Bo Burnham, YouTuber Turned Comedy Central Star
Hello, web readers. If you’ve managed to find this small bit of writing out there in the vast internet, then there’s a good chance you’ve also heard of YouTube. That is, unless you’re my grandmother, whom I send links to and she opens without questioning where she is being taken to, and couldn’t get to google if you spotted her the ‘-oogle.com’. And since you’re familiar with YouTube, you undoubtedly know the phrase ‘YouTube sensation’, as a label to anyone who has managed to make a name for themselves through their posted videos. From Lisa Nova to LonelyGirl15, BaratsAndBereta to Chocolate Rain, there’s no shortage of people who’ve managed to turn video views into financial viability. Welcome to the club, Bo Burnham.
Bo, as you may already know, is the just-turned-18 musical comedy sensation most known for punny tunes done by him on his bed, in his room, with a keyboard. Well, after notching up millions of views for videos like Bo Fo Sho, I’m Bo Yo, and 3.14 Apple Pi, Bo managed to become the youngest person to ever record a Comedy Central Presents special, 4 days after his 18th birthday. His new self-titled CD and DVD combo pack is ‘classic’ Bo, insomuch as it contains most all of his well-known online hits and a few retooled and live versions of stuff you may be less familiar with.
If you aren’t that familiar with Bo, he’s very much the average young white kid, both in his lyrics and his persona. But in every song, at some point, you will find yourself reveling in a bit of wordplay that is so clever and funny, and you know you’d have never thought of it yourself. A lot of it is the pun-filled stuff of amateur comedians (‘Grabbed my cereal / Stabbed it open with a knife / Snorted that shit/ And got high on Life’), but Bo also does a great job of pointing these out himself, with smug pauses and (on the DVD of his Comedy Central half hour) cheeky smiles to the crowd. And while the songs probably wouldn’t make the regular rotation of comedy tunes to jam to (see also: I’m On A Boat), Bo’s debut album does a fantastic job of sticking close to what made him so internet famous in the first place, but still allows him to dip a toe or two into the larger comedy pool.
If anything, the CD is the best part of the package, with Bo’s Comedy Central Special DVD having the feel of a watch-it-once-and-forget-it special. It’s not that the songs aren’t as prevalent, or that he turns away from the wordplay that got him to the stage; he is just very young, and it shows. His shaky presence on stage, his awkward and self-deprecating transitions between songs, and the nervous banter he shares with the audience are all marks of a novice comedian who is overreaching. That’s not to say that he won’t get there, or that his material isn’t intelligent and funny enough to stand on it’s own (hence the strength of the CD vs. the DVD). Bo will probably be around for a long time; he’s got a show at The Roxy on June 4th, and is currently working on a film deal with Judd Apatow. But perhaps what is most promising about Bo Burnham is the path he has already taken. It’s inspiring, heartwarming, and pretty fuckin’ awesome. So get to makin’ those videos, kids. You could be on stage in no time.
Bo Burnham will be performing at The Roxy on June 4th, and his CD and DVD is currently available online.