Four types of art have been the center point of my life when it comes to entertainment. I was never one to read many novels or watch many movies but when it came to anime, music, games, and comedy I was invested. Out of those four, however, two have influenced the way I think and see the world today, music and comedy. Comedy to me is the most complex art to master, the ability to make people laugh using irony deadpans, or several techniques all while telling stories that have one look at the world differently. It is within comedy I’ve felt nearly every positive and negative emotion in the small window of a special. Depending on the comedian, one minute I could be laughing to the point of tears only to be caught off guard by a witty bit that forces me to stop and question my own understanding of humanities.
Bo Burnham is one of these types of comedians. Using song for most of his bits Bo can paint the darkest demons of humans in a catchy tune. He does this with a nice touch of ironic self-realization that made his 2016 Make Happy have a lasting impression on me. But alas that was 5 long years ago. Post Make Happy Burnham did what a lot of comedians do, he just kind of fell off the earth in an attempt to get his mind in a better place.
Depression and anxiety are a cornerstone of comedy. Almost everyone deals with it in some way so it makes it very relatable when a comedian makes those self digs, something Burnham himself aggressively does. So his break wasn’t that much of a surprise to me, his come back, however, was something I never expected.
Staying with Netflix Burnham decided to work on a very different take for a comedy special. Early on in 2020, he was preparing to take the stage again, then well, COVID happened. Forced to change things up Burnham decided to write, direct and film his special. Doing so over months all in the confines of a small cluttered room. Titled comically, Inside, what unfolds is a documentary-style bit full of self monologue, wonky transitions, and songs performed, recorded, and written by Burnham all within a chaotic room.
And it has to be one of the most magnificent specials I’ve ever seen.
Staying true to his raw unfiltered nature we get to see comedy away from the production team and bright lights of the stage. What Inside feels like is more of a vlog diary of a master writer’s descent into a manic depression as they struggle with not only the episode but the content of it. Burnham amazingly tells this story with a mix of camera angles and lighting all while sprinkling in the means of pre and post-production. The gritty, dark reminisce is only doubled down on because of the setting. Allowing him to show a side of comedy that would not be obtainable so much on stage but still carrying the weight of his bits with every punchline.
Inside was a ride I wasn’t ready to be taken on. Combing both the highs and lows it was a bold new way to address comedy specials in a post COVID world and it did so extremely well. What Burnham was able to pull off is something that will stand to impress and push the bar of comedy for years to come. Adding yet more levels to an already sophisticated field I truly believe this special will change how comedy fans alike will look at not only the world of jokes but all of the messy stuff that exists off the stage.
If you are a comedy fan I can not recommend this special enough, but I must say it isn’t for the faint of heart. It is rough, clear-cut, unfiltered, and just as unforgiving. There were many moments I had to pause, allowing myself to fully process what was being said at any given moment. This raw take of self-aware depression and placement among society isn’t for everyone, and I think it is important to mention when it comes to Bo’s comedy he holds no punches.
But if you find yourself on the flip side of that coin, you can find Inside streaming now, on Netflix. As always thanks for the read!