After taking 5 years off from performing comedy, Bo Burnham re-emerged with this painstakingly brutal meditation on isolation, each his and ours, working in solitude all through the pandemic to supply this breathtaking murals. It’s received songs to make you chuckle, jingles to make you assume, every little thing you’ve already come to know and love from Burnham. And but a lot extra.
The Gist: Burnham appeared to say goodbye to stay comedy when he launched his third particular, Make Happy, for Netflix 5 years in the past this week. In truth, he did. Or thought he had.
As he tells close to the shut of the 87-minute Inside, Burnham reveals he needed to cease performing for stay audiences after he started experiencing panic assaults in the course of his reveals. “I spent that time trying to improve myself mentally,” he tells us now. “I got so much better!” So a lot that, in January 2020, he determined himself prepared to jot down new materials and get again on the market. Only for the pandemic to sequester him. So he did the following smartest thing? He spent the previous yr and alter making Inside, all by himself, in the identical room the place he closed out Make Happy.
Burnham’s not solely older and wiser (having turned 30 in the course of making Inside, and he reveals us that second, too), however he’s additionally grow to be extra assured behind the digicam as he has in entrance of it, having spent the intervening pre-pandemic years directing comedy specials for Chris Rock and Jerrod Carmichael, writing and directing an insightful ode to Gen Z adolescence with Eighth Grade, and turning heads with a shocking function in Promising Young Woman. Now what?
That’s a very good query for all of us, and for Burnham, too.
What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: In phrases of comedy, the one factor that’s even remotely shut was Netflix’s 2020 pandemic comedy particular, Vir Das: Outside In, though that was one thing utterly completely different, with Das interacting with followers over Zoom. Burnham’s Inside feels nearer in spirit to each Beyoncé’s Lemonade and the function movie, The Lighthouse. Visually gorgeous, thematically arresting like the previous; and just like the latter, it goes off the rails bonkers because the isolation continues previous a sure level, whereas one way or the other nonetheless making full sense.
Burnham’s closing music additionally jogs my memory a variety of one other sentimental piano man who can deliver pathos to parody: Tim Minchin. (Their paths crossed many moons in the past, and I’ve a humorous unhappy story about that that has no place right here, so remind me to let you know it another day)
Memorable Jokes: Burnham jokingly refers to himself in a single picture because the Venn diagram between Malcolm X and Weird Al. Burnham’s comedy could also be considerably revolutionary by way of poking holes at comedy conventions whereas additionally ruthlessly sustaining his personal rigorous self-awareness inside every shot throughout the bow of the artwork type, his songs themselves aren’t straight-up parodies like Yankovic’s, however fairly, synth-pop bangers which exhibit his sensibilities for what the children of all ages may wish to take heed to.
His sharpest social commentary comes after social media and Internet dwelling. Already, his followers are plucking the musical numbers to share in very viral methods, whether or not’s it’s about sexting, or his mockery of white ladies Instagram developments, his meta YouTube response video, his Twitch gamer questioning what was the purpose of his onscreen avatar, his model marketing consultant reminding us how companies glom onto political actions after they assume they’ll make more cash off of it, or most pointedly, segueing from speak about hitting an all-time-low in his psychological well being right into a circus-like ditty about chaos of the Internet, the place it wasn’t at all times this harmful, however most actually is now that it affords “everything, all of the time.”
He’s much more subversive in relation to capitalism, what with two fast jingles for Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, a jazzy quantity about unpaid interns, and most successfully, a duet with “Socko” (his sock hand puppet) about how we’ve been indoctrinated into believing all types of issues which are unmistakably dangerous for us.
For my cash, although, probably the most memorable elements come when Burnham references his personal beginnings inside, alone in his room, as an adolescent 15 years in the past. One music finds him apologizing for the offensiveness of his earlier lyrics, one other asks slyly and rhetorically, “Can one be funny when stuck in a room?” then solutions: “I was a kid who was stuck in his room. There isn’t much more to say about it. When you’re a kid and you’re stuck in your room. You’ll do any old shit to get out of it.”
Then we see 30-year-old Burnham watching his youthful self, who had no thought what was in retailer for him as soon as he uploaded that video to YouTube.
Of course, there’s one lesson Burnham hopes you don’t take away from his songs, particularly the lyric during which he suggests he may kill himself when he turns 40. Because he instantly follows that with a pointed PSA, saying please don’t think about suicide. And on the finish credit, Burnham features a hyperlink to a website known as wannatalkaboutit.com, which clicks to this web page hosted by Netflix.
Our Take: So yeah, you’re not going to seek out many comedy specials with public service bulletins on the finish of them (the one different one I bear in mind in current reminiscence was Daniel Sloss: X for HBO in 2018, due to speak about rape victims).
I’ve at all times admired and revered Burnham for he marries his nice prowess for musical comedy with nice duty and consciousness, evidenced by his personal admiration and respect for the craft and the viewers receiving it. His closing music not solely asks, “Am I right back where I started 14 years ago?” but additionally manages to grow to be a medley of lyrical callbacks to moments and themes he’s dropped all through the particular.
For somebody who grew to become a star due to social media to have the nice sense to name b.s. on all of it, and the way “giant digital media corporations exploiting our kids emotions and psyche for profit might have been a bad call by us,” that takes a variety of chutzpah.
When he walked out that door 5 years in the past on the finish of Make Happy, Burnham imagined a cheerful ending for himself. What he does on the finish of Inside, circling again upon that concept, solely to seek out himself again inside, a sullen spectator, however not for lengthy…it offers me hope. This 30-year-old continues to be going locations, and I’ll gladly go alongside for the experience.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Easily the very best comedy particular of the pandemic, if not the very best “content” of any variety from the pandemic that you simply’ll see, placing every little thing we’ve felt over the previous yr and a half, and nonetheless really feel, as every of us work out what comes subsequent.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his personal digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; earlier than that, for precise newspapers. Based in NYC however will journey wherever for the inside track: Ice cream or information. He additionally tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin tales: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.