I’m a fan of standup comedy — and Bo Burnham’s new Netflix special “Inside” is on a different level.
I’ve been watching standup comedy for years. I’ve watched comedians like Lewis Black, Bert Kreischer, Jeff Foxworthy, Ali Wong, Chelsea Handler, Patton Oswalt and Iliza Shlesinger. When “Inside” came along again at the end of May, Bo Burnham’s name was not unfamiliar to me. What was unusual was the fact that I haven’t heard that name since 2016, when Bo Burnham released a special called “Make Happy” on Netflix. Before that, I had also watched his special “what.” when it was released in 2013. This, however, was a different Burnham.
When two friends suggested I watch “Inside” in the same week, I was suspicious. Although I was a long-term standup comedy fan, I hadn’t been fond of either of Burnham’s previous specials and despite the personal recommendations, I was hesitant to give it a chance.
Boy, was I proved wrong.
Burnham’s special was something different. The former YouTube star produced a special that was simultaneously vivid entertainment and a blunt political dissection of the world around us — tackling heavy topics such as corporate social responsibility, white privilege, suicide, the domination of white men in the comedic industry and the intricacies of internet etiquette. All in one room, Burnham created one of the most dynamic film pieces I’ve ever seen. This special featured a mastery of color, editing, allusion and lighting. It was clear that the comedian had grown up and grown more into himself. He was a completely different man than the one that sat before us on the screen 10 years ago.
His special wasn’t just entertaining — it was gut-wrenchingly honest. While comedians often spill their heart out on stage, Burnham managed to accomplish this in a whole new light. In a movie-length special composed in parts as if it was a video journal with glimpses of everyday life and of his hardest struggles, he talks about mental illness in ways that are horrifyingly familiar to those of us who experience them. Most prominently featured is Burnham’s agoraphobia during COVID-19, the pandemic that rocked the world. His honesty about the mental brutality that came with staying indoors was all too familiar and it will stand as a lasting testament to the mental health epidemic that haunted the globe. The comedian also opened up about how mental illness tore him away from his comedic career after he started to have anxiety attacks on stage, bringing some of his trauma to the light of the stage.
Burnham produced songs that had me laughing and rushing to text my friends, songs that made my chest ache, and songs that had my jaw dropping in sheer shock. The range in one special was impressive and there wasn’t a single performance that I considered a fail.
Bo Burnham’s new special is a satirical masterpiece and a pleasing musical experience all at the same time, and you’re missing out if you don’t give it a chance.