Life without an audience?

I recently watched Bo Burnham’s Make Happy and I swear I heard angelic vocalisation in the background at the exact moment when I realised I had stumbled on to something amazing.

Oh wait.. the vocalisation was in the show.. If that doesn’t pique your interest..

I’m not doing this very well. Makes sense, cause a grand total of one person I know watched it.

But since I’m like 10% more eloquent in writing, I’m hoping I can convince you and our two readers to watch this perspective changing work of pure art.

Wow I feel myself getting hyped just writing it


‘A young comic challenges the very form of stand-up comedy’.. maybe I should first explain the traditional form.

It’s when someone comes on stage and rants for an hour about everything humanity has to endure in order to live in our outrageously comfortable first world lifestyles and by doing so hopes to find a connection with their audience who despite wanting to feel unique feels a quiet sense of relief that they are not alone in feeling that airplane food is really inedible.

Bo Burnham raps. And sings. And interacts with voiceovers. About irony and love and depression.

Basically, watching his show will make you laugh and cause your weekly existential crisis to arrive a bit early.

I’m kinda mad that I can’t quote some of the exemplary lines from the show or go into detail about each of the segments cause this is probably the only stand-up routine that should not be spoiled

Bo Burnham with his conveniently alliterative rap name was a child of the internet, but proves he can tackle all-encompassing critical points of culture. All of the segments are genuinely funny in an understated way and even as he proclaims they are discrete, they all come together in a breathlessly beautiful way and perfects a new genre for mainstream stand-up comedy (his previous special ‘what.’ introduced it and it’s brilliant)

The show itself is technically marvelous. The professional lighting and the perfectly choreographed sequences with inherently hostile voice-overs elevate his content, his pithy narrative ability and his singing voice which were already pretty amazing to begin with, resulting in a layered and complex performance

In his quest to escape the comfortable boundaries other comedians set up by being ‘relatable’, he makes a show about performing.

But like he says at the end, we’re all performers; capturing everything through pixels and constantly seeking validation for said performance by others and ourselves. We are the audience of our own carefully curated show and the ratings in the form of likes and shares measure our self-worth and decides whether our show gets cancelled or picked up for another season.

Yes, he’s a child of the internet but he resents everything it has become.. this theme was explored a little bit in his previous specials  but in this one, he abandons the subtext completely and literally spells it out in the most honest monologue at the end

And yet as he expresses anger at how ‘Lip-sync battles’ and celebrities playing ‘Pictionary’ is capturing our valuable attention, he acknowledges that he’s no better as his whole show is designed to do the exact same.

He points out that just because he has the self-awareness to admit the flaws in his material doesn’t mean we can let him off the hook

When he laments about the entertainment industry, social media and how celebrity culture is moulding our generation into personality-less drones, he does so with such remarkable passion that you get this weird feeling of hope that maybe there is potential for the tide to turn.

Shows and performances are designed as a form of escapism; an evening where we can just laugh and let go of our fears. Bo Burnham however shines the light (sometimes literally) on humanity’s weaker moments, so that when we do laugh, it’s almost always tinged with self-pity and also through a sense of connection to this flawed persona on stage as he promises you that you can never escape your inner demons.

It’s still very funny though. Really.

He switches between humour and thoughtfulness at dizzying rates that at the end of it you are left feeling emotionally exhausted and hitting the replay button.

At the end of it all, you’re just left with one question.

Are you happy?