Inside: A Bo Burnham Special

#positiveengagement

By S4LC(29) Wong Sin Hei Hailey

If I were to recommend a person one random thing to watch in the middle of the monotonous days of the Pandemic, it would be the Netflix Special Inside. Without a doubt, this comedy special by Bo Burnham had been one of the most anticipated comedy specials in the history of Netflix after the comedian’s 5-year long hiatus.

Bo Burnham started his career as a comedian on a channel on Youtube, posting his first video back in 2006, a comedy song named “My Whole Family…”. It expresses his frustrations of how his family thinks he is gay from his mannerism and habits when he is, in fact, straight as a stick. The song became an internet sensation and kick-started his career as a singer-songwriter and comedian.

The Plot

The Inside special was written after lockdown took place in the USA. Bo Burnham decided to make a special while being stuck in his home due to Covid-19 running rampant throughout the country. It is one of his first comedy specials in 5 years after performing due to severe panic attacks on stage.

The special itself has interludes between songs that are recordings of Bo Burnham’s process of making the special on his own, rather than filming the entire special in a single performance in one night. Like many of his past specials and songs, they contain themes reflecting on current events or trends. Some interludes also provide a satirical rendition of internet discourse, added with slick pinches of humor. This is the genius in Burnham’s writing.

The Songs

We can split the songs into two big topics: the internet and mental health. The first central theme surrounding this special has songs dedicated to bringing awareness to online topics like parasocial relationships and current Instagram trends. There are a couple of songs in the special that stand out the most.

“FaceTime with my Mom,'' as its title suggests, talks about making FaceTime calls with parents.  It lightly teases people of their frustration when they talk to their not so tech-savvy elderly parents. No doubt many of us can relate to this song and the difficulties that come from our parents or grandparents trying to use technology.

“How the World Works” mocks the children's videos and nursery rhymes on the internet, mimicking their pattern of using the “call and response” verses between the actor and puppets. Burnham uses this to reveal the harsh reality that children are often sheltered from brutal histories like the Holocaust or massacres. These truths will not be told to children to preserve their innocence, and it will end up causing ignorance and discrimination.

“White Women’s Instagram” is a lighthearted jab at current Instagram aesthetics. People post photoshoots of abstract meanings and caption them with quotes or poems, sometimes even wrongly attributed. These seemingly meaningless and bland posts are somehow posts that receive the most attention on the platform.

“Welcome to the Internet” talks about internet culture. There is a wide variety of content on the internet, and there are topics of interest. But with this unrestricted freedom to roam, we also have to be cautious of what and how we explore, as the internet is still a field filled to the brim with landmines. One of the lyrics that stuck out to me the most – “Apathy’s a tragedy and boredom is a crime” – shows how everyone nowadays overreacts over the slightest thing on the internet and his underlying advice is to ignore anything you don’t personally like and move on.

Burnham also spends time focusing on his mental health, particularly with regards to the pandemic. Some songs focus on the difficulty of staying indoors, like “Look Who’s Inside Again” referring to him being confined indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In other songs, we see Burnham struggling to stay sane during his self-isolation. In “30”, Burnham expresses his discontent at how little he feels he has achieved in life. In the special, he actually filmed himself turning 30 to introduce this song in the special. The song reflects Burnham’s fears at getting older and insecurity about how little he has achieved in life compared to others. “All Time Low” continues on this theme, with Burnham speaking into the camera solemnly at first, followed by a stark transition to a catchy jam where he basically vomits out his feelings and how his anxiety has deeply affected his life.

In “Sh*t”, we get an insight into Burhnam’s state of mind as he describes his screwed-up sleep schedule and the monotonous days of staying indoors all day. It’s deeply relatable to many at home, hence why many love this song specifically. Its humorous and catchy tune is sure to become your new earworm.

Towards the end of the album, Burnham addresses the pros and cons of being an entertainer in "All Eyes On Me". He is candid about his difficulties with panic attacks that kept him from performing for 5 years. While it is fun to interact with the audience and possibly make their days better, he also mentions that he uses being the center of attention as a coping mechanism and that it leaves a feeling of futility, whether it be the general control of his life or his privacy.

So Why Should You Watch It?

This is a special that reflects perfectly on our current world situation while emphasizing the importance of our mental health. While it is becoming more common that people put their mental health in a better and focused light, many are still struggling out there with no support or even unhealthy environments for them to properly understand and accept themselves as they are. World issues are everywhere, whether in the news or in daily life. It is crucial we keep a clear head on the field of politics and fight for improvements for everyone’s lives.

I will rate this special a solid 10/10 and recommend anyone who has Netflix to watch it ASAP. But if you don’t have Netflix, there is nothing to worry about because the entire album is also on Spotify, where you can enjoy the tunes on your train ride home or on your way to school. It is a humorous album with an important message and is very easy to understand.