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A Magazine for Sheffield

Bo Burnham: Inside

Hilarious, intimate and intense, Burnham has produced what will surely become a seminal piece of ‘Covid years’ art. 

Bo burnham inside

During a quiet moment, Bo Burnham holds his head in his hands against a projected sunset, looking like a scared child in a flimsy forest of light rigs and mic stands.

The more we see of the turbulent year and a half of his life as presented to us in Bo Burnham: Inside, the more apt that comparison becomes.

It would be misleading to call Inside a comedy special, since all of Burnham’s signature comedy songs and choreographed visual gags are matched equally by sincere moments of emotion and blunt expressions of his deteriorating mental health.

Inside is a piece of art that exists on the impasse between documentary and stand-up, a project intended to entertain, but one that clearly became a crutch for him during its long and pained production.

As his skin becomes paler and his hair longer, Inside slowly becomes less about the jokes and more about the man telling them. Humorous ditties about unpaid internship and played-out Instagram posts give way to expressions of the same doubt, dread and anxiety felt by millions over the last 18 months.

It’s staggering, as you drink up the creative cinematography and never-ending stream of inspired visuals, to remind yourself that all facets of production were undertaken entirely by Burnham himself.

A candid introductory sequence shows his initial camera adjusting, light tweaking and instruction reading. In hindsight, it becomes clear that this was intended as something of an assertion – a magician showing us exactly how an illusion works, but making us believe in magic nonetheless when we see it performed.

“So long, bye! I'm slowly losing power, has it only been an hour? No, that can't be right,” he sings, after several detours about his struggle to let go of an obsessive project that has kept him company during frightening and uncertain times.

It feels much more like a breakup than a goodbye. A last kiss, not a grand finale. “So long, goodbye! Hey, here's a fun idea: how about I sit on the couch and I watch you next time?”

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Bo Burnham: Inside can be streamed on Netflix.

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