2021, Movies

Bob Burnham: Inside (2021, Bo Burnham)

Yeah, it took me a little long to get to this, given how buzzed it was, and given that we have Netflix. But let me say that the hype is mostly right: this has got to be one of the best pieces of art about the pandemic – at least as it applied to people privileged enough to stay home – that I suspect I’ll ever see. It’s a “special” in only the broadest sense of the traditional term, as it is really a series of songs (and the odd joke) where the theme is arguably much more important than it is in a typical comedy special set.

If like us, you barely went anywhere outside your neighbourhood throughout the pandemic, you will likely connect with this “special.” I suspect the less you went outside the more you will connect with it. It’s possible that the degree to which you felt trapped will help determine how much this resonnates with you, though I think it should resonate with anyone who worked from home.

(As an aside, we were always puzzled by this but I guess a lot of people interpreted the local rules this way or were just quite nervous. We were never “inside” like Burham is in this. We literally walk the dog outside three times a day, in addition to errands. And Toronto had one of the longest “lockdowns” in the world. It’s interesting how different people interpret the situation.)

The set is mostly a series of songs, strung together with bits and pieces of a routine, parodies of internet culture and a few dramatic moments which attempt to capture the bizarre time we’ve lived through. A few of the songs basically capture what I think of the internet, despite the 9 year difference between the two of us. (I don’t know some of the music that the songs are referencing, as I don’t listen to enough contemporary music but I’m sure that’s another layer.) Though this is ostensibly about being stuck inside, it is just as much about how the internet is dominating our lives and there is a lot here on that account.

It’s quite funny, though it’s far from the most laugh-out-loud “comedy special” I’ve ever seen. It’s sometimes more clever than it is funny haha so you should definitely prepare yourself for that if you are looking for something that i just funny.

But Burham has captured a lot about what was weird about living through 2020 – especially if you were lucky enough to work from home – and he’s done it in a way that is funny, insightful and occasionally moving. It feels like a pretty big accomplishment and I have a hard time imagining a narrative film or a more traditional comedy special doing a better job of that.

I can honestly say I’ve never seen another “comedy special” like this – the constraint of a set in front of an audience is gone, freeing Burham to do whatever he wants. And the results are pretty incredible.

9/10

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