Comedian and content creator Bo Burnham is back with a new special on Netflix, which has been blowing up online, with people quoting it on Twitter and remixing bits on TikTok. So why does this introspective, nihilistic one-man musical have the internet obsessed?
Bo Burnham has been one of the internet’s favourite relatable funnymen for many years now, since coming to popularity in the early days of YouTube comedy. Specializing in comedy music with bright and cheery tunes that complements his dry and sometimes dark wit. Since then, Burnham has released numerous comedy albums and a handful of live performance specials, the fourth of which being Bo Burnham: Inside.
Inside is aptly titled as it takes place entirely inside a single room in Burnham’s home. The special was written, directed, shot, edited, and performed by Burnham, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Produced entirely on his own, the special covers themes of isolation, Burnham’s mental health, and the replacement of human interaction with virtual content online after a year of the pandemic.
Given the format of the special being shot over a year, Burnham makes use of video production effects and editing to help stitch the project together creating a series of vignettes rather than a continuous performance as with a live show. This technique helps both with comedic timing, as well as adding contrast between the more comedic moments and the segments that are more cynical.
In Inside, Burnham uses his wry humour and jaunty synth-pop songwriting to comment on both the internet at large and some of the events and hot topics of the past year. Everything from unpaid internships to sexting, to Jeff Bezos, gets a musical number, with bits about reaction videos, gaming live streams, and the pressures of performing.
These myriad topics are part of what makes Inside so talked about: it’s some of Burnham’s most relatable work. Over the past year, throughout the pandemic and various social movements that have come to the forefront of popular culture, we’ve all had time at home to think about a lot of different things, often without the human interaction we need for our mental and social well being. Burnham confronts all these issues in this special, without shying away from the mental health challenges that he’s facing and undoubtedly many of us are as well. His depictions of depression and the anxiety and feeling of disconnection that come with being alone for a full year are on full display making the special feel very vulnerable and real.
As much as Inside is about Burnham’s observations about the current state of the world, it’s also very much a reflection of Burnham himself and his insecurities. Burnham is a very talented performer and entertainer, but he’s also a human being, something that can be difficult to remember especially in a time when all our interactions are behind computer screens. For all the funny moments, the witty observations, the catchy songs, and the heartfelt, intimate emotion, Bo Burnham is a person, just like us, who’s doing his best to deal with a year stuck inside.