What Can We Expect From The New Bo Burnham Special?

Comedian, musician, actor, screenwriter, director, poet, and self-styled “greatest rapper ever” Bo Burnham

With no fanfare, comedian, musician, actor, screenwriter, director, poet, and self-styled “greatest rapper ever” Bo Burnham announced on Twitter that he had “almost finished” a new special, titled Inside. Attached to the Tweet was a clip that continued from exactly where he last left off, with Burnham playing the piano at the end of his last comedy special, 2016’s Make Happy.

Okay, perhaps this wasn’t exactly where he last left off. In fact, the 30-year-old Burnham has had an immensely successful few years since then—just not in stand-up comedy. His most recent outing was a dramatic role in Oscar-winning drama Promising Young Woman, and before that he wrote and directed the excellent coming-of-age film Eighth Grade, which was released to critical acclaim in 2018.

A return to comedy after silver screen success isn’t exactly unheard of, of course. Nevertheless, fans of Burnham’s wacky-yet-profound stand-up interspersed with catchy musical numbers are bound to be excited for a new special after five years without.

So, what can we expect from Inside? As a fan of both Burnham’s stand-up specials and his film work, I have a few predictions.

A whole lot of introspection

Of course, with the special being filmed entirely by Burnham “alone, without a crew or an audience”, it seems reasonable to speculate that its content is likely to lean on the introspective side. 

Over the course of Burnham’s comedy career his material has always been self-referential and touched on his own arrogance and insecurities. From his beginnings as a teen YouTuber (one of the first viral stars on the platform) in his bedroom singing self-penned, pun-filled songs about math problems and his family questioning his sexuality, to his later sold-out sets which turned things more existential.

It seems fair to assume that, after a year cooped up indoors, the new show will include plenty of self-observation. Will this mean reflecting on his recent cinematic successes and the concept of fame, or simply delving even deeper into everyday bugbears like the diameter of Pringles cans? If Burnham’s past work is anything to go by, we can probably expect a bit of both.

A more mature outlook 

Considering Burnham’s public journey from smirking schoolboy to cultural commentator (Eighth Grade rightfully won praise for its sensitive and accurate exploration of a young girl’s struggles with body image, consent, and self-esteem), we can probably expect Burnham to explore the new special’s themes thoughtfully.

The circumstances of Inside’s creation, and the mysterious shot in the promo clip of a newly-bearded Burnham, make themes of isolation and mental health almost certain to appear. Of course, this being a Bo Burnham comedy special, we can expect every #deep and weighty theme to be balanced with no shortage of gags.

Plenty of new songs

The promo clip’s usage of the unusually-earnest piano ballad “Are You Happy”, the end to Make Happy and to Burnham’s original decade-long run of comedy before his hiatus, seems to suggest him picking things up on the sombre note he left on. However, after Burnham glances at the camera and gives us a smile, the jaunty synth-pop that enters suggests at least a partial return to the playful nature of most of his songs.

Alongside Tim Minchin (another piano-playing stand-up who has made the shift to serious work in the last few years), Burnham is one of the most accomplished musical comedians of the 21st Century. With a year inside to work on his craft, the chances of him returning without at least a few new tunes under his belt are slim to none!

After half a decade of fruitful work in film, it seems fitting that Bo Burnham is returning to exactly what he made his name doing—playing songs in front of a camera in his house to make people laugh. With the added benefit of fifteen years of comedy (and life) experience this time, we can expect great things. 

Words by Dan Knight

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