"I find myself so punchable."
"This is Bo Burnham. He is 22 years old. He's a male. And he looks like the genetic product of a giraffe having sex with Ellen DeGeneres. He has a gigantic head and tiny nipples. He's isolated himself, over the last 5 years, in the pursuit of comedy, and in doing so has lost touch with reality. You're an asshole, Bo. You hear me. You think you know better than me. You think you know better than everybody. You will die alone, and you will deserve it. But in the meantime, you might as well tell those silly jokes of yours. See if that helps."
Bo Burnham is a comedian, singer-songwriter, poet, and actor that specializes in satirical stand-up and music. Bo started out by posting some of his edgy and slightly politically incorrect music to YouTube
so his brother could see them, but they became so popular (his channel has over 150 million views total, and his most viral video has almost 23 million) that he decided he would make more.
His merciless and remorseless tackling of taboo topics like race, gender, sex, sexuality, and religion got him a lot of attention, considering these words were coming out of such a young person's mouth. It gained him a lot of followers but also a lot of people who thought he was a "gimmick" that was manipulating the stand-up game by getting his propelling to stardom off of Youtube. After doing a performance for Comedy Central in January 2008, he signed a four record deal with Comedy Central Records that same year, and the rest is history.
He has released four works (three albums and an EP) and has done two comedy specials.
He's pretty much famous and has done a bunch of different tours. His YouTube
channel can be found here
with some of his earlier songs on it, but a lot of the newer songs are absent.
He briefly starred in Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous
, an MTV
comedy series about a guy who tries to become an internet celebrity
. It only lasted one season.
- Bo Fo Sho EP (2008)
- Bo Burnham (2009)
- Words Words Words (2010) - First album to include stand-up
- what. (2013)
Tropes associated with Bo Burnham include:
- A Date with Rosie Palms:
- "Beating Off In A Minor" from what.note
- Also, from "New Math":
"Having sex is like math homework, I do it best when I'm alone in my bed."
- Referenced frequently throughout "Sunday School", which is about a Sunday school teacher confessing that he is gay for Jesus.
- In "What's Funny":
"And I masturbate, because I'm the only one whose standards are low enough to fuck me! (angrily mashes piano)"
- Added Alliterative Appeal:
- From "Art is Dead": "When I could have fed a family of four for forty fucking fortnights."
- Some nice tongue-twister stuff in "What's Funny": "I'm slowly slipping into a solipsistic coma!"
- All Just a Dream: "High School Party" ends with Bo admitting that the entire song was just made-up on his behalf, and that he was never invited at all. This trope is more clearly seen in the ending of the video, where we see Bo waking up and proceeding to cuddle with the sex toy that he's sharing a bed with.
- Anti-Love Song: "Repeat Stuff", which actually is more of an anti-love song song, specifically of the insincere pop song variety.
- Appeal to Worse Problems: In "Oh Bo," we get this:
Pull it out, stick it in your mouth, and I bust in the back of ya
Swallow, bitch, there's people starving in Africa
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
- From "Oh Bo": "I feel like hip-hop used to be a voice for the voiceless, you know? And now it's become, at least in the mainstream, a symbol of misogyny, gay panic, fiscal irresponsibility."
- From "Rant": "Sadness where there should be joy; hate, and rape, and Soulja Boy."
- From "Sad": "I saw a little boy drop his ice cream cone directly on his mother's corpse! I saw a kitten stuck in a tree, then the kitten jumped off, and he hung itself. I saw a boy who had red hair."
- Atomic F-Bomb: At the end of "Andy the Frog".
- Audience Participation Song:
- The chorus of "Repeat Stuff".
- The entirety of "Oh Bo", but notably the Title Drop in the chorus, the Woolly Willy line, and the "people starving in Africa" line.
- Bo tries to force this onto the audience in the live performance on Words Words Words by not singing at the titular line, but since no one saw his cue the line remained unsung. The next time the line came around, the audience sang the line very awkwardly.
- Apparently, the "am I the only fucking person here who likes soda" line from "High School Party" is this. During one performance of the song, a group of girls opted to sing the line with Bo, evoking a "No. Just... No" Reaction.
Bo: I can guarantee...I do it better.
- Autotune: Used to extremely awesome effect at around the 5:30 mark in "We Think We Know You".
"Bo, oh my god. Bo, oh my god. Bo, oh my god. Bo, OHHH MYYY GOOOOOOOOOOOD..."
- Awesome but Impractical: After Bo drops his nursery rhyme rap, he comments on how it cost $200 to show.
- Bait and Switch: In "Men & Women"; "Women are like puzzles...because prior to 1960, neither had the right to vote. Puzzles still don't."
- Becoming the Mask: There have been rumors that Bo actually lost himself a bit in his arrogant public persona for a period of time.
- Berserk Button: Exaggerated for comedic effect.
- Don't sing along with him during a live show. Just don't.
- Don't interrupt his jokes either.
- Big "NO!": The ending of the "Inappopriate Musician" skit, which has Bo playing the friend of a suicidal person who is trying to convince him not to jump. However, after the "NO!", some slide whistles come in. "He's saved."
- Black Comedy: Frequently.
- "Sad" in its entirety, with Bo even lampshading it around the middle, realizing that since his audience is laughing at the terrible stuff he's been telling them, he accepts the true sociopath inside him and continues doing so.
- Black Comedy Rape:
- One of his haikus: "Do unto others as you would have done to yourself - said the rapist."
- "I always used to cry when I laughed. But then I was raped by a clown."
- Book Ends:
- The first and penultimate lines of "High School Party" are "high school party, senior year".
- Bo's #CAKECEPTION trend on Instagram started and ended on the same day...give or take a year.
- Bowdlerise: On Bo Fo Sho EP and the Self-Titled Album, "My Whole Family Thinks I'm Gay" is shortened to "My Whole Family...".
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: From "Andy the Frog";
He [Andy] had 3 best friends:
Millie, who never left her lily pad,
and Roger, who was arrested for possession of tadpole porn.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Throughout Words Words Words, Bo frequently stops the joke he's telling to tell listeners who are tuning in on CD some visual gag that has just occurred.
- Broken Aesop: Love is all about whistles.
- Broken Record:
- "Prolonged eye contact (prolonged eye contact)..."
- "Repeat stuff, repeat stuff, repeat stuff..."
- "We think we know you. We think we know you."
- Careful With That Axe: "A World On Fire" from what.
- Clueless Chick Magnet: He is a sex symbol in real life, though much of his act consists of self deprecation of the "lanky awkward teenage boy who doesn't get girls" stereotype.
- Cluster F-Bomb: His song "Eff" contains 72 uses of the word "fuck", considering it gets dropped about every three words. And that's not even including the background part, which elevates it to a Macross F-Bomb Massacre.
- Coitus Ensues: Bo gets oh so close to getting with a girl in "High School Party", and he likely would've if he had protection.
- Comedic Sociopathy: Up to Eleven in "Sad", and even lampshaded:
"The world isn't sad. The world's funny, I get it now! I'm a sociopath!"
- Corpsing: In the live recording of "My Whole Family Thinks I'm Gay" on "Words Words Words", he lets out a giggle and a "motherfucker..." at "Even my boyfriend thinks I'm gay!"
- Country Matters: All in the name of punning.
"Go to a vagina orchard / Count one, two, three / Spin that plant around / You got a third whirled cunt-tree"
- Also used more blatantly in haiku form:
"Bono, if you want to help poor people, sell your tinted shades, you cunt!"
- At one of his live performances:
"My sister hated it when I said the C word. Like, we'd be watching Spongebob, and I'd go, 'C word!' And she'd go, 'It's Squidward, you cunt!'"
- Cover Version: At the height of the song's infamy, Bo couldn't resist covering "Friday" during some live shows.
- Creepy Blue Eyes: Bo sports these occasionally in the "Repeat Stuff" video to accentuate his Satanic persona.
- Dead Baby Comedy: Some of his older stuff definitely trekked into this realm, considering how more Bo relied on shock value for comedy.
- Deadpan Snarker: No kidding.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "You suck! You fuckin' suck! You suck so much! You suck! Fuck!"
- Digging Yourself Deeper: The lyrics of "My Whole Family Thinks I'm Gay" don't do much to convince anyone otherwise, which he lampshades towards the end.
"You all probably think I'm gay / Man, this song is counter-productive..."
- Dirty Old Man: Oh, Roger. "BIT OLD FOR MY TASTE!"
- Don't Explain the Joke: See Stealth Pun below.
- Driven to Suicide: His poem "Hanged", from the perspective of someone who, well..
- Embarrassing Middle Name: His middle name is Pickering.
- Epic Rocking: The what. intro, "We Think We Know You", "Left Brain, Right Brain", "Oh Bo" (both studio and live), "Haikus / Sonnets / Shakespeare", and "Repeat Stuff" (the live version).
- Exact Words: In some occasions, someone will just decide to go up on stage with Bo. He'll then ask if they want to be onstage, and then he'll give them the mic and leave.
- Felony Misdemeanor: "The world is not funny. 12% of the world's population does not have access to clean drinking water. The world is not funny. Guy Fieri owns two functioning restaurants. The world is not funny."
- Fetish: Subverted.
"My ex-girlfriend had had a really weird fetish. She used to like to dress up as herself and act like a fuckin' bitch all the time."
- Flat "What.": The title of his fourth album is "what."
- Flung Clothing: In the what. intro, Bo does this with his pair of red pants...only to be wearing another identical pair underneath.
- Godwin's Law: He manages to make it funny, calling upon the audience to yell "ho" when he yells "hey." When they do...
Bo: When I say "hey!" you say "ho!" Hey!
: That's basically how Hitler came to power. [Death Glare]
- He also performs a Sieg Heil as the audience sings "Repeat Stuff". He also does another one in the video.
- Speaking of "Repeat Stuff", the studio version of the song features recordings of Hitler.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Part of his persona.
"And if I were gay / Though I swear I'm straight / I'd make the fellas say "Oh, Bo!"
- Hell Is That Noise: Bo's Mind Rape in "Left Brain, Right Brain" is accompanied by a slew of disorienting, creepy sound effects.
- Hollywood Chameleons: "I put a chameleon on a red dildo. It blushed."
- Hurricane of Puns
- Hypocritical Humor: Lampshaded in "Words, Words, Words", the catchy chorus of which starts: "I hate catchy choruses and I'm a hypocrite."
- I Am X, Son of Y: "I am Jesus of Nazareth, son of Orflek the Butcher!"
- Ignore the Fanservice: As this picture◊ shows, Bo seems to be very uncomfortable when flanked by a pair of scantily-clad women.
- His live performance of "Welcome to Youtube" on his channel starts with Katy Perry introducing Bo while Sitting Sexy on a Piano. Bo doesn't seem turned on and is actually quite discomforted by it, judging by how he says "Thank you, Ms. Perry" afterwards.
- Irony: Discussed in "Ironic".
- Jump Cut: Happens in what., where he starts to make a joke about video editors before he's mysteriously cut off by one.
- Justified Trope: Bo doesn't really specialize in comedy as he does more in satire, which allows him to specialize in making fun of things, and that's why his songs can get very offensive. Plus it's funny.
- Large Ham: At times.
- Last-Second Word Swap: Does this from time to time, often combined with Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion.
- Somehow manages to lampshade and play straight SIMULTANEOUSLY in "What's Funny":
"If you're a musical comic, just give 'em a little weird voice inflection
Then take a viagra, and slap 'em with a rock-hard misdirection"
- A much darker example in "Sunday School":
"Did you know that Satan wears a cape / made out of a rainbow flaaaaaaaag?
"And did you know that Jesus hates abortions / unless the kid was a fa - Jew."
- Machine Monotone: The Make Happy tour starts with a female computerized voice scolding the viewer for laughing with Bo at the world's faults, saying that there is nothing to laugh about and that she is even trying to stop you from it.
- Metaphorgotten: In his PSA.
"Smoking can kill you, just like cancer. So don't... smoke... tumors...."
- Mind Rape: When Bo's left and right brains are isolated in "Left Brain, Right Brain".
- Misogyny Poem: Parodied with "I Fuck Sluts".
- "See? He was lashing out with sexist language because he had his heart broken. We all learned something."
- Mistaken for Gay: The subject of one of his songs, My Whole Family Thinks I'm Gay
- May be closer to Transparent Closet, considering the line "Even my boyfriend thinks I'm gay."
- Or he (at least in the song) is bisexual.
- Monkey Morality Pose: Bo did it once as seen here.
- Mood Whiplash:
- Art is Dead, a reflective song that focuses on his own faults and hypocrisy that borders on Creator Breakdown, is pretty jarring in general, let alone when heard in between his other songs. He even starts the song saying, "This next song isn't funny at all, but it helps me sleep at night."
- More specifically: on the "Words Words Words" CD, the "Art is Dead" track is directly followed by Bo lampshading this and immediately making a hysterical crude joke:
"We got serious there. I think fisting should be called 'uppercunting'. And we're back."
- His first-ever Vine starts with him making funny noises, and then all of a sudden...
"I'm gonna die alone."
- In one of his what. skits, he reads some poems, one of which saying that he wishes for someone to suffer in horrible ways such as being strapped a bed of nails on the hood of Bo's car and having said car run over speed bumps in a parking lot during an earthquake. Then Bo says that the poem is called "Dad".
- Really, all of what. Many many songs and bits in the special start out hysterical and end on a serious note. Examples being; "From God's Perspective", "Left Brain, Right Brain", "Sad", "Repeat Stuff", and "I Fuck Sluts".
- Used quite hilariously in the "Repeat Stuff" video. One second, Bo and his friends are hanging out and having fun. The next second, it suddenly turns to night and everyone is standing solemnly, taking part in some Satanic ritual.
- Motor Mouth: Bo's insane technical skills do enable him to do this, although it's only occasionally.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Bo manages to make nursery rhymes into some of the hottest tracks to drop in 2015 so far.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Bo once made a tweet making fun of people named Hunter. A lot of people got offended, causing Bo to express sincere regret and even personally apologize to as many Hunters as he could.
- No Ending: Multiple times, most notably "Welcome to Youtube".
- To a lesser extent "Men and Women", "The Perfect Woman", and "Ironic".
- Well, "Ironic" ends in the middle of a sentence so as to execute a final joke about Alzheimer's.
- Also happens in the live versions of "Oh Bo" (partly justified because the bit about the oboe is hard to replicate live).
- "Words Words Words", which just kinda cuts off where the studio versions have little codas and fade out. Sometimes Bo actually does replicate the coda (but without the fade out, of course).
- On the DVD of "Words, Words, Words", he performs "I'm Bo Yo" as an encore, and abruptly stops in the middle of the last chorus after changing one of the lyrics to "This song's gonna end really awkwardly."
- One-Liner: Many of his gags are simple one-liners, or collections of one-liners set up by a Framing Device.
- Orphaned Punchline: Intentionally used as the kicker to a series of tweets poking fun at the trend of people breaking a long tweet apart into several, ending each with something like "(1 of 3)", "(2 of 3)", and so on.
"People need to learn how to tweet long-form stuff. If you’re gonna do it, number them so that the order is clear… (1 of 4)
And make sure you tweet them all at once so people can read them easily. And don’t leave anything out or it will be confusing… (2 of 4)
And I haven’t set foot in a Best Buy since and he’s in jail and I can finally sleep at night. (4 of 4)."
"I'm thankful for my diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii (1 of 2)
ck. (2 of 2)"
- Overly Long Gag: "PROLONGED EYE CONTACT."
- Porn Stash: Roger the frog had a collection of tadpole porn that got him arrested.
- Pungeon Master
- Raised Catholic: He went to a Catholic school as a child, and some of his works play off of that in a satirical way.
- Record Needle Scratch: In this live performance, Bo gets irked with a song that repeatedly calls him a faggot and orders that it be turned off. The song then cuts off with the sound of a record scratch, causing Bo to start questioning why it was being played on a record player.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: A bit in what. involves an argument between the right and left halves of Bo's brain, who follow this dynamic. The colored lighting even follows the color scheme!
- Refuge in Audacity
- Running Gag:
- You get the feeling Bo was picked on in high school?
- On Words Words Words, Bo often jams his piano, making dissonant noise. He does it near the end of "What's Funny" and concludes the album with it.
- Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: From the intro to what.:
"Play an invisible trumpet. (Trumpet sounds!)"
"Bo wants to make you feel comfortable. (Random voice!)"
- Often, most notably in recent performances of "I'm Bo Yo"; in the final line of the chorus he says he "can really find your G-spot", which is followed by a brief self-indicting remark.
"Oh, but I'm inadequate / Have I gotten that point across yet?"
- "Art is Dead" is chock full of this, and it makes the song really jarring.
- The Opening Narration of what. (see page quote) is basically Bo calling himself out on how much of a jerk he's become.
- Sensory Abuse: Bo's Mind Rape in "Left Brain, Right Brain" provides both optical and aural examples. The aural one is the disorienting sounds heard during the event, and the optical one is when the event is enacted live with the sounds playing over repeatedly flickering lights.
- Sequel Escalation: Oh yeah. His Self-Titled Album cranked his debut EP's edginess Up to Eleven with even crasser jokes including subjects like the KKK ("Klan Kookout") and Helen Keller ("The Perfect Woman"). Words Words Words saw Bo's first foray into stand-up while changing his approach to make satirical points about society instead of just playing off of shock value to offend yet amuse listeners. what., his latest work, saw Bo playing with a bigger budget and bigger onstage possibilities, now dissecting every part of the human race from our sociopathic nature to our views of the preferences and taboos of stuff like religion.
- New Sound Album: His debut EP was merely nothing more than simple guitar/piano chords and, in the case of "Bo Fo Sho", rather awkward beats that sound like they were whipped up in GarageBand. His next album, Words Words Words, saw experimental growth in the two electronica-rooted studio tracks on the album, while his own song production grew more complex. what. expanded the electronic experimentation ten-fold while keeping the intricacy of the piano songs.
- Serial Escalation: "We Think We Know You" spends its 6.5-minute runtime constantly trying to one-up itself. It starts with Bo having a conversation with three in-audio-only characters about his popularity (a bratty high school girl, an agent, and a jock), and then their different sound clips are spliced together to make something of a song, accompanied by Bo pointing at different sides of the stage to activate the voices. Then we hear a sentence from each of them, and Bo splices that into the name of the song. As the Title Drop repeats, Bo starts adding instruments and, while using the voices as a backing beat, turns the whole thing into an electronic extraganza while playing invisible instruments onstage.
- Single-Target Sexuality: He has been in the same committed relationship for the duration of his career.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: In what. Bo tells a children's story about frogs, one of which experiences love at first sight and pursues the female frog, only to be eaten alive by an alligator along the way.
- Shout-Out: There are several examples of this in his work.
- One that comes to mind is during "Left Brain, Right Brain" when Right Brain tells Left Brain that he loves him, Left Brain replies with "I know."
- Another, more subtle one at the beginning of the same song: the computer/doctor refers to Bo as "Patient 24602."
- "Words Words Words" slips many a reference into the lyrics, including the fact that the song's title comes from a Hamlet quote (which is talked about in one of the lines).
- Probably the grimmest reference you can make, from the "One Man Shows" segment of "Smeagol having sex with a black chick": "Oh, precious!"
- Sophisticated as Hell: One of his routines on Words Words Words involves quoting Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy and then, after a beat, saying "Pff, like, WHAT?"
- From "Ex-Girlfriend/Racial Humor" on the same album:
- Soundtrack Dissonance: In a skit in the intro of what., while happy music is playing Bo meets a a five-horned unicorn/pentacorn, and then abruptly shoots it, reloads, and shoots it some more—all while the same happy music is still playing.
- Stealth Pun:
- "Because if I'm in the closet, then you are below me / taking the B A T outta "BASEMENT", homie". Unfortunately he ruins the stealth aspect in the live version of the song available on his self-titled album.
- A similar case of Don't Explain the Joke; if Bo plays "Ironic", he'll always stop briefly to point out the "eating veal wrapped in pita/PETA bread" joke.
- His songs are chock full of them, in fact. "I'm Bo, Yo" is a good example. This is essentially his modus operandi. Basically, if you laugh at tons of stuff the first time you hear the song and don't bother listening again, you're doing it wrong.
- After reenacting his "Smeagol having sex with a black chick" skit in "One Man Shows", Bo mentions that he received a Danza nomination for it. "It was right after the Tonys."
- Stylistic Suck: The "Words Words Words" video. There's no better way to describe it.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Several times.
"Maybe it's 'cause of the way that I walk/That makes them think that I like...boys."
- Take That: To everyone including himself.
- Title Track: Bo Fo Sho and Words Words Words have one. Actually, the latter has two - a studio version and a live version.
- Unwanted Harem: Is swarmed with celebrity attention from his fanbase, yet has had the same girlfriend for his entire career.
- Visual Pun: A Running Gag for his Vines; almost all of them have one.
"This fire extinguisher's so heavy. Do you have one that's a little lighter?"
- Voice of the Legion: Used in the "Repeat Stuff" video.
I am a servant of darkness.
I am the void.
The rivers shall run red with the blood of virgins.
I take many shapes. This is one of them.
The strong will be made weak, and the weak shall bow before me.
- Wham Line:
- The moment in "We Think We Know You" when the different vocal clips of the three "characters" are spliced together to form a Title Drop.
- In one of his what. skits, he reads some poems, one of which saying that he wishes for someone to suffer in extremely ludicrous ways. Then Bo says that the poem is called "Dad".
- After spending a good half of "From God's Perspective" shooting down religious beliefs and taboos, Bo then says "You pray so badly for heaven knowing any day might be the day that you die. But maybe life on earth could be heaven. Doesn't just the thought of it make it worth the try?" This is when the song changes direction and starts shifting towards constructive life advice.
- In "One Man Shows", after telling the audience of several single-man shows he's done in the past years: "2003, 4, 3? Doesn't matter. I'm lying."
- The final line of "High School Party", after telling of a story in which Bo managed to get in bed with a girl and almost had sex (he likely would've if he had protection): "High school party, senior year / none of that happened cuz I wasn't invited."
- What Did I Do Last Night?: One of his songs is named after this trope. It consists of the one line "I cried myself to sleep!"
- Wink Ding: Not necessarily a ding, but a low piano note at the end of the "Repeat Stuff" video.
- World of Pun: "Words, Words, Words". And what a world.
- X Meets Y: In the intro to what., he describes himself as the genetic product of a giraffe having sex with Ellen DeGeneres.
- Meanwhile, Pandora claims "if Sarah Silverman and Ben Folds had a teenage son, theyd [sic] probably sound a lot like...Bo Burnham."
- Your Mom: See Sophisticated as Hell.