At the beginning of lockdown, the live in-person element of comedy that is so vital to the art form disappeared leaving no clue as to when or if it would ever come back. Immediately, the absurdist questioning of what live comedy could even be without it had to not only be entertained, but faced and dealt with by every comedic performer everywhere in the world.
Many comedians took to Zoom, IG Live, Twitch, drive-in theaters/pop-ups, etc. to try and salvage/reimagine what the form could be to several varying degrees of success. There was undoubtedly a feeling that live comedy had to figure out what it would do in 2035 right on the spot of March/April 2020. Despite the misanthropic and existential protestations of comedians declaring that “comedy is dead”, live comedy lived on through trailblazers, pioneers, and the super clever.
Bo Burnham encapsulates all three of those distinctions.
He reaffirmed that with his latest comedy special, Inside. Off the top, it’s a staggeringly magnificent work just from how it has an undeniably epic expanse both in aesthetic and content while all coming from Bo’s mind and his physical limitations as the sole person on the production to going through a Campbell-esque hero’s journey all within a single room.
The irony of Bo’s humble beginnings of doing a bunch of songs by himself in a room over several months and then returning to them, albeit with a cinematic scope and a global pandemic and reckoning at hand, isn’t lost on us. Perhaps, that’s an overarching, thematic bit in of itself? If anything, the evolution of Bo’s journey as a comedian, a content creator, a director, and, most importantly, as a person all coalesce here in what is such a thoroughly human meditation on what 2020/2021 has been like through Bo’s lens of super clever songs, transitions, and gorgeous lighting.
Bo’s collection of tunes and asides cover so many facets of what we all went through last year. He goes from a personal level in regards to his own anxiety and depression to the global anxieties of what COVID-19 hath wrought and the shaking of the world’s soul in regards to its systemic problems regarding race, precarity, and the unprecedented levels of isolation. There’s a rawness and vulnerability that comes with Inside too, both literally and figuratively, with moments of very personal confessions of his mental state and in a shaggy Bo dancing and posing in just his underwear.
Bo Burnham’s Inside is very much what a comedy special as a performance art exhibit in art museum could be at it’s very best and we deeply love it for that.
We know you’re sick of being inside, but please do watch this as Bo Burnham: Inside is streaming on Netflix right now right here.