Revision

When I first finished writing my paper on Bo Burnham, I was extremely happy with the results. I thought that I executed the idea of Bo and his complex story well. Not to mention that I was able to spend several hours of my time watching him and his comedy shows while also being able to brag about the amount of ‘research’ that I did. However, after revisiting my writing after a healthy period of time, I realized that there were several issues with the essay.

First: The title was kind of boring. It was too short and it didn’t have enough impact when you read it. I decided to lengthen it a bit, and include a reference to his last name for clarity.

Second: The start of my first paragraph had too much confusion in it. I realized that I did not specify what was making the voice and it seemed like Bo was singing those lines. In addition, I tried to do something cute and emulate the way the joke played out in his show. Part of the joke was the delayed delivery of the final line, and I tried to showcase this by interjecting it into the normal prose. But this was really weird to read, so I toned it back and settled for ellipses.

Third: I added a paragraph between what used to be the second and third paragraphs. This new paragraph’s purpose was to further illustrate the type of comedy that was explained in the previous paragraph. It also helps to smoothen the transition between the second and third paragraphs because it shows how unconventional his style of comedy is, something which the third paragraph makes reference too.

Fourth: I added two paragraphs between what used to be the sixth and seventh paragraphs. These two paragraphs were added to provide more context for Bo’s decision on his future as well as going into more depth as to what it means for his career and why he might have made that choice. The most difficult part of adding these two paragraphs was ensuring I did disrupt the flow that I had going. I was a fan of the way the sixth paragraph led into the seventh paragraph and I had to be sure to try and match that in my new paragraphs. While I don’t think I quite matched it, I think the transition from talking about Bo’s problems to talking about Kanye’s is adequate.

Final Draft

Changes in bold

BO: are you happy?

Mr. Burnham’s attempts at doing his job

“This comedy is brought to you in part by…” an unremarkable robotic voice blasts to Bo’s audience as he sits at his piano, looking annoyed, “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.” Before you know it, a rock band is playing and the man in the speaker system starts screaming out his appreciation for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos / They’re like regular Cheetos but they’re flamin’ hot / Normal Cheetos are for pussies / But Flamin’ Cheetos are not.” … “For Pussies that is.” Immediately succeeding the jarring display of edginess, Bo comes clean and admits that Flamin’ Hot Cheetos do not currently sponsor him, but that he is working on it. While this little bit is both funny, and over the top in just the right amounts, what really ties it together is the joke that follows. As Bo is setting up for his next song, he takes a sip from his label-less water bottle, and comments that “nothing tastes better than not getting sued.”

Bo’s style of comedy is not one that is popular with mainstream comedians. Where most ultra-famous comedians talk of things that annoyed or inconvenienced them, Bo’s jokes are often cynical, satirical, and blindingly meta, all at the same time. Where most comedian’s crux is a style of raw charisma, where they will mostly tell stories in a way that is designed to elicit a laugh, Mr. Burnham relies heavily on his pre-planned, theatrical approach. A style where everything is planned out and not a single second goes to waste. You can tell, even just from how the lighting lines up with the jokes, that the amount of work that was poured into a single show must have been gargantuan.

In terms of the content that they preach, an obvious inspiration for Bo was George Carlin. When Bo listed his favorite comedians, the very first name that he wrote down, before the likes of Zach Galifianakis, Louis CK, or Steve Martin, was the ever so lovely George Carlin. When talking about Carlin, Bo describes him as “a real hero of mine. A philosopher, poet, revolutionary, clown — he covered so much ground and, most impressive to me, he evolved so dramatically over his career.” Bo’s use of black comedy, or his ability to make light on topics that are usually seen as taboo, clearly echoes Carlin’s. Bo Burnham is able to performs songs about how god must see humans, how art is dead and is being bastardized for the sole purpose of sustaining the entertainment industry, and how the pop industry utilizes children’s desires to love famous music stars in order to fuel satanic rituals. Every single joke, skit, song, or bit that Bo writes has some sort of satirical message laced throughout it. The cynical kid on stage clearly has issues with the way our world works, and chooses to express that through jokes in an attempt to at least get people to smile.

Bo’s path to fame is as unconventional as his comedy. He began making videos on Youtube at the age of 16, featuring funny songs he wrote and doing nothing more than playing the keyboard and singing into the camera. As awesome as this sounds like it would be, when Bo was transitioning into more mainstream comedy, he received opposition by other comics that went through more traditional routes. As in, they slaved away in small time gigs until they got lucky instead of taking the fast track like Bo did.

Mr. Burnham has so much more than just an exaggerated persona when he is on the stage. He’s very openly stated that the person he is when he is performing is not the real Bo Burnham, and is most certainly not the real Robert Pickering Burnham. In an interview with the guardian Mr. Burnham has this to say, “If a comic is himself, there’ll be things he can’t do- because he has to adhere to that persona. I don’t have to adhere to anything, so I can literally do anything.” Every once in awhile though, we get to see his true self bleed through the lights and the makeup of the stage.

Bo takes a minute near the end of his show to slow down. He comes to the front of the stage, kneels down, the stage lights fade as the audience is revealed, and he talks directly to them. He talks of the current rhetoric that kids ingest these days. That of ‘following one’s dreams’ and ‘believing in oneself.’ The one thing Bo has to counter this viewpoint is his own anecdotal experience, “I had a privileged life, and I got lucky, and I’m unhappy.” He continues on to talk about the rise of social media. How it’s a simple reaction of our generation being told to perform and the market giving us a way to always perform all the time, for absolutely no reason at all. The constant need for reinforcement from out 2000 Facebook “friends” is evident of the fact that there is a problem. “I know very little, about anything, but what I do know is that if you can live your life without an audience you should do it.”

In an interview with the Dana Schwartz from the observer, Bo has this to say his future, “There’s no performing coming up, I’m just going to take a break from it for a little while. It’s coming up on 10 years since I started, and I feel like I need to take a breath and maybe re-choose my life, and this [special] really did feel like the end of something.” He goes on to reassure his fans that this will probably not be his last performance, but that he is simply going on hiatus for an indeterminate amount of time. Though, this break time combined with the time it takes to make a new show means that we won’t see anything live from Bo for quite a while.

Taking a sabbatical break is not unheard of in the entertainment industry. Beloved comedian, Dave Chappelle, took a ten year break from releasing any substantial amount of material. He made a few guest appearances here and there and occasionally did an impromptu stand up routine, but it was mostly an uninterrupted period of time. The reasoning for his break was that Chappelle began to see his jokes as becoming “socially irresponsible.” In an interview with Oprah, Chappelle admits that he felt that the message he was sending was starting to get muddled. It was originally meant to be a mockery of the ways blacks were being represented, both historically and in the current media, but people were beginning to misconstrue it as being a serious representation. This once again proves Poe’s Law, the idea that without clear indication of intent, any parody will be taken as truth by those which it parodies, to be true. However, within the past month, Chappelle has made a thunderous return. After appearing on SNL the night of the presidential election results and announcing three comedy shows to appear on Netflix, it is safe to say that Chappelle is back in the game.

The question remains on whether or not Bo Burnham will go through a similar process to what Dave Chappelle went through. The ideas behind their breaks seem fundamentally different. Chappelle was faced with the idea of his content being misinterpreted and the moral dilemma resulting from that, but for Bo Burnham, it’s different. His content seems to resonate with his audience, and while Bo obviously puts on an act in his presentation, the ideas and themes are very much his own. The issue for Bo seems to mostly stem from the style of content. With the amount of effort that goes into his jokes, it is understandable that he is beginning to feel burnout into his career. Bo’s style of show involves so much more work than the average comedian. The lights need to be controlled. The voice over needs to be in sync. The music needs to sound good. The joke needs to be funny, and if it isn’t he needs to scrap it and try something else.

At one of Kanye West’s shows during his Yeezus tour, the first solo tour he’s had in five years, there is a twenty minute segment where Kanye just talks through his problems in a sort of semi-song that was overridden with autotune and accompanied with an instrumental undertone. He was isolated on the stage; the lights were reduced to a few pure white beams shining down from their lofty heights. And Kanye just talked. The lovely Bo Burnham decided to emulate this performance in his own show, with his own comedic twist. Kanye talks of his internal struggles of race, power, and economic problems (his T-Shirts weren’t selling well). Bo talks of the things which plagues us all. “I have a huge amount of trouble getting my hand inside of a pringle cans.” “I don’t go to the gym ’cause I’m self conscious about my body, but I’m self conscious about my body ’cause I don’t go to the gym.” “I wouldn’t have gotten half this shit if I knew it wasn’t gonna fit in the burrito.” “Look at them they’re just staring at me like, ‘Come and watch the skinny kid with a steadily declining mental health, and laugh as he attempts to give you what he cannot give himself.’” “I don’t think I can handle this right now.” You know, the problems we all face.

The final song in the show is ‘Are you happy?’ The end of the special wraps up what the show is all about. This hour of comedy began with a robotic voice echoing over the speakers. It reminded us how we have come to this show in an attempt to laugh, to escape our problems, to be happy. The show ends with Bo making sure he’s done his job.

Rough Draft

BO:

are you happy?

“This comedy is brought to you in part by…” blasts to Bo’s audience as he sits at his piano, looking annoyed. “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos” Before you know it, a rock band is playing and the man in the speaker system starts screaming out his appreciation for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos /They’re like regular Cheetos but they’re flamin’ hot /Normal Cheetos are for pussies /But Flamin’ Cheetos are not.” Immediately suceedi… “For Pussies that is.” Almost immediately succeeding the jarring display of edginess, Bo comes clean and admits that Flamin’ Hot Cheetos do not currently sponsor him, but that he is working on it. While this little bit is both funny, and over the top in just the right amounts, what really ties it together is the joke that follows. As Bo is setting up for his next song, he takes a sip from his label-less water bottle, and comments that “nothing tastes better than not getting sued.”

Bo’s style of comedy is not one that is popular with mainstream comedians. Where most ultra-famous comedian’s talk of things that annoyed or inconvenienced them, Bo’s jokes are often cynical, satirical, and blindingly meta, all at the same time. Where most comedian’s crux is a style of raw charisma, where they will mostly tell stories in a way that is designed to elicit a laugh, Mr. Burnham relies heavily on his pre-planned, theatrical approach. A style where everything is planned out and not a single second goes to waste. You can tell, even just from how the lighting lines up with the jokes, that the amount of work that was poured into a single show must have been gargantuan. With that in mind it’s easy to understand how burnout came so fast to Bo, and why, in recent interviews, he’s said that he thinks this will be his last performance for a while.

Bo’s path to fame is as unconventional as his comedy. He began making videos on Youtube at the age of 16, featuring funny songs he wrote and doing nothing more than playing the keyboard and singing into the camera. As awesome as this sounds like it would be, when Bo was transitioning into more mainstream comedy, he received opposition by other comics that went through more traditional routes. As in, they slaved away in small time gigs until they got lucky instead of taking the fast track like Bo did.

Mr. Burnham has so much more than just an exaggerated persona when he is on the stage. He’s very openly stated that the person he is when he is performing is not the real Bo Burnham, and is most certainly not the real Robert Pickering Burnham. In an interview with the guardian Mr. Burnham has this to say, “If a comic is himself, there’ll be things he can’t do- because he has to adhere to that persona. I don’t have to adhere to anything, so I can literally do anything.” Every once in awhile though, we get to see his true self bleed through the lights and the makeup of the stage.

Bo takes a minute near the end of his show to slow down. He comes to the front of the stage, kneels down, the stage lights fade as the audience is revealed, and he talks directly to them. He talks of the current rhetoric that kids ingest these days. That of ‘following one’s dreams’ and ‘believing in oneself.’ The one thing Bo has to counter this viewpoint is his own anecdotal experience, “I had a privileged life, and I got lucky, and I’m unhappy.” He continues on to talk about the rise of social media. How it’s a simple

reaction of our generation being told to perform and the market giving us a way to always perform all the time, for absolutely no reason at all. The constant need for reinforcement from out 2000 Facebook “friends” is evident of the fact that there is a problem. “I know very little, about anything, but what I do know is that if you can live your life without an audience you should do it.”

In an interview with the Dana Schwartz from the observer, Bo has this to say his future, “There’s no performing coming up, I’m just going to take a break from it for a little while. It’s coming up on 10 years since I started, and I feel like I need to take a breath and maybe re-choose my life, and this [special] really did feel like the end of something.” He goes on to reassure his fans that this will probably not be his last performance, but that he is simply going on hiatus for an indeterminate amount of time. Though, this break time combined with the time it takes to make a new show means that we won’t see anything live from Bo for quite a few years.

At one of Kanye West’s shows during his Yeezus tour, the first solo tour he’s had in five years, there is a twenty minute segment where Kanye just talks through his problems in a sort of semi-song that was overridden with autotune and accompanied with an instrumental undertone. He was isolated on the stage; the lights were reduced to a few pure white beams shining down from their lofty heights. And Kanye just talked. The lovely Bo Burnham decided to emulate this performance in his own show, with his own comedic twist. Kanye talks of his internal struggles of race, power, and economic

problems (his T-Shirts weren’t selling well). Bo talks of the things which plagues us all. “I have a huge amount of trouble getting my hand inside of a pringle cans.” “I don’t go to the gym ’cause I’m self concious about my body, but I’m self concious about my body ’cause I don’t go to the gym.” “I wouldn’t have gotten half this shit if I knew it wasn’t gonna fit in the burrito.” “Look at them they’re just staring at me like, ‘Come and watch the skinny kid with a steadily declining mental health, and laugh as he attempts to give you what he cannot give himself.’” “I don’t think I can handle this right now.” You know, the problems we all face.

The final song in the show is ‘Are you happy?’ The end of the show wraps up what the show is all about. This hour of comedy began with a robotic voice echoing over the speakers. It reminded us how we have come to this show in an attempt to laugh, to escape our problems, to be happy. The show ends with Bo making sure he’s done his job.

Like what you read? Give Ryan Southard a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.