A Look “Inside”

Athena ScalziI’ve never been the biggest fan of stand-up comedy. Growing up, I never wanted to watch somebody just stand there and tell stories I couldn’t relate to, or say jokes I didn’t really get. I watched a lot of cartoons, and not much of anything else. So it was only in 2015 that I discovered a comedian named Bo Burnham, and it was only because a friend of mine made me watch him.

It was his special, what., from 2013. I didn’t expect much, maybe a couple good jokes here and there, but it ended up being absolutely hilarious, and I laughed so hard I cried. It was funny, really made you think, and was exactly my type of humor.

I never revisited it, though, and I never got around to watching his special from 2016, Make Happy. For the past five years it’s been on my to-watch list. So when his newest special, Inside, came out, I thought I’d just add it to the list and get around to watching it eventually. But after seeing the hype surrounding it, I decided I had to watch it, even though it’d been years since I’d seen what. and hadn’t even watched Make Happy yet. Usually it bothers me to watch things out of order, even if they don’t have to be watched in order, but I made an exception for Inside.

I’m so glad I watched it, because it is incredible. That’s right, I’m here to add to the hype surrounding Bo Burnham and his special, because it is amazing and I want to share that awesomeness with y’all.

If you’ve never seen anything by Bo Burnham before, he’s a comedian and a musician, and his main thing is that he performs funny musical numbers and skits. His humor revolves around commenting on topics like white people, religion, sexuality, and mental health. He’s got lots of catchy songs that make you laugh but also have a message, and I find that format to be really cool.

The messages have never been clearer than in Inside, though, with songs about declining mental health, the ocean rising, how the world was built with blood, getting older, and sexting! Now that I list it out, it sounds pretty depressing. Honestly, it is a very emotional and somewhat depressing special, even though it is funny, as well. But isn’t it fun to joke about tragedy? Isn’t it in our nature to laugh at the bad things that are happening? To make light of dark situations?

Bo Burnham is quite transparent in his newest special, making it evident that the pandemic has only worsened his mental health, as I’m sure it has done to many, many people. He doesn’t beat around the bush, he has opinions and he is here to make them known. And those opinions will get stuck in your head for days on end, because his songs are insanely fun and catchy.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts within the past year regarding our society, systemic oppression, capitalism, global warming, all that good stuff, and Bo Burnham has taken all those thoughts out of my head and expressed them perfectly. I could never really put my thoughts into words, but he manages to not only do that, but sing them! Truly an art.

In all seriousness, Inside really is a piece of art, it’s deep, and impactful, and it resonates on several different levels. I’ve been so obsessed with it for the past week, listening to all the songs on repeat day after day, trying to learn every word of every song, and talking about it with anyone and everyone who has seen it. It’s an amazing piece of media, and I can’t recommend it enough.

It’s on Netflix, but if you don’t have Netflix, you can still listen to all 20 of the songs from the special on YouTube or Spotify. It’s definitely a bonus to see the songs performed (and see all the stuff in between the songs), but the songs just by themselves are still great, so definitely check it out either way!

Have you seen any of Bo Burnham’s specials before? What did you think of Inside? Do you have a favorite song from it? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day (and watch Inside if you haven’t already, you won’t regret it)!


16 Comments on “A Look “Inside””

  1. I’ve watched the previous shows. Without spoiling it too much, Make Happy ends on a down note. I had hoped that Inside would show a redemptive arc from that time. That his mental health had improved. Without watching it, that does not appear to be the case.

    From both Make Happy and the first few minutes of Inside that I watched, I believe that Bo Burnham has an unhealthy relationship with his audience. Having no way to help him directly, I think the best thing I can do for him is remove myself from that group. So I stopped watching.

    He is undoubted gifted. I hope its all performance, but I am concerned it is not. I wish there was more I could do.

  2. I absolutely love stand-up and love going to live shows. Not every stand-up is going to related to you but not every stand-up is just some white guy with a cheesy Seinfeld voice going “What’t the deal with the black box? If it’s the only thing that survives a crash then why don’t they just make the plane out of the black box?”

    Find people and topics that interest you. If you are drawn towards folks who talk about mental illness then Maria Bamford has a number of albums where she addressess her conditions. Mike Birbiglia has a whole special called “Sleepwalk with Me” where he talks about a sleep disorder he has and its impact on his mental health through his life.

    I would also say you should go see folks live. Fortune Feimster is coming to Columbus sometime in the next couple months and she weaves her experience as a lesbian in the south into her act wonderfully. Plus, when you go to a live show you get to see the openning acts and can discover local comedians you are drawn to and see them develop as well.

  3. I watched it and liked it — it’s a little fake (like he didn’t actually spend a whole year by himself in a small studio), but the songs are both funny and resonate pretty well. I especially liked it when he did a reaction video to his own video. I had heard his name before but wasn’t familiar with his work. My teen came out of her room to (re)watch Inside with my wife and I, she kept saying the next song was the best one.

  4. Athena,

    If you want to try more smart, sharp, musical comedy, give Tim Minchin a go. I’m not sure if the documentary following his path to winning “Best Newcomer” at the Edinburgh in 2005 is available online but some of his other work is available on Netflix and Youtube

  5. I’ve never seen any of Mr. Burham’s comedy work, but I would definitely recommend his recent movie Eighth Grade, which I thought was a great piece of work about that scary time.

  6. I have to totally agree with you. I was blown away by this special. Special nod to his Venn diagram of Malcom X/Himself/Weird Al.

    Just very well thought and and produced special. Some people have commented on how much is real and how much is performance. It’s hard to say but the effort and hard work on display is outstanding.

  7. I really liked the trailer for the movie Eighth Grade. It was/is visually stunning.

  8. Can only repeat Struan Judd’s recommendation: Tim Minchin hammered this genre (musical comedy) for years, with brilliant, genius, utterly hilarious songs.

  9. I hadn’t heard of him before now, so thank you.
    ‘Welcome to the Internet’ had me both cringing and smiling, which is a good sign. Very funny, with a point.

  10. As a Certified Geezer, I can say that I have heard the name Bo Burnham but have never seen him and until now could not have told you anything about him, who he is, what he does, etc.

    Yes, I like standup. Over the years we have seen a number of performers live – the late great Rodney Dangerfield (“Great crowd! Great crowd!”), Steve Martin, Robert Klein, Elayne Boosler, Lewis Black, Jim Gaffigan. You could look them up.

  11. There’s a comedian from near your neck of the woods that if you like PG rated comedy with silly songs named Heywood Banks. He does the midwestern club rotation and appears on radio some and has been around about 30 years. He was my first show out after getting vaccinated. I would imagine he plays the Dayton area fairly regularly and might be worth your while.

  12. Yes! Absolutely loved Inside. My son’s a big Bo Burnham fan and I can see why.

    I’m going out on a limb here with a different “if you like this then …” kind of recommendation:

    Have you seen Derek DelGaudio’s In and Of Itself? It’s an Off-Broadway magic show that was made into a movie, and it’s definitely not a comedy. But what it shares with Inside is eschewing any kind of linear or traditional narrative while sharing some intense emotional moments using impressive technical skills. In Bo Burnham’s case it’s his skills at performing, songwriting and staging; for Derek DelGaudio it’s his magic and showmanship. In both cases, it’s less about the stories they’re trying to tell than it is about the effect that they’re trying to achieve.

    I suspect that fans of one will enjoy the other.

  13. Thank you for sharing this. I had vaguely heard of Burnham but had never watched or heard him. And, well, that was some powerful stuff which I will not soon forget, now or frankly ever. True art that reached me. Again, thank you.

  14. I’m familiar with Bo Burnham from small snips of his acts that I’ve seen elsewhere, was aware that I vaguely liked him, but didn’t really think about watching Inside until my almost 17-year-old son was playing a number of his songs in our car, on repeat.

    I watched Inside and was blown away, but also saddened by how much we have ignored the mental health effects of the last few years. Inside shone a spotlight on how many Americans are doing, and the answer is: not well, but we’re trying.

    If you liked Inside, I recommend Hannah Gadsby’s standup. She has two shows on Netflix, Nanette and Douglas, which I honestly recommend for being the same mix of thought-provoking and hilarious. Also seconding someone else’s recommendation of Tim Minchin for comedic songs.

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