How Bo Burnham's "Make Happy" Show Lead Me To An Existential Crisis
At the beginning of Bo's stand up routine, "Make Happy Tour," he called out to the audience for some introspection. I don't know if he intended this introspection to lead to an existential crisis for me, but it did.
Tonight I watched a great artist perform, and it left me feeling... scared, honestly.
Bo Burnham performs comedy in a way that's different than most comedians. His most popular stand up, titled "what." is currently on Netflix and YouTube, where his career first started. His early performances were done in his bedroom, and then uploaded to YouTube. After becoming somewhat of an internet sensation, performing at events like YouTube Live, Bo started to get his own live shows.
The first time I watched "what.", I watched it again immediately under the guise that I had to show it to my friend. Then my brother, then another friend, then alone in my room again, etc. I've watched it many times, and quote it almost daily. I loved "what." because it was creative and original, but not pretentious about those things. Well, maybe a little pretentious, but it was intentional, which made it okay.
If you're watching a Bo Burnham show and think you know where a joke is going, you probably don't. At least, I never do. Honestly, I left his "Make Happy Tour" performance feeling sad. But why? I loved the show. I laughed a lot. I would recommend it to anyone, and I'm probably going to force my friends to watch "what." with me later. The show was funny, surprising, and honest. It reminded me I'm not dead yet, but I'm getting there. That was a nice reminder.
I loved all the dick jokes. I really liked the dick joke that reared into a clit joke. He sang about the standards girls have for the boys they date (for example, we all want "a feminist who always wants to pay for stuff"). He reminded the audience of how ridiculous we all are for having these types of standards, but somehow he made it feel okay to be ridiculous, because we all are.
I think a little part of me was sad knowing that Bo is purportedly single, as am I, yet fate will probably not bring us together. Because he is talented and fairly cute, but I also know that I don't really know him, so there's not much to be sad about in that respect.
Whenever I see artists perform, I always leave inspired. Their talent and success makes me want to pursue my talents. After Bo's show tonight, I left feeling... dejected? Anxious? I wasn't sure what I felt. But I feel it writing right now. I feel it when my fingers hesitate over the keyboard not knowing the exact word I want to use next. Maybe I'm just afraid of what we are all afraid of - failure. And tonight, that fear was brought back to my attention. Because Bo's talent feels so tremendous to me. His talent is everything I want my talent to be: creative, original, courageous... Next to his, my talent felt inadequate.
Bo doesn't just walk on stage. As he points out in his show, every single move he makes is choreographed. Every line, every movement, every breath, pretty much. He sings songs about ridiculous things, like Flamin' Hot Cheetos and how great they are (because he wants a sponsorship from them). His jokes remind people of how ridiculous they are, and how lonely they may be, and how terrible life is sometimes, but all of these things are okay because he makes them okay. He makes it okay to be a little sad and lonely because we're all a little sad and lonely.
I think the biggest feeling I experienced walking out of that show and typing this article and living my life in general, is fear. (I know that's it). In his show, Bo talks about fear, mentions it in passing, shows us he has it, too. But his fear makes his show better. He's afraid to perform the kind of material he wants to perform. Afraid that the audience won't like it, but he does it anyway. He takes his fear and pushes it into an incredible stand up.
My fear? I don't know if my fear will ever be that brave.