Inside: Excellence From Despair


Ethan Taylor, Writer

Bo Burnham is known for his Netflix stand-up comedy specials, but more recently he is known for his fantastic musical comedy special Inside, which won 3 Emmy Awards on the 19th. This special is different, however, from his previous, less music-focused works. Inside does have its fair share of jokes, but the true enjoyment of the special comes from its morbidity.  

There are many catchy and amusing songs such as “Bezos I” and “Facetime With My Mom”. However, there are songs that capture the disparity and isolation of 2020 and life in general in unrelenting accuracy, such as “Goodbye” and “All Eyes On Me.” The depth and emotion of the lyrics are highlighted by the cinematography, shot by Burnham himself. He created the entire special completely alone. While this could have been a setback for another filmmaker, in Burnham’s skillful hands, Inside has a unique homemade feeling. The flashing fluorescent lights in “Welcome to the Internet” capture the madness and confusion of the internet. The dreamy blue lighting and blank room of “All Eyes on Me” give the song a feeling of derealization and play up how the memory of Burnham performing in front of roaring crowds is a distant one that he hasn’t experienced in 5 years.  

The most spectacularly crushing part of the entire hour-long special (and even Bo Burnham’s career) is the final song, “Goodbye.” The song consists of Bo Burnham sitting at his piano, bathed in amber lights, the moon hovering delicately above him. Burnham contemplates the importance of his special. As he says, “Does anybody want to joke when no one’s laughing in the background?” He questions his entire career, and if this pandemic sent him back to the starting point. Will anyone even care about a comedy special by a man who hasn’t shown his face in 5 years? As the special ends, and the music dies. In the very last scene, Burnham is locked out of his house, entirely naked. He is outside and vulnerable once again.   

Among the sea of excellence, there is at least one drop of mediocrity. In this special, that drop is “All Time Low”, which is about Burnham’s mental health approaching an all-time low. I would hesitate to call the song terrible because it is quite catchy; however, it feels like a waste of time. It isn’t even a minute long and most of the song isn’t even in the form of a song. It mainly consists of Burnham describing his misery, then erupting into song. Unlike “All Eyes on Me”,there is not a version of the song without Burnham’s monologue. The inclusion of the song is a bit repetitive, since he talks about his mental state more effectively and cleverly in songs like “All Eyes on Me” and “Funny Feeling.” Everything is said directly, and this makes it a dull listen.  

Despite the setbacks of “All Time Low,” Inside is packed to the brim with enjoyment and emotional depth. Bo Burnham makes it clear how much he has grown, not just as an artist but also as a person. Inside deserves its Emmy wins and is worthy of your viewership. It is an experience that you won’t soon forget.