Bo Burnham’s ‘Inside’: A Comedy Special And An Inspired Experiment

The incentives of the web, those that reward outrage, excess and sentiment, are the villains of this show. In a dizzying tribute to “Cabaret,” Burnham, wearing sunglasses, plays the Internet MC, welcoming everyone with a decadent menu of options as the disco lights twirl. It’s a lyrically dense song with chamber work accelerating with its beat. Just as often, Burnham’s shot sequencing works against the meaning of a song, as when he opens a glamorous splitscreen to complement a comic song about FaceTiming with his mother.

“Inside” is the work of a comic with artistic tools that most of his colleagues ignore or overlook. Not only has his musical range expanded (his pastiche of styles includes bebop, synth-pop, and lively show tunes), Burnham, who once published a book of poems, has also become so meticulous and creative with his vocabulary. visual as their language.

Some of the show’s narrative can overheat indulgently, becoming cliches about the haunting artist process, but Burnham has anticipated this and other criticisms, and integrated them into the special, including the idea that drawing attention to potential flaws the solution to. . “Self-awareness does not absolve anyone of anything,” he says.

True, but it can deepen and clarify the art. “Inside” is a deceptive work that, despite its border crossing, remains in the end a comedy with the spirit of neurotic stand-up and self-loathing. Burnham punctures himself as a virtue-signaling ally with a white savior complex, a bully, and an egotist who draws a Venn diagram and stands at the overlap between Weird Al and Malcolm X. That his special is an indictment. of the Internet by an artist whose career was born and flourished there is the definitive joke.

Burnham lingers on his technical tinkering behind the scenes: managing lights, editing, practicing lines. He is scruffy, increasingly unshaven, with a Rasputin-like beard. The aesthetic conveys authenticity and vulnerability, but the special’s impressive final shots reveal misdirection at work, furthering skepticism about the performativity of such realism.

Towards the end, he appears completely naked behind his keyboard. It is an image that means that a man exposes himself, until you realize that he is in the spotlight.

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