Father Knows Jack: 'Modern Family's' Ty Burrell
Credit: Photograph by Emily Shur
For Burrell, there's no shame in a joke that ends with a hug. "Ty has the rarest ability to make people laugh without being mean," Julie Bowen, his costar, says at the Bar-X opening. "I always thought you had to get people on their back foot to be funny, but not him." Duncan is behind the bar slinging Sazeracs and Pimm's Cups, and the place is packed. Burrell works the room, full of people he knows or convincingly pretends to know. A few hours in, he swings my way and asks how I'm doing. He notes that he's only on his second drink. "I've been doing a lot of hand-shaking," he explains without complaint.

I ask Burrell if he's naturally nice or if his niceness is a feat of sustained effort and self-consciousness – if maybe he's suppressing some inner prick. "Both," he says. "Like a lot of people in comedy, I learned how to do it by making fun of people, by being a mean kid at times. By being an asshole. But I hate that."

By 2 AM the party is winding down. People stare at their phones; casualties of the open bar stumble out. Bowen is in the parking lot out back, shivering and smoking a cigarette. Burrell, though, is aglow. "My cow half finally showed up," he says. "Do you want to come over and try some?"