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  • Writer's picturezandaleeindigo

It's a Beautiful Day to Stay Inside

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

Bo Burnham's Inside is a beautifully stupid, nihilistic examination and unpacking of feelings we all felt over the last year; and it means a lot to me.

Inside was my first time watching one of Burnham's specials. I was familiar with some of the popular songs from his other works ("the Breakup Song", the Kanye Rant, and "Kill Yourself" to name a few) but I couldn't get myself to sit and watch him the way I could watch other comedians like John Mulaney. In 2018 he directed his first feature film Eighth Grade and I loved it. I found it extremely relatable and charming and I was pleasantly surprised with how earnest it felt, that's when I first recognized Bo had the ability to communicate universal feelings in a clever way.

Skip ahead to a few weeks ago and he releases his comedy (and I use that term loosely) special Inside. I had put off watching it at first because I knew in the past I hadn't connected with his standup the way I did with his film. But as discourse began on Twitter and TikTok surrounding a lot of the social and political commentary, I knew I wanted to check it out so I could understand what was being discussed. And I'm so glad I did.

Honestly, I think it's a shame this special is being widely praised/discussed for any of the commentary aspects of it because it feels like so much more than that. That's why for the sake of the length of this review, and just because I don't want to dive deep into discourse, I'm not going to look at those pieces of the film.

Inside feels extremely introspective and at its core feels like someone grappling with being creative while feeling isolated and dealing with declining mental health. And as someone who had all of the same feelings as Bo over the last year or so it really hit home for me.

I found myself inspired a ton while watching this special just because of how visually stunning it is. The whole thing was written, directed, edited, and shot by Bo Burnham and while he did obviously have the advantage of having nice expensive equipment to mess around with, the creativity of some of his shots left me in awe. Coupled with the level of production his songs had, especially in comparison with with songs from his previous specials, it felt fresh and full. Each song was from a different genre and filled with smart lyrics with some bridges/hooks that stay stuck in your head for days. It was fun to see him experiment with background vocals and layered tracks, which resulted in some comedy songs that felt comparable to music played on the radio.

my personal favorite of visuals, "30"

The special is an amalgamation of funny skits and songs interspersed with a narrative of Bo trying to make his special while dealing with his deteriorating mental health. There's an emphasis on finishing the special and the fear that comes with being a creative in uncertain times; feeling like a failure if you're not working on or producing some kind of content.

I don't know about y'all but that resonated with me a ton, seeing as I haven't posted consistently on this blog in a minute and I've been working my first YouTube video for about 6 months now. While I've been busy with school and working, as well as grappling with everything that's been happening in the world, it still weighs on me that I haven't been creating much this last year. I guess, to briefly mention the commentary I said I wasn't touching (oops); the capitalist mindset we've been conditioned to have that places our value on how much we produce is one of the main contributors to this feeling (which Bo briefly talks about in the special). So much of quarantine was understanding and unpacking these beliefs in order to come to terms with the fact that it's not a viable mindset to have if we want to you know------stay sane.

Of course, mental health is also covered in this, which is one reason I loosely refer to it as a comedy special. There are some great comedic songs and bits (some of my personal favs being "Sexting," the reaction video bit, and the let's play parody), but a lot of it is clever songwriting and some genuine sentiments about how Burnham is feeling.

The effects of depression and anxiety were heightened for many during the last year of isolation and social unrest, myself included. I remember at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer my anxiety began to manifest itself physically, which it never had before. There was at least two weeks I dealt with constant chest pain and headaches to the point that I thought I was dying, until I realized how heavily everything going on in the world was affecting me.

On top of that because we've been spending much time alone I know many people have been working on healing their inner child and self actualization. Working through traumas and attempting to understand yourself is a lot to take on-----it's delicate sometimes exhausting work that we've taken our time inside to do. But now, as more and ore people are getting vaccinated, it seems as though we'll be reentering the world again and facing other people with new mindsets.

It's a scary feeling. Putting yourself out there after finally getting comfortable and accustomed to being alone. My absolute favorite song/leit motif of the special "Look Who's Inside Again" embodies this exact feeling perfectly. From Bo ruminating about being a kid stuck in his room, to the let's play game with the instrumental playing in the background where the main objective is to cry.

The chorus specifically hits home:

Well, well, look who's inside again

Went out to look for a reason to hide again

Well, well, buddy you found it

Now come out with your hands up

We've got you surrounded.

This definitely resonates with me because of my own interpretation of the text rather than a reading of it in the context of the show, but whenever I hear this refrain I think about what comes next. I was a quiet child through elementary school to most of high school. College was supposed to be a time where I came out of my shell, but between the pandemic stopping me from having much social interaction the last year, to the collective social awakening I had making me cynically not want to engage with other people, I struggle to know what "putting myself out there" would even mean.

But I know it needs to happen. Not even just to create new friendships or relationships with others. It's important that I open myself up to love from those closest to me, working on myself inwardly has been hard but I know now it's time to externalize that and strengthen the bonds that I have with my friends.

I always have so many excuses and reasons to not speak to people, my close friends can attest I can be a super closed off person. The cynicism of "All Eyes on Me" (another favorite of mine) lamenting about how the world is past saving and there's nothing we can do about it so we might as well get inside, feels like a reflection of something I've thought time and time again over the last year. So in the finale, "Goodbye," when the "Look Who's Inside Again" theme comes back, sung by an animatronic voice as Bo is sitting naked at his piano shrouded in a spotlight, it moved me. Being called out for predictably looking for a reason to hide and not have to share myself with other people rang extremely true, and the vulnerability of the shot was so powerful for me I literally decided to write this post working through my feelings about it.

I've watched Inside three times now in preparation for this post and I'll likely watch it many more times for my own enjoyment. The film is full of solid songs, amazing visuals, and witty lyrics that are made even more poignant by Bo's ability to weave in the very human experience of being a creative through quarantine.

I have nothing but love and respect for it and him.

Until next time, I'll see you when I see you and good luck to everyone venturing outside.

honestly i just wanted to include this gif do with it what you will <3

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Jun 14, 2021

I was struck by the idea that if he HADN'T been in a pandemic, we may never have heard this authentic voice. In fact, dare I say that had this been something more planned--with a writing committee and a focus group--there may have been cameos by Meg Thee Stallion and Justin Bieber, which would have made me puke. Instead, this seemed like an earnest attempt to wrestle with his own mindset during this unprecedented and tumultuous time. I felt edified and entertained by it. Thanks for sharing this gem with us! :)

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