WARNING! This article will have spoilers for Inside.
If you didn't know, Inside was a special created by musical comedian Bo Burnham throughout 2020 and released around the end of May this year. This special was filmed while Bo was inside (hehe) due to lockdown. Bo had done three previous comedy specials, Words, Words, Words, What, and Make Happy, over the last decade, and this special is his most recent after coming back from a five-year break from performing live.
However, I wouldn't describe it as a comedy special.
The intentionally funny parts were hilarious, but I don't think this was as funny as his previous specials.
So, In order to properly review this special, I'll need to separate it into three sections;
I don't think there will be a lot for this section, and because I believe a picture is worth a thousand words, here's a photo of me just after I'd finished the special:
Attractive, I know.
You can probably tell that it affected me. I saw someone on the internet call it" raw, devastating existentialism" (which sounds dramatic if you haven't seen the special) but I tend to agree.
The first half of the special is very reminiscent of his previous works, blunt and very self-aware comedy, which is why I initially started watching him. He calls out himself, white people, cultural appropriation, clicktivism and performative activism, capitalism, unpaid labour and "the other stuff", as he calls it satirically.
While this half does focus on important issues within our world, it's all wrapped in the comforting blanket of making fun of these issues rather than addressing them directly and having to think about them.
That, however, is entirely dropped in the second half.
While there were brief moments of humour such as Bezos I and II, as well as the comedic takes during Sh*t and Welcome to the Internet, that comfy blanket I mentioned previously continued to thin out and dissolve as all of it hit me. It was funny, yes, but I felt like I couldn't acknowledge the humour without dealing with the heavy topics it covered.
And then it was done.
I don't call many pieces of media "haunting", but yeah, this one haunted me. It followed my thoughts and made me hyper-aware of my actions and character and what I was doing.
And then I watched it again. And again. And at least seven times more after that.
Ok, now we can get a little more analytical.
The first half was amazing. As I'd said with Bo Burnham's style, Inside is a return to form. It's hilarious in his very blunt and self-deprecating manner and is incredibly impressive. Songs like Comedy, How the World Works, Unpaid Intern and White Woman's Instagram all balance social commentary and humour masterfully, as well as being irritatingly catchy.
However, as I said, It didn't sting because first of all, most of the things mentioned I try to avoid doing, so I could (selfishly) say, "Oh, it's ok I'm educated and a good person!" even though some lines would hit a too close to home. As an example, when Socko says "Why do you rich f*cking white people insist on seeing every socio-political conflict/Through the myopic lens of your own self-actualisation?" which, wow that was a bit of a wake-up call. I like being involved in social justice, but I'd realised that I might have only demonstrated my passion on places like social media to demonstrate that I'm a good person, which is not the way to do it and inherently incredibly selfish.
Bo has experience in film, directing the highly acclaimed film Eighth Grade and acting in films such as Promising Young Woman, but his style in lighting, composition, sound design, and colour usage is amazing. The fact he can manipulate and switch the atmosphere of one messy room with a spotlight, a projector and a camera is astounding. Although that one room is simple, the whole space can shift within a second, which is masterful in itself.
Further, the second half was incredible.
Then That Funny Feeling happened.
Although a decent amount of the song was humorously ironic, my brain seemed to only fixate on the more negative aspects of the lyrics, such as "twenty thousand years of this, seven more to go." Which made re-watching this song even more depressing. Overall, it felt like the cherry on top of a pie filled with hollowness and regret. Tasty.
And then All Eyes on Me.
This special is quite relentless with your emotions.
I think I can describe All Eyes on Me as the emotional climax of the special. It seems to wrap all of the emotions, or lack thereof, of the second half. The simple chord pattern, Bo's manipulated deep voice and even the blue projected wash of the scene is calming, but almost to a point where it starts to drag you down. It calls back to the element of the audience response during Comedy, through having segments of audience laughter and applause, but at this moment, it feels hollow, and false. And then there's the couple of lines that went viral on TikTok;
"You say the oceans rising like I give a sh*t
You say 'the whole world's ending' Honey, it already did,
You're not gonna slow it; heaven knows you've tried.
Got it? Good, now get inside."
That line is harrowing. Not too sure about anyone else, but constantly being told that you're the generation that's going to fix everything and save the world is damaging. You have this unspoken pressure to be the hero, the martyr that makes everything better, and that line, that recognition both feels freeing and hollow at the same time.
The song's depressing but cathartic.
The final song, Goodbye additionally wraps up the special through Bo's crisis towards his art and his own progression and fufilment, a sentiment expressed even in his first special, Words, Words, Words, and in Make Happy, in which he critisises the hollow and superficial nature of fame, and how in reality it's an empty victory.
One of the final scenes, in which Bo finally goes outside to only reveal that his "room" and the sunlight is nothing but a set and a spotlight, and the clash between the audience's laughter and his struggle and evenual breakdown is horrifying and one of the many moments that brought me to tears during the special.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this special. It deserves its Emmy Nominations, and I can't wait to see how it goes in terms of winning; I hope it wins at least one.
The special is funny, introspective, nonsensical, and quite dark at times
I would recommend anyone who is around the right age, around 14+ and is willing to go through the emotional rollercoaster of this special to please check it out on Netflix. If you don't want that emotional turmoil, fully understandable, I'd recommend checking out his other specials on Netflix, What and Make Happy.
Bo has always been very open about parasocial relationships of fame and how everything he does is fake and staged, and although the special itself is just fiction, he has the amazing ability to make the false feel real and gripping. Don't be confused, even the mistakes in Look Who's Inside Again, and his breakdown while filming is all fake, but both his acting and his talent towards the craft of film makes it seem real and like we're legitimately peering into his personal life, but, alas, we're not.
It's one of those pieces of art that only improve with rewatches as you notice little things, and I think that just watching it once only gives the viewer half of the experience of the special. I could honestly go frame by frame and talk about how amazing this special is, but that article would be far too long.
So, after all this, my final rating of Bo Burnham's Inside is a very enthusiastic 10/10.