Bo Burnham’s Inside: Almost A Year Later

Inside poster.
Courtesy of Wikipedia

“Inside” poster. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Alexander Blaide, Reporter

     After a five-year break following his Make Happy tour, comedian and singer Bo Burnham surprised everyone with his out of the blue special Inside. The now Emmy-winning special has a fascinating concept: A full comedy special filmed within Burnham’s guest house, alone without a crew, all throughout his 2020 quarantine. The special debuted on Netflix on May 31, 2021 and I had watched that summer, not really paying attention because I was traveling at the time, so I was easily distracted. I rewatched it again in Seattle and had a much better time.

     The special, as mentioned before, was Burnham all by himself during his quarantine. He explains to his camera that he wanted to challenge himself by shooting his own special. He wrote, directed, and edited all of that special. The special covers a wide variety of topics from Internet culture, old material, and his anxiety, which we’ll talk about later on. It has no real “plot” or transitions from segment to segment, something he comments on earlier in a joke where as soon as he comments on the not-so-smooth transitions, it immediately cuts to a new song. A lot of the special is like that and things are edited in where you wouldn’t expect them. It can be jarring for some, but definitely sets it apart from other specials in that sense.

Bo during one of the talking segments of his special.
Courtesy of IMDB

     In what flows like a found footage film, we see Bo perform a whole bunch of new comedy songs, including How The World Works, White Woman’s Instagram, and Content. We see the perfectionist in Bo as he painstakingly sets up every shot to be perfect, choosing the perfect lighting or measuring the distance between him and the camera. Other times during the special, we see him reviewing his footage, editing the music videos, or recording a whole song in one take and saying, “One more.” At the end of the special, we see a montage of him setting up different shots, setting things up to what I believe are just a few seconds before the final shot we see earlier in the special. 

     The music is all great, which is to be expected from him. It sets something up and right at the last second, you’re pulled into a whole new point of view about that topic. Take Welcome to the Internet for example. The song starts light hearted and sounds almost like a carnival of wonder. As the song progresses, it gets more and more fast, each line getting worse and worse as you realize how for all the good the internet does, there’s just as much, if not more, bad on it. The final song Goodbye is great because it takes all the motifs of the previous songs and puts them into tone song, a culmination of what would become over a year’s worth of work for him.

     I mentioned his anxiety. The reason Bo took his break was because of crippling anxiety. He’s talked about in the past on various podcasts and interviews how he would start having panic attacks while performing. He still did stuff during his break, including directing Chris Rock: Tamborine in 2018, his film Eighth Grade  releasing the same year. As the special continues, you can see how it starts to wear down on him. He sets up a scene to talk about his work only to storm off in frustration and anger. Another scene shows him staring into a mirror and stating he isn’t well. As soon as he gets the word “well” out, Bo breaks down sobbing. The piece of music that everyone knows from the special is the song All Eyes on Me. All Eyes on Me is a hauntingly beautiful song where he distorts his own voice and pretends he’s before a crowd with fake applause and laughing sound effects. People much smarter than me theorize that throughout the song, Bo is portraying the anxiety and depression that crippled him all those years ago. In the song he explained how in January of 2020, Bo planned on returning to the stage and then “the funniest thing happened.”

Bo Burnham performing “All Eyes On Me”
Courtesy of IMDB

It’s an incredible song that has to be seen to be understood. After the song, and during the finale, Goodbye, we see Bo watching a projection of his special. At the last second, the corners of his mouth turn to a slight smile at what he’s made.

     This special is truly deserving of its Emmy awards and all the great things said about it. It’s not something you can just hop in on the middle of. You have to commit to watching this thing and be prepared to wanting to watch it again. I bet that this special will go down in history because of its impact on people.