Bo Burnham: Inside is a masterwork — funny, claustrophobic, and experimental. This one-man comedy-drama special is an immersive experience full of strong humor, dense commentary, and technical splendor. Inside is the must-watch Netflix special of the pandemic era. Five stars.
"But look, I made you some content
Daddy made you your favorite, open wide
Here comes the content
It's a beautiful day to stay inside"
How does one critique and analyze Inside? It's a special that already self-reflects and critiques itself during its 87-minute runtime. This is something that I have been struggling to put into words, showcasing the raw comedic talent that Bo Burnham confounds into his work. There is so much to unpack with Inside — a variety of art forms including musical numbers, stand-up comedy bits, and meta-commentary over this scary new world of ours. I believe Inside is the first true COVID era work that gets things right about how everyone was feeling during the pandemic and still is. Burnham constructs and dissects his own fears, anxieties, and how this pandemic has escalated it. This was how I truly connected with his special. Last year, I too struggled with certain fears and anxieties that grappled ahold of me. I continue to face those fears. Not only was I dealing with the fears of a virus I cannot see while also confined in my home, but my wife (Glynis) and I also went through two miscarriages. I began to go down a dark road of depression and sometimes used alcohol as a crutch to bear on during this hellscape world. Last Fall, I decided to break free from that crutch, and I have been doing better.
Watching Inside brought out my past and continued anxieties, which is why I was so captivated by this form of art. Written, directed, filmed, edited by, and starring Bo Burnham — Inside is a bold and sometimes scary comedy special of the world we live in. Recorded in his home during the COVID-19 pandemic without a crew or audience, Inside features a variety of songs and sketches about his day-to-day life indoors. Burnham depicts his deteriorating mental health, struggles with depression, and explores the relationship with his audience and technology. There is a raw talent that shines brightly with Burnham, as he forms together a creative tour de force of cabin fever. Inside marks Burnham's first return to stand-up since his 2016 special, Make Happy. During his tour for Make Happy, Burnham began to experience panic attacks, which is why he stepped away. While Burnham was focusing more on his mental health, he directed his first feature film, 2018's Eighth Grade. Eighth Grade is a coming-of-age comedy-drama film that follows a middle school teenager who struggles with anxiety but strives to gain social acceptance from her peers.
As a coping mechanism, Kayla (Elsie Fisher) publishes self-motivational video blogs on YouTube. Burnham also focused on Gen Z's time obsession over social media. Burnham also starred in several movies during his time away from stand-up, including The Big Sick, Rough Night, and 2020's Promising Young Woman. Inside is a presentation of life in the pandemic that incorporates social commentary around social media, capitalism, and systemic racism. Parts of Inside are laugh-out-loud funny, while other parts lack humor, giving off a horror-style vibe. Some parts of Inside feel journalistic in nature, while other areas feel like a well-written piece of theater. Burnham incorporates a variety of songs, like FaceTime with My Mom (Tonight), How the World Works, White Woman's Instagram, Sexting, Welcome to the Internet, 30, and That Funny Feeling. The first half of Inside is a roller coaster of emotions while trying to boost oneself with a medication of the giggles. Burnham's second half of the special takes a more serious turn, as our protagonist starts to lose grip with reality. Burnham's mental health begins to spiral down a rabbit hole. Part 2 is a horror-style nightmare that will run through your bones.
Our world feels on the brink of global collapse. As we make our way through a deadly virus, we are also struggling with climate change, systemic racism, genocide, poverty, and capitalistic tyrants. There is also the symbolism of Burnham resembling a Jesus-like figure. Burnham's hair and beard begin to grow longer, transforming into that figure. As Burnham's Jesus-like figure emerges into the world, he becomes cynical and passive-aggressive towards the art he created. Seeing his art has become nothing more than a product of greed. Inside also contextualizes the discourse of social media, and how it has become a sinister force in our society. Burnham's career began on YouTube, yet YouTube has also led to a rise in right-wing extremism. It's a struggle of realism that is also over-layered with the horrors of the digital world. "Am I going crazy? Would I even know? Am I right back where I started fourteen years ago?" Mental health is an important topic we need to talk about more. While finding ways to cope with one's anxieties is just as important. My continued writing was a way for me to cope with my fears, especially last year. Burnham puts these hard topics front and center for his newest feature. Inside might be one of the most beautiful, scary, and fascinating pieces of work I have watched in a long time. Burnham's newest special deserves all of the Emmys this Fall. Inside is simply a masterpiece.
Bo Burnham: Inside is rated TV-MA (Mature).
Written, directed, filmed, edited by, and starring Bo Burnham.
Now available to stream on Netflix.
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