Wow! A comedian who can generate something so hurtfully personal that expresses the deepest of pain people have felt in 2020! In this yearlong project Bo Burnham worked on while in quarantine, he lets comedy take more a supporting role as he prioritizes his original songs with therapy sessions where he’s both the patient and shrink. At the end of his long year of insufferable turmoil, his product is finished, and brought to Netflix Bo Burnham: Inside- the ultimate testament of how complete self-vulnerability can turn a great artist into a legend.
Even though he always just has a camera on a tripod filming himself doing weird stuff with absolutely no crew behind it, he’s still able to implement infinite depth frame after frame. He makes his intentions known by projecting them as images onto the walls and his own body, such as a crucifix light that shines on him during his workout to represent his existential crisis. Plus, the color of the walls often changes; in one shot, the walls appear purple while he’s lit by a white light, in another, everything, himself included, is bathed in green.
He also has some real funny moments while he’s fighting boredom, with him being a former standup comedian of course. One of the early songs has him talking to a sock on his hand like a puppet, which proves that he’s got some mad puppeteering skills! Another hilarious segment is when he plays a videogame of himself as the main character, where his actions are to stand, cry, find the flashlight, and cry some more. He comments on his daily quarantine routine as if he’s one of those YouTube gamers, complete with him wondering out loud why the tutorial tips are necessary. Though he should not have included the sounds of automatic audience laughter and applause, as it actually eliminates the sensation that he’s all alone with no audience. It’s much better when he’s doing alone activities such as playing a videogame.
But the funniest part of the whole feature is when he has a reaction video of himself singing a song. Then he continues it by reacting to the video of himself reacting to himself singing that song. Then it continues still to himself reacting to the video of himself reacting to the video of himself reacting to the video of himself singing that song… such a hilarious unexpected case of “videoception” that represents the insanity within his melodrama. So as his hair gets progressively longer, the emotional captivation grows stronger than any traditional drama seen in movie theaters; the exact same feelings he had to overcome cross onto an uncomfortable level of empathy.
The chaos in these music videos of his center around the bland white walls, with emphasis on the square shape of the room to make it look like a prison where he’s left to contemplate. One would normally think that the limited resources would hinder all that he can do, yet the opposite is the case. With his available equipment, he creates such a range of imagery that normally would take massive Hollywood budgets to generate. The songs he performs also have a great amount of range, going from modern pop to retro 80s to hilarious ditties about the internet! And several of his songs are actually quite catchy!
If only he didn’t resort to autotuning his voice, as he sings great already without it. On the other hand, somebody could give the argument that he starts off using autotune for all his singing, then as the year goes on, he uses it less and less to show him growing more self-accepting, but it still must be a growth that’s pleasing to the ear. Because while he does give some great songs, the ones in the beginning are quite forgetful because of the autotuning. He shouldn’t have felt the need to give into the pressures of the music industry to replace the quality of his music. He’s way better at realizing the visual aspects of his music than on improving the audio.
It’d be easy to expect Burnham to have no hesitation of turning his misery into comedy, and he actually points out that self-conflict right within his first song, when he questions the moral implications of trying to turn tragedy into humor. After all, 2020 was a year of complete misery for the whole world, why is that something to joke about? But over the course of this year by himself, Burnham is able to grasp the role comedy plays, although he doesn’t as much need to tell this to the rest of the world as he does need to tell himself that.
He jokes about being a privileged White dude who is already in a healthy spot based on the way he’s helped by the U.S. economy, which right there is a sign of a tremendous comedian. An entertainer can’t be truly funny until they’re first self-aware about how to make fun of themself. It’s all humor which comes from a deep spot of insecurity, as during one song, the vertical black bars close in on him to make an iPhone aspect ratio, it works to make him look like he’s trapped in his own identity as defined by the internet and products in our pockets. But he doesn’t express that dissatisfied imprisonment in unhealthy ways such as taking it out over social media, he instead talks to himself and shares what he learns.
Bo Burnham: Inside cannot be recommend enough, especially to other people who are either comedians themselves, aspiring to go into comedy, or just love comedy in general, as this will give them better existential clarity after such a confusing year. At a deeper level, watching the redemption of a usually funny guy who’s hiding dark turmoil can inspire a deeper meditation into the personal purpose of every functioning role in society, and what other hope might be out there. Comedy clubs, theaters, and concerts may not be essential businesses, but seeing how critical they are nowadays in giving people direction toward self-discovery, they might as well be essential.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!