While attending Beverly Hills High School, Mike began his musical career with the band False Alarm. After the band split up in 1983, he met Eric Melvin and Erik Sandin and formed the original line-up of NOFX. He has also appeared as a guest-vocalist on a number of other bands' tracks including "Peter Brady" on Screeching Weasel's 1993 album, "Anthem for a New Tomorrow." Other appearances include "Beware" by Randy, "Mr. Coffee" and "Lazy" by Lagwagon, and can be heard heckling and requesting "Free Bird" at the end of the Lunachicks song, "Missed It," off their 1996 album, "Pretty Ugly," which he also produced. He also appears as a guest vocalist on the Dropkick Murphys single "Going Out In Style". Mike is the owner and founder of Fat Wreck Chords, one of the biggest independent labels in North America.
Mike recorded the "Cokie the Clown" EP with NOFX, playing Cokie on both the cover of the EP and the music video for the title-track, "Cokie the Clown". In the video, Mike dresses as Cokie and puts white powder into his squirting flower, which in the song he describes as "my own special blend of ex, coke, and K". Cokie then walks around Chicago squirting powder in pedestrians' faces, as chronicled in the song itself. The video was shot during the punk music festival Riot Fest.
Fat Mike has made several appearances as Cokie the Clown, but one of his most memorable was at Emo's, a popular nightclub in Austin on March 20, 2010 at the South by Southwest festival. He recounted several graphic and disturbing stories about his life, and played several songs both previously released and unreleased. He also tricked several members of the audience into drinking tequila, before showing them a video of himself filling a partially full bottle of tequila to the top with urine to shocked reactions. The stunt was later revealed as a joke on NOFX's website, which showed Fat Mike switching out the urine bottle for an untainted one before making audience members drink it. Mike has since been banned from Emo's.
In 2015 Mike premiered a Broadway musical titled Home Street Home, which he co-wrote with Soma Snakeoil and Jeff Marx.
Fat Mike founded the website Punkvoter.com in 2004 in an effort to mobilize the punk community to vote George W. Bush out of office in that year’s presidential election. He had never been very active in politics before then, admitting that he never even voted until 2000. However, he was driven into political activism because of Bush, whom he viewed as “the most ridiculous president in the history of presidents.” Punkvoter.com targeted 18-to-25-year-old punk fans and other disenfranchised young people and encouraged them to vote Bush out of office. At its peak, the site was getting 15 million hits a day and ultimately raised over $1 million.
As with Punkvoter.com, Burkett organized the Rock Against Bush campaign to mobilize punk fans and musicians against George W. Bush. Burkett’s band NOFX, along with many other well-known punk artists including Alkaline Trio, Green Day and Jello Biafra, embarked on a tour of American college campuses in the months leading up to the 2004 presidential election. Burkett hoped to go beyond just protest and actually educate kids about why they should vote against Bush. At the shows, he would hand out free DVDs of Uncovered: The Whole Truth About The Iraq War, a documentary that questions the Bush administration’s motives in the Middle East. To coincide with the tour, Burkett released two Rock Against Bush compilation albums on Fat Wreck Chords featuring new music from some of the bands on the label. The albums sold over 650,000 copies and proceeds helped fund the tour, as well as going toward magazine ads and billboards in swing states.
Burkett lives in San Francisco, California. He attended college at San Francisco State University and graduated in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in Social Science and a minor in Human Sexuality. According to the book "NOFX The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories", Burkett has said that he received the moniker "Fat Mike" from "one of the guys from [the band] Subculture". He is of Jewish heritage, but is an atheist.
He and his wife Erin divorced in 2010 after 18 years of marriage. They have a daughter named Darla. In October 2009, Mike appeared in the documentary The Other F Word, an analysis of punk rock fatherhood.
Fat Mike has owned a gastropub-style restaurant in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY called Thistle Hill Tavern. He has been into BDSM for years: he has had a dungeon in his house. Fat Mike has numerous tattoos, including one on his left arm that features a golfing dominatrix and her bound caddy.
Fat Mike announced his engagement to adult film actress Soma Snakeoil on January 28, 2014.
He has been vocal about assisting his terminally ill mother's death, describing the episode in a song called "La Pieta" which featured in NOFX's audiobook version of The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories.
On November 5, 2014 at a NOFX show in Sydney, Australia, Fat Mike had complained about a neck injury and had asked the audience not to throw objects at him and grab him while on stage as it caused him pain. While playing the song "Linoleum", a fan climbed onstage and put his arm around Mike's neck, to which Mike responded by elbowing him to the ground and then kicking him in the face. The fan suffered some bruising on his face but had no major injuries. Later, Fat Mike and the fan both apologized via Twitter. A video was released of Mike giving the fan a beer and custom T-shirt, and letting him kick him as an apology.