REVIEW: Bo Burnham’s ‘Inside’ takes dark comedy to a new level

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Photo obtained from Netflix

Comedian Bo Burnham pushes his self-deprecating dark humor to new depths with his new Netflix special “Inside.”

You may have heard of comedian Bo Burnham from his self-deprecating stand-up comedy acts, countless songs, YouTube channel or even his Vines circa 2015-2016. His career focused mostly on dark humor, black comedy, musical comedy and satire, leaving audiences laughing uncomfortably. After his hiatus in 2016, Netflix released his fifth comedy special, “Inside,” which was unlike any other work he has done before. Shot by himself in his own home in a single room while in quarantine, Burnham put on a one-man show consisting of dark, satirical songs and depressing short monologues where he talks directly to the audience. 

Comedy fans who are unfamiliar with Burnham expecting a lighthearted special are in for a ride. Burnham themes his one-man show around self-deprecation, depression and cynical takes on the world and the internet (specifically noted in songs such as “How the World Works” and “Welcome to the Internet”). It is realized early on that “Inside” does not simply represent life under quarantine, but rather Burnham’s rapidly declining mental health. His room is constantly messy and his hair grows longer as the special progresses. “Inside” is quite the dark comedy that hits too close to home for many. 

The upbeat nature of his songs which incorporate synthesizers, guitar and piano contrast with his morbid lyrics, which is what makes his songs so humorous. For example, in his song “How the World Works” he starts off by singing in a children’s style song about how everything is put on the earth for a reason and that everything works in harmony. He then pulls out a sock puppet he named “Socko.” Socko sings a more cynical verse about the world where he criticizes capitalism and white-washed history with lyrics such as “The world is built with blood! And genocide and exploitation!” The ironic bit is that “Socko” still talks to this “children” audience with such morbid lyrics. Burnham keeps this trend of lyrics prevalent throughout the special, which is what really captivated audiences to such a weird comedy style. 

Overall, “Inside” is brilliantly written and artistically shot. As shown in his song “White Woman’s Instagram,” he pokes fun at Instagram tropes, but throughout the music video he poses in his room with various lighting and makeup to represent Instagram cliches. His attention to detail is very captivating throughout the special, especially in portions of this song. All lighting and camera angles were done by Burnham himself in great detail. His talent truly showed through in this special, not just in his comedic efforts but through his videography and editing skills. When he’s not singing, he fills in the gaps with hilarious or dark bumpers. In one instance he parodies YouTube or Twitch gamers by playing a video game based on his time during quarantine. The only tasks he is required to do in the game is cry four times in a row and find a flashlight. Another example is Burnham sitting next to a digital clock reading 11:58 p.m.. He announces that in two minutes, it will be his 30th birthday. As the time ticks, he pathetically celebrates his birthday completely alone. This event is later followed by a song titled “30” in which he laments aging.

To summarize, “Inside” is a must-watch. An article analyzing every metaphor behind his songs would be pages upon pages long. It is an experience meant to be watched without too many spoilers. If you like pop-synth, self-deprecating humor, dark comedy, nonsensical yet hilarious fillers (aka “Bezos I” and “Bezos II”), anti-capitalism and relatable moments of despair, “Inside” will provide everything and more. Even if none of this sounds appealing, appreciating Burnham’s laborious work and incredible talent and dedication is enough to give it a try. This is truly a one-of-a-kind comedy special that not many comedians can pull off.