‘Inside’ is Bo Burnham’s third Netflix special, the follow up to 2016’s ‘Make Happy’ after the stand-up comedian took an extended break from comedy. Filmed four years later in 2020, there is no stage, no crowd, no production crew, no laughter. Instead, ‘Inside’ was written, directed, and produced entirely by Burnham himself, from within his LA home throughout the pandemic.
Burnham explains that during his time away from the spotlight, he finally managed to control his anxiety and panic attacks. This fuelled him to want to return to the stage in 2020. However, the pandemic forced him to approach his craft in a different and experimental manner. ‘Inside’ has an element of DIY ethos to it, but it is simultaneously shockingly professional.
The majority of the comedic moments within ‘Inside’ revolve around two things: society and the internet. Burnham’s commentary on these themes is communicated primarily through song. The film begins with a song called Comedy where he outlines his mission to use comedy to “make a literal difference, metaphorically.”
Comedy can be viewed as a continuation of songs from ‘Make Happy’ such as Straight White Man, on which he commented sarcastically on the difficulties that he faces throughout his existence due to his sexuality, ethnicity, and gender. Here in 2020, his lyrics mirror the same themes, as he declares “I’m white, and I’m here to save the day!” with exaggerated irony.
Elsewhere in the film, he praises the internet for its vast array of content (and the fact that it creates the opportunity for the art of sexting), he mocks white women’s Instagram feeds, he pauses to react recurrently to his own footage from the previous scene, and he poses as a Twitch streamer playing a game in which he is the main character and the only controls are cry, pace and sit.
At times, it feels like you are watching a lone man reaching near insanity whilst imprisoned in a tiny and claustrophobic room. However, isn’t that what happened to all of us in lockdown?
Things seem to descend into a lockdown-induced madness, with Burnham’s beard increasing in length as rapidly as his sanity appears to be decreasing. At times, it feels like you are watching a lone man reaching near insanity whilst imprisoned in a tiny and claustrophobic room. However, isn’t that what happened to all of us in lockdown?
He is unafraid to admit when his mental health is spiralling, and there are moments where you begin to question whether moments of ‘Inside’ are really intended to be comedy at all. But ultimately, whether ‘Inside’ is full of constant, relentless laugh-out-loud moments doesn’t really matter, because what Burnham has created here is extraordinary nonetheless.
‘Inside’ is undeniably one of the best artistic creations to come into fruition during lockdown. In its 90-minute runtime, it documents and unites everyone’s shared experiences of 2020, and confirms that even though we were locked in our houses for a year, we weren’t really alone after all.
Featured image courtesy of Jennifer via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.
In-article images courtesy of @boburnham via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.
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