NETFLIX — In 2007 some skinny white kid named Bo Burnham started posting videos on Youtube of his funny and clever songs about his family, high school culture, and himself. He was only 16, but clearly intellectually mature beyond his years. The tone of his songs were upbeat, with a clear underlying pessimism. His mastery of misdirection and circumventing expectations earned him a strong following on the still new video streaming medium.
Fast forward to 2016. Bo is now 25, all but abandoned his Youtube channel, has a full time comedy career, three comedy albums, three comedy specials, lots of t-shirts (available for purchase on his website boburnham.com) — and he seems incredibly unhappy. He’s seemingly living the dream of everyone from his generation, yet to quote him specifically, “I was born privileged, AND I got lucky, AND I’m unhappy.” And it’s this unhappiness that is the focus of Bo’s new comedy special, MAKE HAPPY.
MAKE HAPPY is a collection of funny songs, absurdist bits, and diatribes that vary in concepts ranging from: Suggesting you should kill yourself if you look for inspiration in frivolous pop tunes; how modern county is pandering; what making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be like high; what making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be like shit-faced; how everyone needs love; hating his fans; how Celebrity Lip Singing is the death of culture; a totally unplanned song about a random audience member; the issues with Pringles cans and overstuffed Chipotle burritos — I found most of his bits to be really inspired, and kept the show from ever getting stale. Where many comics who do music can be seen as novelty acts, Bo’s comedy is something else. He’s not just trying to make you laugh with funny impressions, or cutesy innuendo — he genuinely seems to be trying to bust through that wall of willful ignorance society has constructed around itself and wake people up to reality.
Having followed Bo since the beginning, it’s amazing to see his evolution from a somewhat shy introvert thrust into the spotlight via Youtube, to an artist questioning if he has anything of value to actually offer the world (or if anything of value is left to be said), to now a sad clown who desperately wants to make people happy, but struggles to do that while still remaining true to himself. His persona has evolved from happy kid with sardonic wit to overt contempt for his audience, daring them to laugh (or even like him), yet filling his subtext with hope and love. It’s a complete 180, and it’s brilliant!
MAKE HAPPY is one of the best things I’ve seen all year thus far. It’s a solid hour of comedy and entertainment that will keep you guessing and hopefully make you think. It is crisply edited and looks absolutely beautiful. The huge crescendo near the end of the special, where Bo goes Kanye, is an absolute must see!
It’s great to see this young man continue to grow and push himself, and the comedy medium. His nonconformity could easily alienate those unwilling to engage with his ideas — which I’m sure he’s okay with. But if you choose to engage, I guarantee you’ll get something special out of MAKE HAPPY. Or maybe you’ll just like the cute songs.
Either way, check it out!