Bo Burnham’s new Netflix special “Inside” is a wildly creative, sometimes unsettling, diary of the artist’s time in one single room, presumably during quarantine. He’s an existentialist living his life online, for all of us to see, and offers a glimpse of his generation’s angst as digital natives.
Burnham was a YouTube comedy sensation as a teen, wrote and directed the terrific “Eighth Grade” while still in his twenties, did a notable acting turn in this year’s “Promising Young Woman,” and with “Inside” provides a reliable glimpse and ongoing insights into a generation that have been raised as digital natives. He wrote, acted, directed and edited this fascinating piece, which is a panoply of clever songs about the Internet, cringe-worthy personal admissions, and spot-on socio-political commentary. The hilarious ditties – “White Woman’s Instagram” stands out – rattle around my brain, still. He wonders, at the top, whether he should be “Joking at a Time Like This” and winds up curled into the fetal positions repeating an assertion that “perhaps it was a bad call’ to let the big companies digitize our lives.
“Inside” is endearing and a must-see… for adults. Younger kids may clamor to watch the special because they revere Burnham’s silly songs on YouTube, but parents should watch it themselves first; the insights and commentary he offers up in seemingly light songs carry a punch that is much more sophisticated now that he’s 31 – in fact, he turns 30 onscreen and the second half of the show gets darker and a bit despairing. What we’re watching is someone who has literally grown up on screen, and the vulnerabilities which make him brilliant are sometimes painful to witness. His genius is to turn them into seemingly light comedy, with insights that exposing the culture of our digital lives. He’s showing us what it’s like to grow up with EVERYTHING on the internet available all at anytime. Bo is a canary in the coal mine of the world in which our kids are living. It’s impossible not to love him.
The NYTimes says it best: “It’s a feat, the work of a gifted experimentalist whose craft has caught up to his talent.” What will he do next? His talent for acting has been noted by Adam McKay who has cast him as Larry Bird in an upcoming HBO movie about the early days of the Lakers.