COLUMN: Bill Burr at the Peoria Civic Center


Dan Hahn

Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Dan Hahn, Columnist

Bill Burr is a comedian famous for a blue-collar style of comedy but can also be a powder keg of outrage over minor annoyances. He’s edgy, pushes buttons, and presses topics that are not for audiences that are easily offended. 

He also has an acting career, and you may have seen him as Migs Mayfeld, the mercenary in the Disney+ series The Mandalorian. He has several comedy specials on Netflix and he’s a household name in standup comedy and comedy podcasts.

I’ve known about Bill Burr and have been a fan for about a decade at this point. I do consider myself a fan of standup comedy, but as a father of young kids, I don’t spend much time at the comedy club or going out to see comedians perform live.

But I am trying to make a habit of getting out more often post-pandemic, so when I heard Bill Burr was going to be performing at the Peoria Civic Center, it piqued my interest. 

I also have family that live in Peoria, so I used the occasion to forsake my Roku and my more introverted tendencies to take in some live stand-up comedy. 

Interestingly, the show was the Saturday night before the midterm elections, which is a fine occasion to see comedy, if for no other reason than to take the temperature down on the feverish political climate. 

In retrospect, most of the show veered away from politics, and laughter certainly helped let out steam from the pressure cooker that is the final frenzy of the midterm campaign season. 

A smile peals across my face as I recollect how Bill Burr poked fun at the frequently repeated, sarcastic campaign line: “Vote for me and I’ll…”

Yes, the humorous lines were entertaining. 

The human lines not so much, which moved extremely slow getting in the venue, causing us to miss the opening act. The event organizers also required that smart phones and smart watches be locked in a sleeve called a Yondr pouch. 

I have never seen a Yondr pouch before, and to me this minor inconvenience served as a sad reminder of the world we’re living in. A world where comedians and performers need to contend, for better or worse, with the supercomputers everyone carries around.

I’m supportive of something like a Yondr pouch to ensure the integrity of a performance, so comedians can push the envelope and not have to second guess improvisation, or worry intellectual property is being shared without consent. 

Additionally, I don’t think anyone wants to see people distracting others by trying to record, live stream, or take pictures.

Silly enough, I had to put my Fitbit in that stinker of a Yondr pouch too, even though it doesn’t have recording capabilities.

The funny thing is, I was able to slip my watch out through the gap in the sides easily. I’m not a renegade, I was bored! What else was I to do while I stood in line?

I, like many other attendees, had no foreknowledge of the Yondr pouch requirement. 

Ironic, since Ticket Master delivers tickets via a mobile phone’s wallet feature, so the smart phone is needed to get in the venue, but once you’re in you have to lock it away in a pouch. 

It would have been nice to know about this ahead of time, so that non-ticket holders could leave their phones in the car.

We had to wait again in the line for the concession stand. In fact, Bill Burr was introduced while we were waiting so we abandoned our hope for a domestic light beer that would have cost us upwards of ten dollars.

The seats were fine even though we were seated in the upper balcony. On several occasions early in the show Bill Burr complained that it was cold, though I didn’t feel it, and he teased the crowd that the venue should be renamed the Vladimir Putin Civic Center.

It was a joke. I hear Russian winters are cold, and not to take anything away from the seriousness of the war in Ukraine, but this was a comedy show, after all. 

Exiting the venue sucked just as bad as getting in, and we had to wait in line again for the special lock to get our smart phones out of the damnable Yondr pouch! It was like a swarm, venue personnel frantically unsnapping Yondr pouches left and right, one at a time so people could leave.

I was tempted to just walk out and cut my cell phone out with scissors when I got home. Is this the world of the future?

Someone needs to invent software to replace the Yondr pouch: an app that disables all recording and live streaming capabilities and sets the phone to vibrate while you’re inside. Seriously, wouldn’t this remove the need for the silly pouches and the long lines? 

A much more elegant solution must be at hand!

Imagine, an off button that an administrator could push at the end of the show that magically unlocks smart phones so people can communicate with loved ones right away and tell them they’re on their way home.

Parking was $20, which was too much, and I hope the employees got paid well because I know it’s cliché to complain about inflation, but a night out in Peoria, Illinois shouldn’t break the bank.

I rationalize the expense as an investment in lovely downtown Peoria, which if you’ve never been there at night is quite a charming downtown.

Bill Burr was great; he did a lot of material that I haven’t heard before. There was plenty of cursing and poking fun at stereotypes. 

He made fun of himself for living in Los Angeles where everyone is uptight, and then he poked fun at the crowd of central Illinoisans for being rednecks who live on farms.

Memorable jokes revolved around toxic topics such as a lighthearted take on domestic violence, and there was quip about withholding martial arts training from rapists.

This is a perfect example, by the way: when you remove jokes from the context of a comedy show (perhaps like referencing them in an opinion piece), one can easily understand the need to prohibit the use of recording devices.

He closed his act with a long follow up story from his previous Netflix special about experimenting with psilocybin mushrooms.

This was a masterfully told story that kept the audience of several thousand riveted and eager for closure, which was provided after many a narrative twist and turn.

Overall, it was a fun night despite the high prices, long lines, and unfortunate yet understandable micromanagement of smart phones on a large scale.

Now I’m not running for office, but if I were I would remind you to vote for me, since I promise to make nights in Peoria affordable again, streamlined, and less of a pain in the Yondr pouch.

Dan Hahn is an English composition/rhetoric student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.