Concession Confession: Inside is an epic tour de force, a transcendent art piece. Burnham’s usual plethora of witty comedic beats may be lacking but is still a raw emotional gut punch.
Logline: Bo Burnham returns to comedy in this self-produced special where he attempts to fill the void of staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bo Burnham is such a rarity, that he feels like a genuine anomaly in the world of entertainment. Through his youthful rise it’s become rather apparent that to label is to discredit. How has Bo Burnham become possibly the one YouTube personality who has reached a degree of mainstream without the same level of distain as the other YouTubers. Whether it’s Lily Singh doing a boring talk show, or Ninja appearing on The Mask Singer, or The Paul Brothers inserting themselves into literally everything. There’s this disconnect that the internet celebrity is less legitimized than the legacy media formats. I think what separates Burnham from other new media stars is a clear motivation for evolution.
Burnham is far from the kid who wrote “I’m Bo Yo” and “My whole family thinks I’m gay”. He’s far from Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous, far from What and I think he’s even matured and grown from his Make Happy comedy Special and his feature film debut in Eighth Grade. I think even from the beginning Burnham always proved to have a sharp wit to his comedy, a philosophical heart, and a dedication to performance. Burnham is tragically a tortured artist working to perfect his craft.
Now Burnham has displayed his evolution as a comedian, as a performer, and as an artist. First, his talent as a musician is fully on display. To no offense to his prior songs but they exist more as simplistic comedic jungles. With Inside, Burnham takes advantage of being lifted of the restraint of performing live. His music in this special is very produced, truly diverse, and plays into the guise of modern music. It makes me excited to see Burnham reflect on music trends with a couple songs having a tinge of The Weeknd and Post Malone. It’s incredible that it is all self-produced; from auto-tuning, playing the guitar, to just finding different arrangements and effects it’s a lot to unravel upon initial watch. Burnham used to write for punchline stanzas and now seems to approach music amplifying his messages. The irony and wry humor are still there, it just doesn’t have to chase laughter in order to be applauded.
Maybe it is my admiration for technical photography, but Burnham’s cinematography is worth the price of admission (to the Ferris wheel). The material speaks for itself that it is meticulously crafted but I appreciate Burnham allowing to showcase his workspace and allow the viewer appear peer into his dedication and use of his craft. Even on a lower budget Inside is maybe one of the biggest demonstrations of how to use lightning effectively. It always seems like he’s in control of this tiny space, setting the mood and being able to make every set piece visually distinct. He found some really interesting ways to use his light and his camera and it’s one of the most impressive visual experiences despite being a one-man show. I’m awe-struck.
However, Burnham’s maturity is best on display in how he’s weaved his core message and storytelling throughout the entire special. It’s interesting that “self-awareness does not absolve anybody of anything”, according to Burnham as he seems to have more conjoined and merged his real self and his stage persona. In prior specials it seems the Burnham would detach himself from segments to either break the façade of his egotistical stage presence with his genuine appreciation for his audience and his worries about his own anxieties. I think naturally Burnham has become more Intune with his beliefs and feelings and has a greater ability to address them through his special and paint a larger picture.
Burnham illustrates his own struggle with mental health as the special taking place over the course of lockdown and the pandemic illustrates him ruminating with his own boredom and desire to fill the void. It’s a journey into both self-isolation and the creative process. It’s the “boring segues” of the special but seeing the quite moments of Burnham fiddle with his lighting or watch back footage gives a moment of emphasis on the time and effort that went into the special. Burnham almost portrays the creative process as one that is intimate and lonely. While usually we judge the extroverted and crowd applauding output, rarely do we see the strain and frustration that goes into seeing an idea realized into completion. This goes beyond Burnham himself, which is why he parodies the entire media spectrum, mimicking streamers, to Instagram influencers.
Across all his specials Burnham has almost portrayed a hero’s journey and one that gravely foreshadows demise. Burnham is an interesting character; I think his work has greatly humanized the creators behind the scenes and legitimized mental health concerns and awareness. Burnham is one of the most fascinating creators but with the creation does he details self-destruction. I really do think Burnham displays a level of genius and talent behind his craft that I hope the toll of him to burden himself with the heavily cynical philosophies and painstaking detail isn’t too much for him to continue to handle the self-induced pressure. Though while we might think we now Bo from his deeply personal and self-reflective art it’s best to use it not to judge the creator but the impact that it has on us.
I felt like it was a while since I did a more positive review. I just to share media that I think is distinct or different or that I have something of value to add to the discourse from across the vast internet. Personally, I think Bo Burnham has been one of those inspirations to how I run things around here. It’s hard this time because I’ve allowed more obscure posts to peak into my introspective and thoughts about making content and writing in itself…but I don’t know if I’ve been as contemplative as I usually am. I always look not into just making my posts better but my complete…. output. How do I improve my writings and skills and abilities with each post while also keeping it a matter of the goal of each singular review.
It’s interesting because I started this 4 years ago, and I feel like I always would excuse failure with just being “the new kid on the block” and being younger than a lot of my peers around here that I’m allowed to have growing pains and figure it out. Now I’ve been writing for 4 years, and I’m 23 and I don’t get to be a kid anymore. The thing about doing this, there’s no benchmark for success. How do you determine that you’re doing a good job… you don’t? You write and you just wait to reach a new milestone hoping that will feel like it means something. While you make up false projections of how much views you’re supposed to get year 3 or how much likes you’re supposed to get with your follower size or the constant feeling that your being surpassed by someone new or forgotten by those don’t find you new or interesting as that initial impression.
At the end of the day all you can do is just be proud of what you make and what you get out of it. That I fucking am. The content is short returns, I worked on this video coming out for an entire month and I haven’t even gotten the gratification of releasing it and I already feel like it might as well not exist as I’m trying to figure out what next, I got to do. Make memories and make connections the content is a driving force to find your people and there’s so much space on the internet to exist, carve out a place that feels genuinely you.
That’s why I don’t even consider opening a Patreon or Ko-fi not because I don’t think I produce content up to snuff with some that do I just think I don’t achieve enough of an outreach to achieve a line of consumer. It would feel like trying to extort friends and I don’t want to confront finding a numerical monetary value to consider my content and to an extent myself.
That’s enough catharsis for the day. It’s been a long year in a half, I’m messed up because it felt comforting to not be moving in a direction for a year. You know you’re moving forward but that’s not what direction your heading in. But here for better or worse we keep moving forward. Let’s see where we go.