Bo Burnham filmed a comedy special in his house and it’s brilliant.
Well, while the rest of us were wasting time inside of our houses or trying to avoid being killed by douchebags sneezing out on the street or maybe just trying not to get shot by our racist neighbors (I’m white, but I didn’t fly a conservative enough flag), Bo Burnham decided to do his first comedy special in five years. He had previously hinted that he might never do another one because he was getting a lot of panic attacks performing for an audience, but I guess he used this opportunity to change that. While this special is massively different from any of his previous shows, particularly in that Bo was forced to shoot, write, and edit this entire thing all on his own, it is no less brilliant and insightful than his previous specials. It starts off with him questioning whether he should even do comedy when the world is in such a state, then justifies it (and admits, repeatedly, that he’s going to get paid a lot for this), then proceeds to deal with all of the feelings of isolation, social unrest, and dealing with the constant self-reflection that accompanies living with yourself for a long period of time. Also, a lot of the dark thoughts that come from self-reflection.
Bo Burnham is a genius of the highest order and I think if I met him in person I would attempt to eat his brain just to acquire his power. I know that almost certainly doesn’t work, but you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right? Unlikely cannibalism aside, Bo Burnham is amazing in his ability to constantly tell you the truth that you likely already knew and then confront you with the fact that you knew it but constantly act like you don’t. I mean, it’s not like you aren’t aware that the wealthy control corrupt politicians and use them to set up a system which supports them both and makes it almost impossible to stop them. It’s just that we try to ignore that we live in a horrible broken system and instead focus on people being wrong on the internet. Burnham has an uncanny ability to show you that you’re being dishonest with yourself by being punishingly honest and empathetic. During a mostly mocking song about white women’s Instagram accounts, he seems to almost pause and reshuffle the movie in order to present an honest message from a woman who is trying to write a message to her dead mother. Like most of Burnham’s work, these tonal shifts serve to try and keep the audience engaged and introspective. Since he’s not having to deal with a real audience, they are even more jarring here.
The quality of the special really does speak to Burnham’s ability to direct. Aside from writing and directing the great movie Eighth Grade, Burnham has been directing other comedians’ specials during his hiatus from stand-up. Also, of course, he appeared in the film Promising Young Woman, which tried to confront and challenge viewers similar to Burnham’s comedy (albeit from a different perspective). The directing not only allows Burnham to better time his comedic shifts and to fully emphasize the isolation of the experience, but also helps to promote part of the point of the movie. This film has an underlying theme of depersonalization and derealization (a term he uses at one point) arising from the isolation, both of which are about capturing the feeling of being outside of your own body and looking at yourself. At several points he tries to illustrate this by having himself comment on videos of his own performances or “stream” his own life, but this becomes even more meta when you realize that he had to edit himself doing all of these things. He had to sit down and film himself talking about observing himself externally and then watch that footage and make it funny. It somehow again adds to the sincerity of what he’s talking about.
Overall, this is one of the best comedy specials I’ve ever seen. It somehow perfectly captures the surreal nature of the past year and also hits on so many universal truths about the human condition that much of it will be timeless. It’s brilliant.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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