Bo Burnham: Inside Review

Recently, I’ve sliced a portion of my face off in a freak shaving accident. I made the mistake of squirting aftershave into the cut, spilt orange juice in there, and also the sugar of several cocktails all forced their way into the open gash present on my face. I have burnt my face off, suffered through debilitating migraines, been bedridden with scarlet fever, lost my hearing, and had a kick to the jaw that, when I chew food, still clicks from time to time. All of those experiences put together are more fun than the latest stand-up special from Bo Burnham, Inside 

His comedy is not my cup of tea, but I can appreciate artists who, while their delivery and style are different to mine, can be at least rewarding to understand. Much to my chagrin, I do admit that the effective nature of Peter Kay is a strong one, as are the effects of Russell Howard and Jon Richardson. All fine comedians with types of comedy I do not go for, but am not wholly dismayed by the experience. Burnham utilises autotune and vocoder effects. That is his humour. Wouldn’t it be funny if something banal, bland or unkind were said with a Daft Punk-style synthesizer note? That much was true for What, and it blew a fuse in my mind. It is frustrating because once you strip away the shtick, there is nothing there. His comedy appeals to a certain demographic and said demographic like Burnham because he displays what they think they are. Awkward introverts with talent to spare.  

You are not. Nor am I. Burnham certainly isn’t. His style of comedy within Inside is just a more stripped back version. He strips down to his undergarments, plays with lights, and generally has the same broad message as popular comedians, but without the experiences or tongue-in-cheek joviality necessary to carrying them as funny skits or bits. There is something ironic about a man criticising capitalism and the post-culture bubble whilst presenting it on the biggest streaming platform around. It lacks that bite or edge to it that would make such criticisms either worthwhile or engaging. But that is the appeal of Burnham. If you’re not laughing at his shoddy, modern jokes then you’re listening to what he has to say. I’m not quite sure which would be worse. 

The leading issue is that Burnham clearly has some skills in setting the scene and finding his way around a limiting space, but Inside does not give much creativity in that space. “Sorry my hair is a mess,” he croons in the opening, synthetic number. It is bland and not that interesting a point or topic, just an observation he has made about himself, one that he will sing of time and time again. He has found his niche and is sticking to his guns very closely. Without his music, Burnham has little to offer to the realm of stand-up, and the music is grating to me. I’m worried I’ll lose my hearing again.  

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