Film & TV reviews·Geen categorie

Bo Burnham: what. – Comedy show review

I watched this show for the first time a couple of years ago, rewatched it today, and decided to write a little something about it, because here’s the thing:
I love comedy and I think a lot of comedians are great, but Bo Burnham might well be my absolute favourite. When I first saw what. I was blown away by the sheer talent and brilliance of the then only 22-year-old comedian. I marvelled at this work of art he’d managed to create and I still marvel at it.

The show starts in a very theatrical and strange way. It’s… a lot, and it will either draw you in or turn you off. In my case, it kind of turned me off a bit, because I thought it wasn’t the type of comedy I would be into, but at the same time the chaotic mess made me curious and kept me watching, and boy, I’m glad I kept watching.

Bo uses songs, poetry, pre-recorded voices, lighting effects, silly humour, dirty humour, and humour that makes you think. All reasons why I think this isn’t any other stand-up comedy show, but an actual work of art.

He tells the audience he’s going to sing a song about all the sad stuff in the world and says: “Just picture a depressed onion cutting itself.” Then he sings about a homeless man called Rich, a diabetic kid trick or treating, and other silly things like that, only to end it realizing that laughter is the way to solve all the sadness in the world and by singing: “Tragedy will be exclusively joked about, because my empathy is bumming me out.”

The ‘Left Brain, Right Brain’ bit is a very well put together piece about Bo’s left and right brain being at war. It is the prick (the left brain: objective, logical, analytical) versus the idiot (the right brain: subjective, creative, sensory). Bo’s left and right brain get into an argument through song, blaming each other for messing Bo up, and eventually realize they might be able to fix Bo and make him happy by doing comedy together.

At one point Bo tells the audience he doesn’t want them to think that he thinks he’s better than people or that he knows better than people, only to follow that up with saying: “Anyway, this is a song from the perspective of God.”
This song is one of his best.
Bo states that people of all religions argue with each other all the time about the truth about God, but no one stops to think that maybe God does not believe in us people.
And if we want love than we shouldn’t be looking at God to give it to us, but the love has got to come from ourselves, and maybe, if we try, life on earth could be Heaven.

The end of the show is magnificent. I could watch the clip of just that one bit over and over again and never get tired of it.
It’s about three people approaching Bo: a former classmate pretending they used to be best friends now that Bo is famous, an agent from LA who wants to recruit Bo and has all kinds of tips about how he should change in order to take his career to the next level, and a random guy accusing Bo of having changed ever since he got famous even though he never knew him.
It then goes into a bit where you hear certain lines of those three people on repeat and Bo controls the repeats by miming with his fingers (I can’t think of a better way to explain this).
The random guy ends up saying “we think you’ve changed, bro”, followed by the agent saying “we know best”, and the classmate saying “you suck”. This repeats itself a couple of times, until Bo cuts off the sentences and it becomes a repeat forming the sentence: “We think we know you.”
The silence of the audience in that moment is amazing.
It then turns into a full-on theatrical music piece with light effects and Bo miming instruments. It is truly mind-blowing.

In this day and age it’s hard to make jokes without receiving backlash. It seems that pretty much everything can be seen as racist, homophobic, unfeminist, transphobic, etc. if you only look hard enough.
You could get easily offended at some of the things Bo says and does in this show. He recites a poem called ‘I fuck sluts’ filled with sexist language, uses the word ‘faggot’ multiple times, and uses the Hitler salute, but, like Ricky Gervais said in his show Humanity, what matters is the context of the joke. And Bo always manages to do it in the right context. His jokes are thought provoking rather than anger provoking. He probably does cross some lines, but in a good way.

I genuinely feel that this is a comedy show you should have seen or at the very least given a try. The show is available on YouTube and if you really don’t feel like watching the entire show, consider watching the clips ‘We Think We Know You’, ‘From God’s Perspective’, or ‘Left Brain, Right Brain’. They are definitely worth watching.

Absolutely 5 out of 5 stars.

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