It’s official, Bo Burnham has lost his mind and possibly gone insane, literally. Or perhaps metaphorically, who knows, only he does. Or, he’s actually a genius – an argument can be made for both possibilities.In his newest special, Inside, a metaphor for both taking place inside what looks to be an isolated studio apartment consisting of 4 walls and very little sunlight in the middle of who knows where and taking place inside his own head, is a deep dive of a persons mental psyche during the longest year of anyone’s life living today – the year the world stopped, 2020.
Not one single person on the planet was unaffected by the global pandemic, celebrities included. Inside is technically a comedy special but acts more like a mental breakdown of someone who’s over the edge because of the restrictions put in place over the course of a year. Burnham starts off hopeful in his isolation from the rest of the population but as the special presses forward, his mental health deteriorates going from bad to worse to borderline suicidal. How much of it is actual mental illness compared to a performance, there is no telling from the viewers vantage point, but it all feels natural as his mentality is what every single person has felt this past year and half.
Luckily, the end is in sight, millions of vaccinations have been given, social distancing mandates are changing, and states are “opening back up” – if only 2020 Bo Burnham knew things would change for the better. But he doesn’t and Inside is his brain child. Shot, directed, composed, edited, written all by Bo himself, this break from reality gave him the opportunity to express how a lot of people were feeling. And though this is a comedy special, there is no audience to be on the receiving end of his jokes when he says them, well rather, when he sings them. A bit unorthodox but not the first time a comedy special hasn’t had an audience, though Bo does have the laugh track at his disposal to calm the insanity a bit.
No topic is off limits – that’s the best thing about comedy. Bo doesn’t hold back in his unique way of delivering his message to the masses in 87 minutes. Each song, which are all brilliant in their own right, are relatable whether its facetiming with your mom or praising the man god Jeffery Bezos or just saying you feel like shit over and over for a minute straight. We all felt like shit this past year – being locked in the house with nowhere to go isolated from friends and family – who didn’t have a mental breakdown? While Bo created this special which is a masterpiece, the pandemic allowed people to go out and create things, start a hobby, binge entire series and so on.
Each song in Inside has comedic lines that are insanely relatable to real life like White Girl Instagram but some of the funniest moments come when each scene transitions to the next. The abruptness of the disruption with how Bo edited this special come out of nowhere which stirs up some anticipation for the next one, Bo keeps the viewer on their toes with what insanity comes next.
Musically, Bo Burnham can write one hell of a song. Each tune is unexpectedly catchy which, I can admit, I have earworms because of these songs as I write this. The songs themselves aren’t long but it’s the lyrics that standout the most paired with the visuals. While some lyrics are light and comedic, some are dark and depressing – dealing with the struggle of feeling trapped with nothing to do but think, neglect basic functions and sleep. Song topics range from white privilege of Bo talking to a sock to social media to relationships and depression. All of it is an exploration of the society we live in and how its evolved in this new era.
While the comedy is at the center of the special, Bo attacks the profession of a comedian – toeing the line of parody and satire and sometimes hypocrisy. The satire and parody portions stick the landing the way its intended whether Bo is reacting to a video of himself reacting to the video of himself reacting (3/4 of all youtubers these days) or playing an immersive game on a Twitch feed of himself walking around and crying 4 separate times. Bo in his hypocrisy mentions his career path with doing stand up and taking a break because of the panic attacks and anxiety he felt on stage yet here he is creating comedy.
Bo Burnham: Inside is the comedy special we needed as we transition out of the pandemic no one expected. Even within this special we get to witness Bo turn 30 for a solid minute of waiting for the clock to strike 12 am. Remember when the politicians said this wouldn’t last more than a month? And then we all had a quarantine birthday and lost a year of our lives. To see him go from optimism about the undertaking of the project to skeptical he will even finish to the paranoia that has taken over his well-being is heartbreaking. Every emotion is raw and unfiltered, you can sympathize with Bo when he breaks down because we lived it, we all lived in this nightmare separately yet together.
We all need a little bit of comedy to distract us from everyday life, this special is perfect for that. It’s a way to look back on the year that passed and laugh at how abysmal it was while also saying its ok if you’re depressed or have suicidal thoughts because you’re not the only one and you have people who love you and will potentially love you in the future. Don’t do anything stupid just watch Bo Burnham sing a song to a sock puppet about the geopolitical climate.
Bo Burnham: Inside is written, composed, shot, edited and directed by Bo Burnham is unrated and has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Bo Burnham: Inside was released on May 30, 2021 in the United States and has a runtime of 1 hour and 27 minutes. Bo Burnham: Inside can be seen on Netflix. 4.5 out of 5.