For many, almost a year of lockdown was mentally and emotionally strenuous. Isolation bread depression and many wondered if we would ever return to a world resembling pre-pandemic life. It is that feeling that comedian Bo Burnham’s latest offering, “Inside,” tackles so beautifully. “Inside” is as tense as it is funny, and absolutely brilliant for it.
The special takes an almost narrative setup, following Burnham as he attempts to create a stand-up special from his apartment, where he is locked down and alone during the pandemic, trying to keep the isolation from destroying his sanity.
Burnham is at his best sitting behind a keyboard, setting snarky observations about people and society to catchy melodies. He broke out at age 16 with the memorable ditty “My Whole Family,” a comic tune detailing his parents’ erroneous assumptions about his sexuality. From there, his lyrics have taken on everything from mental health to dating expectations to insincere country lyrics. The simple instrumentals and crass yet charming words make you laugh out loud while lightly dancing along.
The songs of “Inside” are very different. To start, several are incomplete, lasting only a verse and refrain before ending, emphasizing the fractured mental state of their creator, or at least his persona. Rather than the stripped-down vocal and piano lines, Burnham’s songs are very processed, with audio filters, backup lines, and techno beats. There is something alienating about the sound, a far cry from the intimacy of just a guy and his keyboard, though that is likely intentional.
For longtime fans of the comedian’s work, this change might be alienating at first. The visible editing, slower pace, and processing destroys the urgency and momentum present in a typical stand-up show. While this actually works in the special’s favor once the confines of the genre are accepted to be broken, it does not save the special from dragging at times, replacing the tension or laughs with boredom or self-indulgence.
While Netflix labels “Inside” as “stand-up comedy,” the 90-minute special feels more like a film or one-man play where the protagonist slowly loses his sanity during the long,
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