CAIRO –25 July 2017: If you visit Boburnham.com the question “Are you happy?” will appear with two simple, yet complicated, choices beneath it: Yes or No. Based on your answer, the site will direct you to one of two pages.
His website can be seen as a sort of metaphor for Bo Burnham’s work; you can always see his work the way you want and either be happy or be willing to take a deeper look into his comedy. Bo is a writer, actor, singer, comedian, poet and rapper that first introduced himself to the world through his YouTube channel in 2006.
Through his writing and performing of witty, entertaining, well constructed and funny hip-hop songs, Bo dealt with issues such as bullying, body image, society and existence. To date, his YouTube channel has had more than 200 million views within 11 years.
Bo Burnham – Wikimedia commons/Phil Provencio
By the time he was 20-years-old Bo already had an agent, a four-year deal with Central Comedy Records, released two albums, co-created and starred in MTV’s “Zach Stone is gonna be famous” and had his first comedy special “Words, Words, Words.”
The special, which aired on the U.S. cable TV network Comedy Central, was described in The Boston Globe as "simultaneously wholesome and disturbing, intimate in a folksy-creepy sort of way."
As his audience rapidly grew he would go on to release his third album and star in a second comedy special titled “What” that would be released on his YouTube channel and Netflix in 2013.In June 2016, his third special “Make Happy” was released exclusively on Netflix.
After this, Bo suggested in an interview with TCNJ Lions Television’s YouTube channel that he may not produce art in this medium any longer.“I am not lying when I say it’s a very good possibility I don’t do it [stand-up comedy] anymore.”
If you concentrate on the four big banners behind Bo in his first special “Words Words Words” you would find every joke and song performed that night was on the banners, including many songs that his fans already knew from YouTube.
It was like Bo was enthusiastically compiling the best of his work and more, literally showing his cards to the audience. Even if the special was presented in a very organized manner, it was not as well organized as the next special, which took him 3 years to write, direct and memorize every que of speech, light and dance move, all that while having a theme with many hidden messages and unexpected surprises.
When watching his second special “What” the show gives a feeling of a full fledged play with a plot, acts and themes. The show closed beautifully through a song called “We think we know you.”
The song was a combination of three voices: that of a girl superficially judging him, an agent who wants him to modify his work to be similar to what everyone else is doing and sell more copies, and a guy telling him fame changed him. With that song Bo left many indications that performing was starting to feel less fun than before.
In his third and last special “Make Happy” Bo appeared to be leaving people with the wisdom gained from his short, but very fruitful stand-up career. Within 10 years Bo had accomplished what many comedians seek and fail, he came from YouTube to having comedy specials and selling records, but at what cost?
Bo started revealing the real truth behind the entertainment industry through his first non-comedic song “Art is dead” which he developed over the years and played in “What.”, a song in which he not only criticizes show business, but also admits he does not deserve all the attention he receives.
These messages would culminate in his speech “Live your life without an audience” in his last special, in which he tries to convince people that attention seeking is something they have been programmed to desire and is nothing more than a scheme companies came up with to make money off of people. He confessed to people that achieving the dream of fame and endless attention is not as satisfying as it would seem.
After starting his career as an entertainer more than ten years ago seeking only people’s approval and happiness, he ends his last special with a song called “Can’t handle this.
” The song seems very surreal at the beginning as he starts by mocking Kanye West’s extravagant style yet at the same time using that very same style to deliver his message.
The song starts with him complaining about a couple of things that seem too trivial but even so, if you concentrate and try to look at those things closely, it would appear like he has a really sad hidden meaning.
The song slowly starts to make more sense as he begins to shout the words “I don’t think that I can handle this right now.”
After literally screaming from the top of his lungs, a scream that broke the heart of anyone who saw how he developed over the years, Bo ends the show by saying “I hope you’re happy” and dropping the microphone before he leaves the stage for good.
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