Our Take: 3 Stars
Being quarantined inside for weeks or months on end during the Covid-19 pandemic left humanity with the inescapable task of coping with boredom.
While some picked up a new skill and others binge-watched Netflix, Bo Burnham made a stand-up comedy special in his living room.
Written, edited, shot and directed by the 30-year old American comedian in his Los Angeles home, “Inside” pokes fun at the chaos of the world through song and a touch of dark humor.
When “Inside” was released on Netflix on May 30, 2021, Burnham’s fans were pleasantly surprised.
Just five years ago, the comedian had publicly announced he had given up doing live shows because of panic attacks, so the release of a comedy special was an unexpected and exciting step for Burnham.
Before his stand-up career, Burnham was a successful Youtuber who made at-home comedy videos, so filming and editing DIY-style was a familiar realm for him.
Throughout the special, Burnham shows off his impressive lighting and editing skills, with funky light fixtures and effects that give the special a unique artistic feel that is unusual for the stand-up genre.
Beyond his skills behind the camera, Burnham also proves himself to be a talented musician and songwriter.
Rather than telling jokes directly at the camera to mimic speaking to an audience, Burnham takes a spin on the classic nature of live stand-up by turning his jokes into a series of mini music videos.
The entire special centers around the question of “Should I be joking at a time like this?” and tells the story of a comedian on a mission to “heal the world with comedy.”
It also describes Burnham’s personal struggle with the agony of being trapped at home for so long.
With the help of his electric piano and a bit of autotune, Burnham creates a variety of songs ranging from synth-pop to children’s show tunes that are each clever and entertaining in their own way.
Whether it be about awkward sexting, Jeff Bezos or Facetiming your mom, Burnham’s songs are hilariously relevant and appeal to Millennial and Gen-Z humor alike.
Burnham also has a fair share of dark humor sprinkled throughout the special, which may be too intense for younger or sensitive audiences.
Some major themes of “Inside” are depression, suicide, existentialism and how messed up the world is.
In one of his songs explaining to kids how the world works, he has a Marxist sock puppet named Socko explain the faults of capitalist society.
He makes numerous suicide references and jokes about how this special is the only thing keeping him from shooting himself in the head and how the internet is ruining our lives.
He also records himself living the last few minutes of his twenties all alone in the dark while counting down to his 30th birthday in despair.
Between songs are candid clips of Burnham setting up his light fixtures, adjusting camera angles or simply laying down in exhaustion.
His hair and facial hair also get noticeably longer as the show goes on, and his appearance becomes increasingly disheveled.
By the end of the special, Burnham is a completely different man— a comic once motivated and excited to help the world is now hopelessly exhausted as the pandemic (and his new project) never seem to end.
Though how much of Burnham’s apparent struggles on camera were authentic is definitely in question, his willingness to show vulnerability throughout the special makes it appealing to real, everyday people.
The pandemic offered a unique sense of universal struggle that united people across the world, and Burnham wanted to do his part by offering the world something to lighten the load.