Comedian Bo Burnham is back with a new Netflix comedy special called “Inside.” This was shocking to see because only five years ago Burnham announced that he was taking a “long break from comedy.” As a Bo Burnham fan, I was incredibly pleased to see his new special pop up on my feed this month, though I wouldn’t classify it as a comedy. I would call the special (specifically the Socko segment), an observation of the social and political climate we live in today. And how those in power, the oppressor, will always find a way to invalidate the experiences of those they have oppressed.
Starting from the beginning, the cover art for Burnham’s new comedy special was shocking. Instead of the clean-shaven and well-groomed Bo Burnham we’re used to, I was met with a tired-looking man, with overgrown hair and a scrappy beard. To me, it looked like he had been feeling the full effects of our year-long quarantine and was ready to create a special around his experience.
And boy, was I right.
The special is a mixed bag of new experiences Burnham single-handedly created. Not only was he the main star of this new special, but he was also the producer, writer, and director. The entire piece takes us through Burnham’s year-long journey and how his social beliefs and mental health were challenged. The entire special was shot over the entire quarantine, so it took him a year to create.
A moment from this special that stands out to me, was Burnham’s sketch with the sock puppet. This sketch was incredibly enlightening. In this segment, Burnham sings about the way children are introduced to the ideas of the world and how everyone supposedly works together to make sure the world goes around: “The secret is the world can only work when everything works together.” However, the song shatters the oversimplified illusion by discussing the dark realities of how the world actually works.
The sock puppet on Burnham’s hand, named Socko, begins by dismantling everything Burnham sang about in the first part of the song. Stating that the simple narrative taught to us is “demonstrably false and pedagogically classist.” Socko goes further and details how worldwide, countries that maintain a capitalistic system repeatedly screw over their working class for their self-interest. Personally, I believe that the sock represented marginalized communities, talking about their own trauma and experiences in the world we live in.
However, Burnham acts as one of the neo-fascist liberals that he mocks earlier in the song. The comedian is stating that those kinds of people are only interested in hearing about the struggles of marginalized communities to make themselves feel like better people. That the only reason they even give attention to these marginalized people is to ensure that they are viewed as good people. Socko calls Burnham out by stating that marginalized people’s struggles are not meant to benefit their oppressors. It’s not about them, it’s about those that have been experiencing systemic oppression.
Thus Burnham immediately displays his power over the sock and forces it to submit to him. Similar to the way many people of color are forced to submit to their oppressors in order to maintain their footing in society. As a person of color, this section of the special was horrifyingly realistic to me. I have been in eerily similar situations, where I’ve attempted to enlighten someone about the struggles that I’ve gone through in my life, and the minute they don’t like it, they shut me down.
Another amazing part of the show was Burnham’s “Welcome to the Internet” the song. I could tell that Burnham has greatly improved in his storytelling and his songwriting abilities. His voice has gotten so much stronger and more smooth, and the songs are so, so catchy.
In short, I really appreciated this comedy special. It’s greatly needed during these tumultuous times. And though Bo Burnham doesn’t specifically name any of the social issues he seems to be addressing within the comedy special, “Inside” has the potential to start many conversations about a lot of these social issues, including Black Lives Matter, and Stop Asian Hate. The special brings focus back to these movements and allows the people affected to openly share their experiences and how the “neo-fascist liberals” have stolen attention from their movements and made it about themselves.
The ending of this special is one to behold, and it definitely ties in a lot of the themes Burnham addresses throughout. Burnham beautifully mixes and reprises several of the main songs from throughout the special. This all culminates in Burnham discovering that his imprisonment in that single room was not what he’d originally understood it to be. His discovery leaves the audience questioning if we’re partially responsible for his imprisonment.
I greatly recommend that any and everyone watch the special, especially if you’re interested in social or political change. And even if you’re not, the songs are amazing, the visuals are impressive, especially since everything was shot on one camera in one room during lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic.