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This is Bo Burnham.
Bo Burnham is a comedian/social commentator. He looks like a slightly dorky, good-looking guy you met in your classes in college. He was probably going into some science field or programming. Either way, he never looked at you strangely if you mentioned you played D&D; he’d probably even tell you about his own character. He did just fine in his classes and was always ready with a fun quip. He made everyone feel good and was actually quite insightful about the relationships of others around you. He was just a good guy and everyone liked him, even if not everyone got his dorky and sometimes dark sense of humor.
In real life, Bo Burnham is around 30 years old now. He’s been doing the comedy, parody-song-thing for the last 10 years or so. He’s done remarkably well at it, all told, and has been all over the country. He has a niche following.
During the Great Ongoing Pandemic of the 2020s, he decided to release a Netflix special after five years away from the stage.
It was the Pandemic. He looked a bit…different.
Really, he ended up looking like all of us and feeling, well, about like all of us did during the lockdowns.
But unlike many of us, he’d already been locked down. During the previous 5 years, he had been suffering from panic disorder and severe anxiety that impaired him to the point that he could not perform.
After those five years away, lots of therapy, and good social support, he scheduled a date for a new show.
Then the pandemic hit.
It was all over. Everything was for naught.
Or was it? He took the opportunity to produce Inside, a special for Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, please do. While not all of it will be your cup of tea (he’s not particularly conservative), it does provide interesting commentary on being alone, virtual social lives, our personas on the internet, fame, family, and what the future holds.
Most significantly, he wrote a song called “All Eyes on Me.” This song was intended to be a parody of hype songs like Kanye West’s. Fake audience applause and auto-tune is piled onto the track. Well known for his mid-song free-flowing diatribes on whatever took his fancy at that moment, Kanye has been roundly mocked online. This time, though, it was a thoughtful parody. What started as a fun take on hype songs and Kanye’s megalomaniacal verbal effusions turned serious, the lyrics no longer just a reflection of the vapid “get your hands up” tracks on so many pop albums.
Burnham moves the song into the territory of isolation, self-congratulation, and self-loathing while considering just how much people might really know about one’s life versus their perceptions of one’s carefully constructed stage character. Performed by himself with only the sounds of an audience, he sings this track to hype exactly no one. The lighting and staging perfectly demonstrates the ridiculous nature of these tracks.
If you have never heard it, listen here. It is NSFW due to language. After 10 months, it has almost 24 million views. With good reason, the song is something of an anthem for the introspection during the worst parts of the lockdown.
Other YouTube creators, such as Malinda (a primarily folk artist), covered the song in such a way as is chilling.
It slows the track even more, removes the monologue, and allows the song’s emotion to take over. If you have not heard it, you should. Her voice is hauntingly beautiful normally and illustrates just how parody has sadly become reality while we were all in isolation.
Just a little something that I was thinking about today and thought that perhaps other folks might enjoy.Published in