Bo Burnham: Inside

Bo Burnham: Inside ★½

Make Happy is pretty handily my least favorite work of art of all time, so my expectations of Inside were low to say the least. It’s about the same thing Bo’s so-called “comedy” is always about, of course - his pathological straight-white-male need to be the center of attention, how much he loathes that about himself, how helpless he is to change it. It’s still not funny and still uniquely solipsistic, but this time, instead of doing it for an audience in real-time, he’s doing it “alone” (in the house he shares with his girlfriend of nearly a decade) in piecemeal over the course of a year. It’s not as if this is any less performative than Make Happy (if anything, it’s probably more so), but the lack of audience means it goes about it in a way that’s far less manipulative than his last special. When he sings, as he’s liable to do, about how much he hates the internet and those who depend on it, those who’ve grown up on it (as always, referring to himself - only famous because of viral success at a young age for work even he thinks is awful), there’s literally nobody else he’s able to pawn that anxiety off on - he simply can’t pretend he’s criticizing the crowd anymore, and that makes a world of difference. It isn’t good, but it’s basically a theater kid version of something like Joe Gibbons’ Living In The World, which is a hell of a lot more compelling to me than an edgy public temper tantrum for a paying, rapturous audience. I went in confident that, given Bo’s prior work, this would be the definitive worst piece of Pandemic Art, but now I’m fairly confident that worse is theoretically possible, which is a hell of a step up!

(Do feel the need to note the ending title card of this, an “if you or a loved one is struggling...” message that does not direct the reader to a crisis hotline directly, but to this absolutely fucking insane Netflix mental health website, one of the craziest, most evil things I’ve ever seen. In lieu of a list of things one might need to “talk about,” there’s a list of Netflix shows that broach those subjects, a list you need to scroll through in order to get to any links where one might find help. Like, in order to get to the page on self-harm, you have to click the poster of a show that contains self-harm. Not willing to pin this on Bo, who almost certainly has nothing to do with the in-house Netflix version of that message, but it is perhaps the most disquieting possible ending for this.)

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