like, alright, I want to invest in companies that are getting tangible stuff. Like that whole crap, like I never bought into that. But if like, you were like, you’ve had a gold mine and you were digging for gold or you, you know, you, you some sort of agriculture, it just seemed like it was a, you could, you know, whatever, it was something real. It wasn’t in the air or a philosophy.

But then after a while, I just was kind of going, “Alright, so I’m investing in this, we’ll just say the gold, you know, uh, the minor thing, right, company.” I’m like, “At the end of it, I don’t get any gold. So this is stupid.” So then I was wanted to have something tangible. So like, to me, it was obvious, it’s like, buy a house.

So I bought a house and then I’m just, I’ve just paid it down like an absolute madman. And, um, you know, it’s very sparsely furnished. Um, and, but like, the freedom I have of, you know, not having credit card debt because I’ve lived like that and had it hanging over my head and it used to wake me up at night and it was awful. And people would call and, “Where’s our money?” and all that. And I, I hated it.

And something my brother told me a long time ago, he goes, you know what, we were working at the same place and looking out over this sea of cubicles. And he was just breaking it down like, all these guys like wood working in the warehouse and then they would get a position, “I want a position.” And then they would move out to the carpeted cubicle area and they buy their little, you know, shirt and tie.

And my brother be like, “What’s the first thing that they do?” And I was like, “You know what?” He goes, “They go out and they buy a new car and it’s like, now you just chained yourself to your desk. You can’t, you can’t leave.” And then he goes, “And then also the average shithead gets a dollar an hour raise and they immediately start spending two dollars more an hour. So they’re just constantly chasing it and you’re just behind the eight ball. I mean, you’re just completely fucked.”

You know, if nobody teaches you those things or tells you those things, it’s like, through student loans and a couple of credit cards and getting yourself some transportation, these kids today are so far behind the eight ball. Like, like the amount of money that they, they charge for college to go into this job market with no guarantee of any sort of a job, it’s a fucking ripoff.

My brother also told me a great thing because he’s always been great with money and he said, “You know what true wealth is?” It says, “Going into a mall, being able to buy anything and then you don’t. And you just walk out.” And like, those are the like, the lessons that, you know, stuck with me.

It’s why I drive a Prius. I mean, part of it, the reason why I did the Prius is because I fly every other weekend. I’ve literally put my own hole in the ozone layer. So I had to do something. And I saw enough people in these flashy cars, you know, you got a car that can go 180 miles an hour and you’re in bumper to bumper traffic with me. So, um, I would rather, you know, I have one TV. People always give me shit, it’s not big enough for my living room because it’s the one that I had when I had a one bedroom apartment. But it’s paid for and it fucking works. What am I supposed to do? Throw it out?

So like, those are those are the things like, you know, but because I’ve done that, like today, I don’t have to work. I can go play drums and go see a movie. Yeah. And if you’re, if you’re young and you’re listening to this, I implore you to go down that road because if you could tell from the last hour, I am not the brightest guy. I am not a well-read guy. I went after a passion, but you, you can have that life. Like, dude, having a life like, living as debt-free as you can, being able to go to the movies whenever you want to is about as free as it gets.

I’ve also been writing about how people can avoid being poor for a while now. I’ve realized that learning how to manage your money is not rocket science. Yes, it takes some effort, but that’s the same with everything in life, including farting. Sometimes, the farts come out on their own, but other times, you have to squeeze them out.

I come from a typical middle class Indian family. For most of my life, my family has lived between two extremes: the grotesque luxury of a lower middle-class lifestyle and abject poverty. Those experiences have profoundly shaped my understanding of money.

The most important money lesson I’ve learned from personal experiences and also fucking up is to avoid the risk of ruin at all costs. You can only make money if you don’t lose money. By that, I don’t mean being conservative. No. It means avoiding the obvious mistakes that guarantee ruin.

As dumb and obvious as it might sound, 80% of people don’t get it. Look at any statistic about how many people make money in the stock market, and you’ll see that 80–90% of people lose money. Forget traders. It’s the same with people who invest too—very few people have good outcomes.

What’s surprising is that there’s no grand secret to building wealth slowly. It’s bloody obvious, but it’s like reading how to ride a bike and actually riding one. Money is like cocaine for our emotions. It ups the intensity of all the dumb things we can do. As soon as we have some money in the bank, we go from being the smartest creatures in the known universe to absolute morons.

Also, watch these two clips on the topic of money:

Bill Burr – Money Advice

Kevin Hart—Stay in your own financial lane!

Bill Burr & Tom Segura – Should You Trust People With Your Money?


On Howie Mandel’s podcast, Bill gets into a discussion about God, and it’s epic, and I died laughing. It’s laced with profanity, so if you’re reading this and are religious, I recommend skipping this section. Don’t read it, and then come yell at me because you chose to ignore my warning. Also, don’t try to get fucking offended on behalf of all the religious people. Don’t be that guy. But if you’ve got a sense of humor, you’ll love this bit.

Bill Burr: It’s designed to fail.

Howie Mandel: Our world?

Bill Burr: Yes.

Howie Mandel: Wow, that turned dark. We’re designed to fail?

Bill Burr: Yes, and I blame God. Not a lot of people do.

Howie Mandel: Do you believe in God? Are you religious?

Bill Burr: Uh, I was, and then I wasn’t, and now I am again.

Howie Mandel: What happened?

Bill Burr: Uh, I got past organized religion and I was like, “This was, this is always them trying to explain what they didn’t understand.” So they don’t understand it. Just because they don’t understand it and they use it in the wrong way, it doesn’t mean that it’s not there. So I’m trying to have my own like…

Howie Mandel: Cult? Is that really a scratch on your forehead from a child or is that a mark?

Bill Burr: That was a, yeah, it was a ritual. Um, no, I’m just, I’m kind of just having my own, I’m just kind of having my own thing. All right, you know, I like, whatever my idea of it isn’t any, any better than your idea. It isn’t any more right or wrong.

Howie Mandel: Um, what’s your idea? I want to hear your idea.

Bill Burr: My idea, I just think that it’s, it’s like, uh, the Earth is more like his like, just like sort of an artist, right? And then he just designed these things to fuck with each other for like his own entertainment.

I don’t think, I don’t think he cares. That’s my thing. I don’t think that he cares what happens to, if he cares, he wouldn’t make serial killers, which he does. He does make serial killers and I’m sick of him pawning that off on the devil because he also created the devil. That is also his creation. So shouldn’t he just handle that? Like, why doesn’t he just handle that shit? Why do we have to deal with it? Why is there this big fucking test?

Well, it doesn’t make any fucking sense. The whole thing is fucking stupid. The whole thing is fucking, if you just look at animals, what do animals do? Nothing. And then you look how some are just out there with teeth like mine, running next to these monsters, and they get ripped apart and eaten alive. And he made that too. So like, he’s, he’s not, you know, I don’t think he’s like the most, you know, chill dude.

I don’t understand why he drops you in this cesspool and then shit happens to you. And then at the end of your life, he’s yelling at you like, “What the fuck was that?” What do you mean, “What the fuck was that?” It was what you made. It was what the fuck you made and I ran into all those fucking assholes.

I don’t want to be like this. You think I want to be a fucking angry lunatic? Maybe if you tried a little harder with some of the people in my life when you made them, you lazy cunt. No, instead of fucking working six days and putting your feet up, and that’s it, let the thing just go where it’s gonna go. And then it’s my responsibility, this little fucking speck on this fucking planet. Oh, fuck yourself. I’m not really saying it to him. I’m saying it to like all organized religions.

Howie Mandel: So you believe in a fucking cunt?

Bill Burr: I believe that God is everything. I believe I’m with you and he’s also a cunt. But I definitely, I do believe that the only power that you do have is to try to be nice to people. That’s really at the end of it. That’s all you have. Even though…

Howie Mandel: That is a great ending to that rant. God’s a cunt, yeah, so be nice.

Bill Burr: I don’t have to go down to his level.

This reminds me of the legendary George Carlin’s bit on religion:

How to fix the world?

Neal Brennan asks Bill, how he’d fix the world and his answer is hilarious and kinda profound:

Bill Burr: I don’t know, but as far as like how to, how to fix it, there’s there’s no way to fix it. Human beings are inherently flawed, right? That there’s no like, uh, like the actually truly good, empathetic people don’t really want to govern people and tell them what to do. They kind of want to be left alone.

But like psychos, um, who aren’t that smart, they’re just, I think a really ignorant thought would be for me to sit here going like, “You know what, I know how to blah, blah, blah, how to do that.” That’s what dumb people think. And they go…

Neal Brennan: I’m not talking about like you should do it or run for, I’m just saying like, what would you do? ‘Cause dealing with people, I even, if it’s like, I, I have severe problems with most things, but I’m like, I don’t know what the solution would be.

Bill Burr: My first thought, um, you got to go Hitler, but with the right things. You got to have the Final Solution for

Neal Brennan: Positive.Hitler positive.

Bill Burr: Positive Hitler.You got to shave off the mustache. Yep. It’s like when Spider-Man wears the red suit instead of the black suit. The sociopaths, narcissists, you, you’d have to totally change the history that all kind of look and view like that’s what happened. You’d have to change a bunch of that.

And I don’t know how you would do it. There’s no way to fix it. There is no way to fix it because the, all of that, there’s a, there’s a fly in the ointment of everything. I think the reality is, is what we’re doing is the best we got. This is the best we can do.

A few recommendations

An old post I had written about Bill Burr

The Comedian’s Comedian

Legendary Comedian Bill Burr — Fear{less} with Tim Ferriss

Bill Burr and Chazz Palminteri—Part 1 and 2

Bill Burr On Comedy Beginnings, White Privilege, Marrying A Black Woman, Chappelle’s Show + More

I will leave it at that.

Search for “Bill Burr” on Netflix this weekend and laugh a little with your friends and family. Life is shit, and it’s infinitely shittier without laughs.

Love a little, and laugh a little.