Careers of the rich and famous, have moments that are remembered by the general public, then they have moments the public remember as career defining. This may be defined by a championship for a football player, or a blockbuster film for an actor, but for Bill Burr, a comedian, his championing moment was that of dismantling a crowd of drunk hecklers. The scene took place on September 9th, 2006 during the Opie and Anthony’s Traveling Virus Comedy Tour in Camden, New Jersey. The venue was the Tweeter Center, now known as BB&T Pavilion, an outdoor amphitheater a mere 16 minutes away from the city center of Philadelphia. Gregg “Opie” Hughes and Anthony Cumia had a long running radio show, and they created the Opie and Anthony’s Traveling Virus Comedy Tour as a way to showcase comedians in different venues. On this specific evening they had a line up involving comedians such as, Bob Saget, Dom Irrera, the late and talented Patrice O’Neal, and Bill Burr.
To begin, one must know Bill Burr is a stand-up comic from Massachusetts who now lives in Los Angeles, California. He has a filmography list that includes five comedy specials and appearances on shows such as Breaking Bad, The Simpsons, and Chappelle’s Show. With such an impressive list, it may seem disappointing that his moment of glory was only captured on a blurry recording from a cellphone. However, the cellphone recording is perfect, as it places the viewer in a feeling of being there as the angle brings you to stage in what, can be assumed was shared by many of the audience members, a hazy state.
With a seven o’clock start and a crowd of inebriated folks, in which only a few were sitting in the grass while the rest walked around, the first act entered the stage in broad day light and instantly got booed. Around a thousand members of the audience were chanting, “Asshole! Asshole! Asshole!” Second in the act was Rich Vos, who took the stage to the same scene, also getting lit up with boos, and not a real chance of giving his material justice. Burr knew it was going to be tough after comedian Tracy Morgan left the stage in only half his allotted time, but the point he stopped caring about the attitude he carried on stage with him was when Dom Irrera, the act before him got mercilessly heckled. The sun had fallen giving the scene an apocalyptic look of drunken chaos. Chants, idle chatter, booing, all were common throughout the crowd of more than 10,000. Burr took the stage without nervousness, possibly due to consumption of alcohol on his own behalf, in what he later described as, “an impossible situation.”
The crowd instantly started booing, and someone could be heard yelling, “you suck!” After two minutes of performing his planned material to no avail, Burr executed what may be the greatest, and most glorious response to an unruly crowd in the era of microphones and live acts. It started off with a simple, “You know what, fuck all you people, you fucking losers, I hope you all fucking die, and I hope the fucking Eagles never win the super bowl. Go fuck yourselves.” To a crowd of normal people this may have been a reason to turn even harder on a comedian, but to a crowd of Philadelphians, a place who once threw snowballs at a Santa Clause imitator at a football game, it was just the type of depreciating humor they needed. A few laughs and cheers sparkled across the crowd, and from there Burr took off with the insults.
One after another he hurled jokes about the people in the crowd and the city of Philadelphia. He told them, to put it lightly, that he hoped they all got car jacked when leaving, all their sports teams never would win and star players got their ankles snapped, they would get cancer and fired from their jobs because of it, and someone would slap beer steins across their zit infested shoulders. After four minutes of bashing, the prior three and a half hours of booing turned into cheering and laughter. Nevertheless, it wasn’t even close to over as Burr continued his rant, “And Rocky is your hero, the whole pride of your city is built around a guy who doesn’t even fucking exist, Joe Frazier is from there but he’s black so you can’t even fucking deal with him, so you make a fucking statue for some three foot fucking Italian you stupid, Philly Cheese eating fuckin’ jackasses.” From there it was eight more minutes of an incredible display of crowd control mastery within the art of stand-up comedy.
Since the incident, which has been talked about at length on many different platforms, but mainly podcasts, Burr has admitted it wasn’t professional and he should of kept his head. During an interview on the Bertcast Podcast, hosted by Bert Kreischer, he stated, “I threw gas on a fire that was already going.” While that may sound almost apologetic, it shouldn’t be taken that way, Bill’s biggest regret, “It kills me to this day that I forgot to bring up the [Philadelphia] 76er’s.” Even without that final dig, “The Philadelphia Incident,” will be remembered famously, and is certainly to date a favorite moment of his amongst his fans.