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"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."
Opening Narration for what.
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Robert Pickering "Bo" Burnham (born August 21, 1990) is a comedian, singer-songwriter, poet, actor and filmmaker that specializes in satirical stand-up and music.

Bo started out by posting two videos of himself performing songs in his bedroom to YouTube in 2006 so his family could see them, but they became so popular that he decided he would make more. Through his videos, he established a comedic style revolving around cheery music with dark lyrics poking fun at taboo topics such as race, gender, sexuality and religion, alongside getting shock value out of subjects as far controversial as white supremacy and disabilities (although he now looks on this aspect of his early work with chagrin).

After doing a performance for Comedy Central in January 2008, he signed a four-record deal with their record label that same year, and his career largely continued from there in stand-up, releasing several specials, while also doing a bit of work in supporting roles for a handful of films. In 2013, his work extended further into TV (starring in and co-creating Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous, an MTV comedy series about a guy who tries to become an Internet celebrity that only lasted one season) and literature (releasing a humorous poetry book called Egghead; or, You Can't Survive on Ideas Alone).

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Bo publicly stated on several occasions that following the release of his third special, Make Happy, he would take a break from his stage work and move into more projects for other people rather than himself. While this took the form of continued supporting roles in films alongside directing specials for other comedians (including Jerrod Carmichael and Chris Rock), it most prominently resulted in his debut as a film writer-director in Eighth Grade, distributed by A24 in 2018.

In April 2021 (almost five years after the release of Make Happy), his comedy hiatus came to an end with a surprise announcement that a new special named Inside was almost finished, shot and performed alone in the wake of world events and to be released through Netflix. It was released on May 30, 2021.

His YouTube channel can be found here with some of his earlier songs on it, as well as the entirety of his what. special for free. Both what. and Make Happy are also available on Netflix, while his debut special Words Words Words is available on Paramount+.

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He has accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


Works:

  • Bo Fo Sho (EP; 2008)
  • Bo Burnham (album; 2009)
  • Words Words Words (album/special; 2010) - first album to include stand-up
  • what. (album/special; 2013)
  • Make Happy (special; 2016)
  • Inside (album/special; 2021)

Movies:


Welcome to the tropes; this is Bo, these are his tropes, and Bo likes to trope like THIS!

  • 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.
  • An Aesop:
    • Defied with his "Andy The Frog" story. "The moral of this story is...irrelevant, 'cause we're humans."
    • "Love Is..." qualifies in the Broken Aesop sense; see below.
  • Anticlimax:
    • Parodied in Make Happy several times:
      • At the start, there's an electronic beat that Bo dances to as the music builds up to a drop...that doesn't happen, seguing abruptly into Bo setting up a joke. And then it anticlimaxes again:
      Bo: So I was at the dentist the other day... and nothing funny happened so I was like "don't mention that on stage."
      • There's a bit with dramatic music accompanied by momentary flashes that builds up to...Bo farting into his microphone.
    • In "what." Bo describes going to a party in Hollywood, and begins a song titled "What Did I Do Last Night?" A techno beat drops, and Bo, sounding like a rapper, says "Yeah, yeah, here we go!" He runs up to the microphone only to sing "I cried myself to sleep!" Song end.
  • Anti-Humor: Bo is merciless in his deconstruction of comedy tropes and cliches.
    Bo: Here's some racial humor for you guys. White people are like this: "Ah!" Black people are like this: "Uh!" We're destined to fight forever! Blood in the streets.
  • Anti-Love Song:
    • "Repeat Stuff", which actually is more of an anti-love song song, specifically of the insincere pop song variety.
    • "Lower Your Expectations" is about how the perfect partner either doesn't exist or is dead, and how you need to set your bar lower if you actually want to find love.
  • 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."
    • The opening monologue of Make Happy uses these three facts as proof that the world is a terrible place: we are all dying, 12% of the world's population does not have access to clean drinking water, and Guy Fieri owns two functioning restaurants.
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: Present throughout Inside.
  • Atomic F-Bomb: At the end of "Andy the Frog".
  • Audience Participation: Defied for the most part. With how meticulous his sets are, Bo has gained a considerable reputation for absolutely hating any form of unplanned audience involvement. Lots of fan footage exists of him immediately (but comically) shutting audience members down when they sing along to his songs or interrupt his jokes (even to voice their support). Do note that this is a bit of a generalization, however; not only does Bo sometimes work the audience into his bits (see Audience Participation Song below), but lots of fan footage also exists of Bo playing songs and not minding fans singing along at all.
    "Stop participating. Not a participatory thing going on up here. Trying to immortalize something I’ve worked on for a long time. Shut up!"
  • Audience Participation Song:
    • The chorus of "Repeat Stuff". In what., he directly tells his audience to start singing, at which point he stands up and begins Nazi saluting.
    • The entirety of "Oh Bo", but notably the Title Drops in the chorus, the Woolly Willy line, and the "people starving in Africa" line.
      • A case of Audience Participation Failure: 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.
      • The opening number of Make Happy.
        Bo: Virgins, if you haven't felt a person say, "Hell, yeah!"
        Audience: "HELL YEAH!"
  • Autotune:
    • In the intro of what., Bo declares "My voice is so fucking natural!" while heavily auto-tuned. When the auto-tune briefly drops, his singing becomes Hollywood Tone-Deaf.
    • Used 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..."
    • The last live number in his Make Happy special, designed In the Style of... a Kanye West rant. He also does things like tongue-wagging and snorting auto-tuned.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: After the nursery rhyme rap in Make Happy, he comments on how the smoke machines for the bit cost $200.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In "Men & Women"; "Women are like puzzles...because prior to 1960, neither had the right to vote. Puzzles still don't."
  • Beard of Sorrow: His 2021 special, Inside, is his first special since he stepped away from performing on stage in 2015, and, since the special mainly focuses on his anxiety and depression, both his hair and facial hair are very unkempt.
  • 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.
    • Don't tell him you love him. He will cut you off right there and tell you how you're Loving a Shadow.
  • 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."
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Played with; after MTV cancelled Zach Stone, Bo took the time during a live performance of "Oh Bo" to throw some jabs, and then at least half-genuinely stated that they were merely in good fun.
    "I made a show that got cancelled after twelve episodes, baby! And for all my people saying, 'What about us? Why can't we get some of that fifty dollars that MTV paid you?' What's the M stand for? 'Mediocre.'"
  • Black Comedy: Frequently.
    • "From God's Perspective": "I sent gays to fix overpopulation, and boy, did that go well."
    • "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.
    • In Make Happy he sings an uplifting and inspirational song... About committing suicide.
  • 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."
  • Bookends:
    • 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.
    • "Welcome to the Internet" says that the internet has "movies, and doctors, and fantasy sports, and a bunch of colored pencil drawings of all the different characters in Harry Potter fucking each other". The faster part of the song also jumps around between light-hearted things people would search for to Internet conspiracy theories, like "Here's a healthy breakfast option! You should kill your mom!"
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • Throughout Words Words Words, Bo frequently stops the joke he's telling to tell listeners who are tuning in on audio some visual gag that has just occurred.
    • He does so in what. as well.
      Bo: For those of you listening, I just threw confetti. Flamboyantly.
    • Slightly subverted with the protagonist in "Making a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich While Shitfaced", where he is asked by his angry girlfriend why he's talking to the kitchen sink, when he thinks he's talking to the audience.
  • Broken Aesop: The end of "Love Is..." has Bo bring up an anecdote about a company that sells rape whistles facing a dilemma produced from the fact that if they're successful in declining rape, they'll also see a decline in sales. The main take-away Bo extracts from that for the whole song?
    "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."
    • "I don't think that I can handle this right now, I don't think that I can handle this right now..."
      • "They don't even know the half of this right now, they don't even know the half of this right now, they don't even know the half of this right now..."
    • "Bitches and hoes, Bo's hoes, oh, bitches and hoes. Bitches, hoes."
  • Bystander Syndrome: In "Sad", Bo details how his indulgence into this trope led to the death of an old man.
    I saw an old man get hit by a train
    He didn't see it in the pouring rain
    He didn't hear me shout "Look out for the train"...
    ...'cause I didn't say anything.
    I just thought to myself, "Oh, this is gonna be sad."
    And it was. I'm a genius.
  • Captain Obvious Aesop: In-Universe. In "From God's Perspective", God matter-of-factly declares rape to be a "fucked up thing to do."
    "Pretty obvious, just don't fucking rape people. Didn't think I had to write that one down for you."
  • Careful with That Axe: "A World On Fire" from what. It's just Bo mashing his piano and screaming for a few seconds.
  • Clueless Chick Magnet: Although much of his act consists of self-deprecation of the "lanky awkward teenage boy who doesn't get girls" stereotype, he has gained quite the following as an attractive man among his audience.
  • 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.
    • One instance of him cursing out a heckler.
    • During "What's Funny": "Fuck my life, I don't fuck my wife, so fuck my wife, and fuck my life."
  • 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. Ultimately subverted, as this was all in his imagination.
  • 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!"
    • He also laughs a bit after the line about Harrt Potter fanart in "Welcone to The Internet"
  • 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!'"
    • A rather literal one to finish off a song mocking insincere country music: "I do what I do cause I'm a total fuckin' count..ry....boy."
  • Cover Version: At the height of their infamy, Bo couldn't resist covering "Friday" or "Baby" during some live shows.
  • Creepy Blue Eyes: Bo sports these occasionally in the "Repeat Stuff" video to accentuate his Satanic persona.
  • Darker and Edgier: His 2021 special, Inside. What happens if, mid-COVID-19 Pandemic, Bo spends months making a special inside his own house, without any audience or anyone else on camera but him? You get an uncomfortably close look at his own mental struggles that have only gotten worse as the pandemic has rolled on. Dealing with his anxiety and depression is a frequent theme of his work, but it becomes much more resonant without an audience to please.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms:
    • Referenced frequently throughout "Sunday School", which is about a Sunday school teacher confessing that he is gay for Jesus.
    • In "I'm Bo Yo":
      "So if the sects can't be different, the sex can't be same
      Then the only sex left is some left hand shame."
    • In "New Math":
      "Having sex is like math homework; I do it best when I'm alone in my bed."
    • In "What's Funny":
      "And I masturbate, because I'm the only one whose standards are low enough to fuck me!" (angrily mashes piano)
    • "Beating Off In A Minor" from what.note 
  • Dead Baby Comedy: Some of his older stuff definitely trekked into this realm, considering how more Bo relied on shock value for comedy. Bo has since disavowed this era of his career whole-heartedly.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Bo's persona onstage is that of the "weird kid in high school" telling jokes and being mad at the world around him. Snark about the world is thus a frequent source of comedy.
  • Death by Irony: In "New Math":
    An anteater plus a large hungry mutant ant: an ironic way to die
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: Bo's earlier stand-up persona revolved around dismantling the "weird kid in high school" type that's really shy and a total loner. While it's played for Black Comedy, Bo frequently points out how dark some of his thoughts can get, how utterly bizarre human nature can be, how introversion can really mess someone up, and the weird things people do to try and become popular.
  • Despair Event Horizon: What Bo ultimately winds up at towards the end of Inside, after spending months in his house making the special. He just starts sobbing at one point.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: In "Country Song":
    No shoes, no shirt
    No Jews; you didn't hear that.
  • 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..."
  • Digital Piracy Is Okay:
    • When asked about the chances of a Make Happy album in a Reddit AMA, he said that "weird legal stuff" was preventing it from being a likelihood, but he didn't mind fans downloading pre-existing audio rips of the special.
    • In a separate AMA, a fan asked him how to watch Eighth Grade legally in Brazil, to which he responded that if the film isn't released there, he can go ahead and watch it illegally — and with the addition that said fan had tattoos of Bo's lyrics, he had "more than earned the right" to do so.
  • Dirty Old Man:
    • Oh, Roger. "BIT OLD FOR MY TASTE!"
    • Also, the "creepy old man fishing in the park" little skit from "what."
  • Dissimile: "Love is real-life porn, minus all the stuff that makes porn cool."
  • Don't Explain the Joke: See Stealth Pun below.
  • Driven to Suicide:
  • Due to the Dead: "White Woman's Instagram" from Inside is a long series of Instagram cliches that, well, white women indulge in... and on the bridge of the song, Bo includes one where a woman talks to her long-dead mother about how badly she misses her.
  • 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: On some occasions early in his career, someone would just decide to go up on stage with Bo. He'd then ask if they want to be onstage, and then he'd give them the mic and leave.
    "So, you wanna be onstage? ... Did you think this through?"
  • Fake Texting: "Left Brain, Right Brain" features Bo seeing a girl nearby. The Left Brain responds to this by telling Bo to "puff your chest out, take your phone, and check your email" in order to "gather data" on the girl and see if she can be "a possible mate".
  • 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.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: In "All Eyes On Me", when he tells his audience to get up, he means everyone — including you. And he'll attack you if you don't comply.
  • Gainax Ending. Inside ends with Bo leaving his room, only to be confronted by the sound of a cheering audience. Horrified, he tries to get back in but is locked out... and is being watched by Bo himself, still inside the room, who gives a small smile.
  • Godwin's Law:
    • He manages to make it funny, calling upon the audience to yell "ho" when he yells "hey." When they do...
    Bo: 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!"
  • Heaven Above: In "We Think We Know You", Bo points his finger in different directions to prompt different people to talk. When he points down, he hears an ungodly "I am Satan, Lord of Darkness!" He hopefully points straight up to hear chirping crickets.
    • In some performances, however, Jesus actually is there when prompted, flamboyantly singing his name.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • In an interview with Conan O'Brien, when asked what advice he could offer to young people, Bo said to "give up".
      "Don't take advice from people like me who got very lucky. Taylor Swift telling you to follow your dreams is like a lottery winner saying, 'Liquidize your assets! Buy Powerball tickets! It works!'"
    • Songs like "Art is Dead," "Can't Handle This" and "Are You Happy?" allude to a Bo who is deeply upset with his career and the fact that he is a comedian.
      "My drug's attention, I am an addict, but I get paid to indulge in my habit! It's all an illusion! I'm wearing make-up! I'M WEARING MAKE UP!"
    • "We Think We Know You" is about how an old friend from high school, a Hollywood agent, and a current fan of his don't really know who Bo is as a person, only seeing what they want to see.
  • Hollywood Chameleons: A poem from Egghead reads, "I put a chameleon on a red dildo. It blushed."
  • Humans Are Flawed: Played with in "Lower Your Expectations"; the song does state that humans "all suck", but also states that "love can make us suck less", illustrating a message about how everyone deserves a love that can complete them.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Too many of his songs to count, especially in his earlier work. Words, Words, Words comes to mind as a particularly blatant example.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: In an article for The Independent, he acknowledges that he's trying to become famous while mocking the kind of attention that would come with it.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Lampshaded in "Words, Words, Words", the catchy chorus of which states: "I hate catchy choruses and I'm a hypocrite."
    • While performing "Oh Bo" in his Make Happy 2015 tour, Bo summons fog machines behind him to spurt out fog after he says "fiscal irresponsibility". He then comments that that joke cost fifty dollars.
    • In the opening of the what. special, Bo decides he wants to start off with a joke for all the men in the crowd: "Guys, don't you hate it when you're blowing some guy and he ends up being a faggot?"
  • I Am X, Son of Y: When lampooning how Jesus calls himself Jesus of Nazareth:
    "I am Jesus of Nazareth, son of Orflek the Butcher!"
  • I Banged Your Mom:
    • An occasional go-to response from Bo to hecklers is to remark about him fucking the heckler's mother.
    • One of the gags in Make Happy is Bo claiming to have sex with a random audience member's mother.
  • 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.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: In "Rant", Bo describes God as the "all-loving faggot hater".
  • The Internet Is for Porn: "Welcome to the Internet" encourages the listener to "be happy, be horny", and says "we've got movies and doctors and fantasy sports and a bunch of colored pencil drawings of all the different characters in Harry Potter fucking each other".
  • In the Style of...: Bo has styled various works of his after Kanye West.
    • The finale of Make Happy is designed after the rant Bo saw when he saw one of his performances on the Yeezus Tour.
    • In an interview, Bo admitted to being so inspired by the lighting setup for his Saint Pablo Tour that he stole it — and he used those words — for the setup of Chris Rock's Tamborine special, which he directed.
  • Ironic Name: In "Sad", Bo notes that he once saw a homeless man named Rich.
    "He wasn't."
  • Jump Cut: Happens in what., where he starts to make a joke about video editors before the video suddenly jump cuts to a new shot.
  • 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.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Does this from time to time, often combined with Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion.
    • A much darker example in "Sunday School":
      "Did you know that Satan wears a cape / made out of a rainbow flag?
      "And did you know that Jesus hates abortions / unless the kid was a fa - Jew."
    • 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."
    • In "#Deep":
      "The people in my life are like blades of grass
      How? 'Cause they're all so grounded
      But at least grass stays away from my butthole!"
  • List Song: "Kill Yourself" turns into one at the end, with Bo listing a variety of ways to commit suicide that ends with "marry Courtney Love".invoked
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Right Brain from the "Left Brain, Right Brain" skit.
    "I'm a little all over the place, but I'm lustful, trustful and I'm looking for somebody to love (OR PUT MY PENIS IN)!"
  • Machine Monotone:
    • Make Happy 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.
    • "Left Brain, Right Brain" is bookended with one talking to Bo about the problems arising from his left and right brains being in conflict.
    Mechanized voice: So basically, you're still a little bitch.
    Bo: Yes, very mature, disembodied voice up there.
    Mechanized voice: I was just joking, nigga.
    Bo: All right, you're not as safe in Wisconsin as you might think with that.note 
    Mechanized voice: I'm not human, I can say whatever I want.
  • Medium Awareness: In Make Happy, Bo gets in a scenario where he imitates being shit-faced and trying to talk with his offscreen wife. She is unable to hear him, and tells him to talk into the microphone.
  • Metaphorgotten:
    • In his PSA.
      "Smoking can kill you, just like cancer. So don't smoke tumors."
    • Also in "#deep".
      "People in my life are like blades of grass. 'How?' They're all so grounded, but at least grass stays away from my BUTTHOLE!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Uses this repeatedly throughout Make Happy but mainly towards the end which is mixed with a serious Creator Breakdown.
    • After "White Woman's Instagram" spent most of the song jumping through and mocking generic and soulless Instagram posts, the song suddenly veers into one heartfelt post of a woman mourning her mother and father and praying they know she loves them and is happy now... only to go right back to goofy Instagram posts.
  • Motor Mouth: Bo's insane technical skills do enable him to do this, although it's only occasionally.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • The "Beating Off In A Minor" bit from what. makes masturbation a lot more...exciting with Mickey Mousing music playing.
    • In Make Happy, Bo turns "Little Teapot" and "Baa Baa Black Sheep" into raps to demonstrate "beat fetishism", the practice of modern-day rappers using awesome beats to just rap about anything over them. It's Better Than It Sounds.
    • From Make Happy: "And now, what making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich feels like..when you're high on marijuana."
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: Bo's potshot at George W. Bush in "3.14 Apple Pi":
    George Bush, won't he just yell and rant
    But he's a presiDON'T who ameriCAN'T.
  • No Ending: Multiple times, most notably "Welcome to Youtube".
    • To a lesser extent, "Men and Women", "The Perfect Woman", and "Ironic", the last of which is justified as it 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."
  • N-Word Privileges:
    • At the start of "Left Brain, Right Brain", when Bo is talking to a disembodied machine voice, it ends up using the N-word ("I was just joking, nigga"). Bo immediately tells the machine to watch its language, but the voice essentially says, "Screw the rules, I'm not a human."
    • In Make Happy:
      • Manipulated brilliantly by Bo where he does a series of call-and-responses with the crowd and ends up saying "Salt and vi..." so the audience can say "...negar" ("n*gger"). Bo immediately gets on edge and calls out all of the people that said it.
      • Said by a backing voice in the first chorus of Bo's nursery rhyme rap.
  • 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)."
  • Overly Long Gag: "PROLONGED EYE CONTACT." He just stares at an audience member, doing nothing else, while the phrase repeats a few times. Then right when the audience member thinks he's done, Bo comes back and continues staring.
  • Painting the Medium: Done with jokes in two specials.
    • In what., he begins a joke about editors before he is mysteriously cut off by one.
    • In Make Happy, he has a joke about continuity errors.
      "It's where in one shot something's one way, (cut to shot where Bo is no longer wearing his sweater) and in another shot it's another way. You know those things?"
  • [Popular Saying], But...: See his take on Hamlet's soliloquy in Sophisticated as Hell and his response to When Life Gives You Lemons... below.
  • Porn Stash: Roger the frog had a collection of tadpole porn that got him arrested.
  • Raised Catholic: He went to a Catholic school as a child, and some of his works play off of that in a satirical way. In more recent times (starting at the 1:40:30 mark), he has started identifying as an atheist in specific terms. He rejects theismnote  and, while he's not fully in the group, has leaned more towards deismnote , claiming that the gaps in privilege he sees around him are what distances him from the idea of a theist god.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Inside is incredibly bleak, with even its funniest moments having an edge of desperation and despair to them, and Bo talking very frankly about his mental health issues and how quarantine only made them worse. He repeatedly questions whether doing comedy is necessary or even appropriate given the circumstances, and whether it'll help anyone, including himself. But, not for nothing, the final shot of the movie is Bo watching a recording of himself, and smiling.
  • Reality Ensues: His Make Happy song "Lower Your Expectations", which talks about how people will never be able to get their idealized "perfect lovers" in the real world.
  • Record Needle Scratch: In Make Happy, 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!
    • Done again in Make Happy (down to the lighting) with Bo and his girlfriend negotiating a potential separation, with Bo being the red oni and the girlfriend being the blue.
  • Refuge in Audacity
    • He makes the audience indirectly say the N-word, then calls them out for saying it.
    • "I Fuck Sluts" is a parody of misogynistic work, with poetry about treating women as objects.
  • Religion Rant Song: Bo's takedown of God in "Rant" plays this pretty straight, and some have also interpreted "From God's Perspective" as this.
  • Rimshot: In his Comedy Central special for Words Words Words, he brought out a basic drum set to perform a section where he threw out one-liners that were accentuated with rimshots. The scenario ended with Bo violently knocking the drum set over.
  • Running Gag:
    • The words "I love the idea of you" pop up in multiple audience interactions.
    • Interactions with the doorman (first being here)
    • Requests for the "lightman".
    • 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.
  • Sad Clown: And how. If him shifting his comedy to focus more on his insecurities as an artist and a person wasn't enough, Make Happy literally starts with a listless Bo in clown makeup trudging through a city on his way to the theatre.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: From the intro to what.:
    "Play an invisible trumpet. (Trumpet sounds!)"
    • It comes back later.
      "Bo wants to make you feel comfortable. (Random voice!)"
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • 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.
    • The finale of Make Happy features him describing himself as a "skinny kid with a steadily declining mental health".
  • 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 next 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 (he even starts autotuning them), 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: See here.
  • Silly Prayer: He gives a very satirical example in "Rant". The entire song being a criticism of organized religion, the second verse is a long prayer, in which the churchgoer refers to God by several different and increasingly critical names, thanks him for making them "rich and white", and ends up asking for him to fix their dog's leg surgery before tackling serious things like rape, war, and Soulja Boy.
  • Sitting Sexy on a Piano: In the College Humor skit "Learning to Piano to Get Laid (with Bo Burnham)", numerous women who Bo charms do this.
  • Smooth-Talking Talent Agent: One of the characters Bo meets in "We Think We Know You" is a Los Angeles Agent who rambles on for a while about how Bo needs to "pander to kids" and "reestablish his presence on the internet" while pretending he cares about Bo's music and not just money. Later, he gives a condescending "We know best", and tries to get Bo to call him to continue their "conversation".
  • 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?"
    • The lyrics to "Sonnet 155", or "If Shakespeare Had Written a Porn".
    • From "Ex-Girlfriend/Racial Humor" on the same album:
      "Your mother's breasts sag with such severity that the late, great artist Salvador Dalí mistook them for clocks."
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In a skit in the intro of what., Bo meets a a pentacorn (five-horned unicorn) while happy music, 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.
    • "Words, Words, Words" has a ton of them. For example "Take off your bras and burn 'em [..], you can let Bo Burnham burn em", which may have gotten lost on you when just hearing it, as it just sounds like a repetition of the phrase "burn em".
    • 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.
  • Subliminal Seduction: The final minute of his video for "Repeat Stuff" flashes numerous "subliminal" messages for a single frame that start out ominous ("DISSENT IS DEATH") before gradually turning ridiculous with things like "GOD DIED IN 1993", "MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN IS ALIVE AND LIVING IN AMES, IOWA" and "ACCEPT CONVENIENCE FEES"
  • 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.
  • This Is Your Premise on Drugs: In-Universe: In Make Happy, Bo demonstrates the act of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich under the influence of marijuana and alcohol.
  • Title Track: Bo Fo Sho and Words Words Words have one. Actually, the latter has two - a studio version and a live version.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: Invoked in Bo's country song in Make Happy when he says "Y'all dumb motherfuckers want a key change?" before just that happens.
  • Villain Song: "Welcome to the Internet" is a Disney-style one sung by the Internet, offering people "everything all of the time" in exchange for their happiness and mental health.
  • 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.
      Jock: We think you've changed, bro
      Agent: We know best.
      Girl: You suck!
      Jock: We think-
      Agent: We know-
      Girl: You.
    • 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.
    • 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, cause I wasn't invited."
    • "Can't Handle This" drops a hard hitting one after four minutes of auto-tune Kanye West style comedy. The song takes a severe left turn from comedy to brutally honest self-reflection: "I could stand here and pretend like my biggest problems are Pringle cans... or burritos... the truth is my biggest problem's you."
  • 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!"
  • When Life Gives You Lemons...: "...you probably just found lemons."
  • Wink "Ding!": Used to accentuate the punchline of a small skit in what. where Bo plays a Dirty Old Man fishing in the park with a candy bar at the end of his line to try and catch a kid.
  • World of Pun: "Words, Words, Words". And what a world.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: In "Lower Your Expectations", Bo spends the first verse saying how the "perfect guy" only exists in women's minds. The second verse goes on to describe the "perfect girl", but it ends a little differently:
    Now you might think that this girl only exists in your mind...
    But she's real...
    But last week, she died.
  • Your Mom: See Sophisticated as Hell and I Banged Your Mom above.
  • YouTuber Apology Parody: The song "Problematic" from Inside is a zigzagging parody of empty celebrity and influencer apologies. In the song, Bo apologizes for dressing up as Aladdin when he was seventeen years old on Halloween, but wonders if it would also be offensive to burn the costume in order to get rid of it. It zigzags the trope because Bo is also actually apologizing for his material when he started out, which Bo regards as an Old Shame and material that was way too angsty and offensive for its own sake.invoked

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