Why “Inside” is an Instant Pandemic Classic
Bo Burnham is a jester-poet, a philosopher in an ill-fitting comedian’s suit.
The dazzle and bustle of summertime thrums in the air, laden thick already with mosquitoes and strands of white down torn from cottonwood trees and the crispy, meaty smell of someone grilling a steak downwind. Despite this array of sights and smells and wonder, the dazzle does not dizzy me. I sit instead bathed in another kind of glow — the otherworldly ultramarine light that emits from a curved computer monitor.
The heat of these prophetic summer days is oppressive, so I sit by the air conditioner that so assiduously fights the rolling waves of sunshine, consuming YouTube videos like addictive snack chips. It is easier, by far, to do this than anything else. Ergo, my mind tells me, this is the best use of my time. Not creating “content”, but consuming it, and selling my time away piece by fast-moving piece.
I always dreamt of being a writer for a living. The reality was not as I hoped, and I lost sight of whatever compelled me to go after this dream about a year into my freelance writing journey. I’d spent so many of my teenage and college years honing and perfecting this craft, hoping for a future that insisted I wear shades, and yet when I quit doing it for a living, all of that joyful labor felt like just more wasted time. So I sit, consuming the ideas and works of others, hoping to stir something that has all but disappeared inside of me.
The only work that has gotten through my wall of apathy as of late is the latest “comedy special” by Bo Burnham, a fellow millennial creator who took over the Internet around 2010 or so and never really let go. I’ve grown up with Bo and watched my art mature alongside his, so a new special from him is a gem amidst the sea of superficial Netflix reality shows and tired rip-offs of older, better media.
Bo and I have history, I guess you could say. Not personal, but parasocial. When his first special, “What.” came out on Netflix, I was in my junior year of college, living with two of my best friends and navigating my newfound adulthood that included the consumption of far too many Quarter Pounders, trashy young adult novels, and not enough true nourishment. In 2013, Netflix had just…