Bo Burnham’s “Inside”: A Comedy Special and Inspirational Experience
The web’s inducements, the ones that reward outrage, excess and sentiment, are the bad guys of this show. In a stunning homage to ‘Cabaret’, Burnham, in sunglasses, takes on the role of the Internet MC, welcoming everyone with a decadent menu of options as the disco lights flutter. It’s a song with dense lyrics with camera work that accelerates with its rhythm. Just as often, the sequencing of Burnham’s shots plays against the meaning of a song, like when he pulls out a glamorous split screen to complete a comedic song on FaceTiming with his mother.
“Inside” is the work of a comic with artistic tools that most of his peers ignore or neglect. Not only has his musical range expanded – his pastiche of styles includes bebop, synth-pop and bouncy show tunes – Burnham, who has previously published a book of poetry, has also become so meticulous and creative. with its visual vocabulary as its language.
Some of the show’s narrative may be overheated with indulgence, playing on clichés about the brooding artist’s process, but Burnham anticipated this and other criticisms, and incorporated them into the special, including the idea that drawing attention to potential flaws corrects them. . “Self-awareness does not absolve anyone from anything,” he says.
True, but it can deepen and clarify the art. “Inside” is a delicate work which, despite crossing borders, ultimately remains a comedy in the spirit of neurotic and self-disgusting stand-up. Burnham poses as a virtue signaling ally with a white savior, tyrant, and selfish complexion who draws a Venn diagram and is in the overlap between Weird Al and Malcolm X. That his special is an internet accusation by an artist whose career was born and flourished there is the ultimate joke.
Burnham dwells on his technical DIY behind the scenes – handling lights, editing, practicing lines. He is disheveled, less and less shaven, with a Rasputin beard. The aesthetic telegraphs authenticity and vulnerability, but the stage’s stunning final shots reveal the wrong direction at work, encouraging skepticism about the performativity of such realism.
Towards the end, he appears completely naked behind his keyboard. It’s a visual that depicts a man exposing himself, until you realize he’s in the spotlight.