That I'd be locked inside of my home
I woulda told you, a year ago,
'Interesting, now leave me alone.'
Sorry that I look like a mess
I booked a haircut but it got rescheduled
Robert's been a little depressed
And so today, I'm gonna try just
Getting up, sitting down, going back to work
Might not help, but still, it couldn't hurt."
Bo Burnham: Inside (oftentimes referred to as just Inside) is a 2021 musical special written, directed, shot, edited and performed by comedian Bo Burnham. The special was his first in five years following a hiatus from stage work that he took following 2016's Make Happy.
Inside consists of a variety of satirical songs and sketches, and was filmed by Burnham without a crew or audience in the guest house of his Los Angeles home during the first year of the COVID-19 Pandemic. While the pandemic is never explicitly referenced, feelings that became universal in its wake are central to the special — namely those of isolation, depression, nihilism and increasing frustration with the state of the world, all juxtaposed with topics of modern culture such as social activism and online personas. The indefinite seclusion also leads to Burnham reflecting on his career up to the point of producing the special; as a result, further explored themes include performativity, a creator's relationship with the Internet and their audience, and generation gaps (the lattermost spurred by Burnham turning 30 while making the special).
Due to its structure (a considerable amount of which is dedicated to the production of the special itself), and the vast array of tones in its subject matter, many have found it reductive to label Inside as a comedy special. In fact, many have found difficulty labeling it anything at all, and it has been said to incorporate elements of comedy, drama, documentary, theater, music, stand-up, meta-commentary, a psychological character study and postmodernism.
The special was released on May 30, 2021 on Netflix, and had a limited US theatrical release in the summer of the same yearnote , making it the first Netflix "comedy" special to ever receive theatrical distribution. The accompanying soundtrack, Inside (The Songs), was released on various platforms on June 10 note by Republic Records, with label executive Tyler Arnold personally reaching out to Burnham, having been a fan of his for years and being a huge fan of the special note .
On May 30, 2022, the one-year anniversary of Inside, Burnham announced that he would be releasing a collection of material left on the editing room floor during the special's production in an hour's time on his YouTube channel. The end result, an hour-long video titled The Inside Outtakes, contains original bits and songs that didn't make the final cut alongside alternate versions of songs from the special. With the upload of the video, a deluxe version of the Inside album was also announced for eventual release on June 3. It contains the cut songs which appeared in the outtakes as well as the instrumental tracks from the special and two tracks which were also written for the special but didnít make the cut for either the special proper or the outtakes. The outtakes were released separately as their own soundtrack on June 2, and the video was also released on Netflix on August 11.
- "FaceTime with My Mom (Tonight)"
- "How the World Works"
- "White Woman's Instagram"
- "Unpaid Intern"
- "Bezos I"
- "Look Who's Inside Again"
- "Don't Wanna Know"
- "All Time Low"
- "Welcome to the Internet"
- "Bezos II"
- "That Funny Feeling"
- "All Eyes On Me"
- "Any Day Now"
Tracks exclusive to the Deluxe EditionDisc 3
- "Bezos III"
- "The Future"
- "Feel Good"
- "Five Years"
- "Microwave Popcorn"
- "Bezos IV"
- "This Isn't a Joke"
- "The Chicken"
- "The Inside Waltz"
- "Brand Consultant"
- "Looking Back"
- "Window Washer"
- "Video Game"
- "Be Yourself"
- "Peanut Butter"
- "The ICU"
Troping with my mom tonight:
- Arc Words: "Stay inside" or a variant thereof is a recurring message, communicated mainly through use as a lyric in multiple songs in the original special ("Content," "All Eyes On Me," "Goodbye," etc.) and as a slogan in ads for various fictional companies in the outtakes.
- Aspect Ratio Switch: Present throughout the special and outtakes. For example, most of "White Woman's Instagram" is shot in square format to mimic an Instagram post. Once the woman starts opening up about her emotions in a genuine manner, the screen widens...then reverts back to square when she returns to cliche posting.
- Beard of Sorrow: Inside was Bo's 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 throughout.
- Call-and-Response Song: "Shit" in the special and "The Future" in the outtakes.
- Darker and Edgier: Inside is darker than Bo's previous material. 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.
- Dark Reprise:
- "Goodbye" ends with a reprise of "Welcome to the Internet," "Comedy," and and an almost nightmarish "Look Who's Inside Again." While none of those were exactly positive songs to begin with, they now focus entirely on Bo himself and the crossroads between his ambitions and his anxieties.
- The outtakes contain a brief scene of Bo creepily smiling in the dark paired with a snippet of "How the World Works" slowed down to incredibly unnerving effect.
- Double-Meaning Title: The title is repeated quite a bit, both in the sense of the physical inside (as the special is largely shot in one room) and the emotional inside (as it is deeply introspective on Bo's behalf).
- Droste Image:
- Following "Unpaid Intern," we cut to Bo reacting to the song and commenting on it. But after the song within the video ends, the video itself keeps going, this time playing Bo's reaction to his song, which he is understandably confused by. This continues with Bo commenting on and criticising his other reactions before he finally makes it stop after four or five loops.
- In the outtakes, Bo creates a few of these and uses them as B-roll footage by pointing his camera at a monitor; the YouTube-labeled chapter of one instance is even titled "mise en abyme" (a formal technique in Western art of placing a copy of an image within itself). He creates a similar effect at the end of "This Isn't a Joke.""Look at me and me and me and me—"
- The final joke of the outtakes. All to the beat of the song "WTFIGO?", the video shows a message promoting Inside on Netflix, displays a big red "THE END," and cuts to a screen capture of Bo's Mac, open to Final Cut Pro and editing the outtakes themselves. It then cuts to a screen capture of that screen capture, and then that capture, and then that capture, after which Bo makes the cursors in the various captures "dance" in alternating formation.
- Genre-Busting: Given its extensive coverage of controversial, serious subject matter and varying tones (ranging from genuinely funny to bleakly funny to sad to disturbing to nihilistic), it was evident that simply categorizing Inside as a "comedy special" wasn't going to cut it, and mass debate and analysis have brought no objective consensus. Various parts are dedicated to comedy, drama, music and stand-up, while the overarching presentation has been described as akin to a documentary or diary/essay film, and the special references its own existence and production in a thoroughly postmodern/metamodern manner. To top all of this off, at least one comment exists online where someone deems the special the funniest psychological horror they've seen.
- Go Mad from the Isolation: The special was shot as Bo was social distancing in his house alone during the 2020 pandemic. Things get dark.
- Naked People Are Funny: Bo briefly appears nude at the end of "Goodbye" and twice in the outtakes: once during a montage of him walking into a shot after setting up the camera (with his backside pixelated), and again in a separate bit of him opening and closing his bathroom door while on the toilet.
- New Sound Album: The original special and outtakes incorporate a number of genres mostly uncharted by the music in Bo's past specials, including new wave, alternative R&B, bedroom pop, and '80s-style synthpop.
- One-Man Song: "Bezos I" through "Bezos IV," all centered around Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
- Wham Line:
- "White Woman's Instagram" from Inside has "It's been a decade since you've been gone," after which the song takes a sincere and empathetic turn away from the mockery preceding it.
- "The Chicken" from the Deluxe Edition at first seems like it's a song about a chicken that wants more out of life than it currently has, and decides one day to break out into the wider world. And then the shoe drops:Her future is waiting, right there for the taking
- Ambiguous Ending: The ending has Bo step outside for the first time in months under a large spotlight, only to find upon trying to get back inside the house that his front door is locked, after which an audience starts incessantly laughing at him. It then cuts to Bo sitting in a blue-lit room watching this scene unfold on a projector and subtly smiling. The use of blue in the special reflect his existential crisis and mental health, indicating that this part of the ending is all in his head.
- An optimist would say that this ending is about Bo expecting to be scared when he can finally start performing on stage again, but ultimately communicating through the smile that he's going to be alright once that part is done.
- A pessimist would say that this is Bo becoming too adjusted to being home alone such that him returning to the stage would be so overwhelming that it's only a matter of time until his mental health deteriorates again.
- Black Comedy:
- The primary humor of "Welcome to the Internet" dwells on the rapid switch between seemingly benign and absolutely horrid things you can find on the Internet, such as "movies, and doctors, and fantasy sports, and a bunch of colored pencil drawings of all the different characters in Harry Potter fucking each other."
- "All Time Low" is an upbeat pop tune with bright lights and flashy decor... describing Bo's depressive symptoms when he wakes up in the morning.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "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 and Internet conspiracy theories.
- Break the Haughty: Downplayed. Bo deliberately writes himself as arrogant and having a savior complex with his comedy at the beginning of the special, yet by the end of the special, the isolation has beaten him down.
- Cerebus Syndrome: The special starts off relatively lighthearted, with the beginning consisting of mostly jokes and hopefulness. But as the special rolls on, Bo gets more unhinged as his isolation gets to him and he ruminates on how doomed the world really seems to be. By the end of the special, he seems to be hanging on by a thread.
- Crucified Hero Shot: Blatantly invoked in "Problematic", where Bo stands against the wall with his arms outstretched, a cross projected onto him.
- Due to the Dead: "White Woman's Instagram" 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.
- Evil Laugh: He delivers a delightfully sinister one in "Welcome to the Internet" before the final chorus, implying that all of the good things the Internet has created are all just a facade for the corruption it inevitably brings.
- 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.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus:
- Pausing during "Comedy" allows you to enjoy all of the bizarre contents on the whiteboards, like a flowchart of whether or not a joke is funny and a guide to comedy in media.
- Just before "How The World Works," the streamer Bo briefly flashes in the bottom right corner.
- Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: In the first verse of "Problematic," Bo says that he was a sheltered kid who wrote offensive things and said them, not realizing back then how much he'd eventually regret it. The second verse denounces the first, where Bo states that he shouldn't use his childhood as an excuse, and that he accepts his actions as his own without trying to justify them away.
- Gainax Ending: The special ends with Bo finally leaving his room, only to be confronted by a spotlight and the sound of a cheering audience. Horrified, he tries to get back in but finds that he's been locked out, and the audience laughs endlessly as they watch him struggle... and all of this is being watched by Bo himself on a screen, still inside the room, who gives a small smile.
- Hidden Depths: Invoked in "White Woman's Instagram" by the bridge having the titular white woman post a picture of her dead mother, with a caption that's a deeply emotional tribute to their relationship and how much she still misses her. This reminds us that, even if someone seems shallow or frivolous, is easy to make fun of, or is genuinely problematic in some ways, they're still a person with feelings who probably has struggles of their own.
- 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."
- Internet Safety Aesop: The entire special involves criticizing the use of the internet in the 21st century, with its points including irresponsible parents using it as a babysitting tool, users using social media to compensate for self-esteem issues and feelings of inadequacy, and how addictive it is.
- Leitmotif: The melodies of "Content", "Look Who's Inside Again", and "Welcome To The Internet" recur frequently in the score, such as in "The Inside Waltz" and "Knife".
- List Song:
- The verses of "White Woman's Instagram" contain a list of serene images a stereotypical white woman's Instagram might contain as a commentary on their idyllic fabrication of reality.
- "That Funny Feeling" is a more serious example, listing popular aspects of modern American culture and juxtaposing them with ironies and mounting existential dread.
- LOL, 69:
- At one point during "Comedy," Bo can be seen typing on an adding machine. The next shot shows he is repeatedly typing in "69" and "420."
- During, appropriately, the sexting song, eagle-eyed viewers can spot that Bo's air conditioning — which isn't on for any other part of the special — is set to 69 degrees.
- Lyrical Dissonance: A staple of Bo's comedy style that continues here.
- "That Funny Feeling" is a soft campfire song about the anxiety of impending societal collapse.
- Socko's verse in "How the World Works" discusses the harsh realities of history and society while still being set to a jaunty children's song.
- "Shit" is a bouncy, funky dance-pop tune about feeling like shit.
- In "All Time Low," Bo details what sounds like a panic attack through an upbeat pop song.
- Milestone Birthday Angst: "30" deals with Bo's anxieties about turning 30, how he hates longer being able to relate to the youth, and how he can't help but compare himself to the accomplishments of his friends and the previous generation.When he was 27, my granddad fought in Vietnam
When I was 27, I built a birdhouse with my mom
Oh, fuck (oh), how am I thirty? (Oh!)
- Mood Whiplash:
- 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.
- "All-Time Low" starts with Bo (in spoken word and a low tone) saying that his mental health has hit an all-time low. He suddenly transitions into a jaunty, upbeat tune with Lyrical Dissonance about how it feels like he's going to die at any moment. After that, he ends the track by saying "So yeah, not doing great" in spoken word again.
- This happens frequently in "Welcome to the Internet," even between individual lines, to imitate how easily one can find jarringly different content in the medium nowadays back-to-back without even trying to.Here's a healthy breakfast option! You should kill your mom.
- "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.
- Reaction Video: The skit following "Unpaid Intern" is a parody and deconstruction, showing Bo reacting to the song before inexplicably being made to react to his reaction of the song, and then that reaction, and so on, which turns into a process of him criticizing his own internal processes.
- Reprise Medley: The last verse of "Goodbye," the closing number of Inside, features lyrics and melodies from the special's earlier songs, "All Eyes On Me," "Comedy," "Welcome to the Internet" and "Look Who's Inside Again."
- Sanity Slippage: If Inside has a narrative, it's this, being about and created in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the songs are about the feeling of isolation and depression, and growing anxieties over the world's problems, with increasingly bizarre and discordant sound and visual effects.
- The Scottish Trope: Throughout the run of Inside, Bo never actually refers to the pandemic by name, at most referring to "the funniest thing [happening]" that forced him to stay isolated just when he was getting out of his depressive funk and planning a return to comedy.
- Social Media Is Bad: The special continuously criticizes Internet culture through exploring topics including the overcompensatory nature of Instagram, the bread-and-circuses aspect of companies using social media to feign support for social change, the pressure of being a content creator, and how the Internet enables harassment through anonymity. It's important to note that Bo doesn't say social media is entirely bad — it's just that the detriments are louder than the benefits.
- Take That!:
- "Bezos I" and "Bezos II" are sarcastic praises of Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and one of the richest men in the world, who only became wealthier during the pandemic. In the former, Bo calls out Bezos's Self-Made Man narrative note , while in the latter Bo snidely offers empty congratulations.
- Streamer Bo says this of the Inside game, which allows the player to direct an in-game Bo through a small list of repetitive activities in his room:"It's giving me sort of, like, Death Stranding vibes, you know, ícause itís, like, itís fucking boring, but thatís, like, the point, I think."
- Villain Song: "Welcome to the Internet" is a Disney-style one sung by the Internet, offering people "anything and everything all of the time" in exchange for their happiness and mental health.
- White Man's Burden:
- "Comedy" takes pot-shots at white men who insert themselves into social issues just so they can feel like heroes despite making minimal effort and zero sacrifices.I'm white, and I'm here to save the day!
Lord, help me channel Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side.
- Socko criticizes Bo on this in "How the World Works".Bo: I'm sorry, Socko. I was just trying to become a better person.
Socko: Why do you rich fucking white people insist on seeing every socio-political conflict through the myopic lens of your own self-actualization? This isn't about you. So either get with it, or get out of the fucking way.
- "Comedy" takes pot-shots at white men who insert themselves into social issues just so they can feel like heroes despite making minimal effort and zero sacrifices.
- Unfortunate Search Results: Played for Drama in "That Funny Feeling," which features "Googling derealization [and] hating what you find" among the list of scenarios that generate the namesake feeling of existential dread.
- Wrongfully Attributed: In-Universe; one of the stock posting mishaps of basic white women in "White Women's Instagram" is "Some random quote from Lord of the Rings, incorrectly attributed to Martin Luther King."
- YouTuber Apology Parody: The song "Problematic" 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.
- Brand X: The outtakes feature bits revolving around companies obviously evocative of Google, YouTube and Marvel Studios among others — except the names of all of them are simply replaced with "Inside," still bearing their iconic text and coloring.
- By "No", I Mean "Yes": In one part of "The Future," a song about crushing depressive feelings:Is it gonna end? (Yes!)
- Call-Back: The entirety of "The Future" uses cinematography very similar to the opening shot of "All Eyes On Me" — a close-up on Bo's face cutting off below his nose as he holds a microphone, the shot filled with one color (green instead of blue). The similarity is hammered home in the edit of the sequence itself, with Bo's eyes turning to the camera in "All Eyes On Me" being spliced in just as he does the same in "The Future," creating one fluid motion.
- Chicken Joke: Deconstructed: "The Chicken", rather than focus on the punchline portion, instead focuses more on the build-up. Exactly why was the chicken at the road in the first place?
- Cluster F-Bomb: "WTFIGO?" eventually transitions to Bo repeating "What the fuck is going on?" over and over in the second half of the song. The other songs aren't averse to swearing, but this one contains a swear word on every line in the latter part.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "1985" begins with an example of this:He's a really cool guy
He's got a cool shirt
He's got cool shoes
Did I mention the shirt?
- Fading into the Next Song: "Bezos III" transitions into "The Future."
- Failed a Spot Check: In "Microwave Popcorn," Bo burns a bag of popcorn and resorts to eating Skinny Pop before realizing there's a button on the microwave designated for popcorn.I look back at the microwave—wait a minute
How'd I miss this button? There's a button and the button says "Popcorn"
- I Just Want to Be You: "1985" is all about how Bo wants to be an oblivious white guy in the titular year. Bo then admits that not every white guy had it easy in 1985, before admitting that who he really wants to be is his father Scott Burnham in 1985, because "my father was happier than I am."
- Leitmotif: Much like in the finished film. "Content" is used in a different style during the "Be Yourself" commercial and "Welcome To The Internet"/"All Eyes On Me" (among several others) being used during the "ICU" trailer.
- Lethal Chef: "Microwave Popcorn" is all about Bo trying and failing to make microwave popcorn. He puts it in the microwave for too long, resulting in the popcorn coming out burnt.
- Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: Subverted and parodied in "Five Years," a song to a hypothetical girlfriend of five years about things Bo finds annoying about her, like eating his dumplings without asking, claiming to be a feminist but telling him to "be a man" and kill a spider, and needing to use the bathroom every time that he does despite the fact that they have two bathrooms.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: One bit in the outtakes revolves around a presentation from the media production company "Inside Studios" helmed by Bo assuming the persona of its president, and a self-described "adult man in a baseball hat," in a clear nod to Kevin Feige.
- Pastiche: "Five Years" is one for the modern R&B sound popularized by artists like Drake, and takes overt influence from several of his songs. Bo's voicemail at the start has been compared to the similar use of an opening voicemail in "Marvins Room," numerous vocal melodies and cadences are lifted straight from "Controlla," and the set lighting for most of the song is reminiscent of the video for "Hotline Bling."
- Rearrange the Song: Done extensively, reaching particularly insane heights in the "Inside Studios" bit.
- Say My Name: "Bezos III" and "Bezos IV" mostly consist of repeating Jeff Bezos' name over and over again.
- Too Desperate to Be Picky: "Biden" revolves around Bo lamenting that he felt the best option for US President in the 2020 election was Joe Biden.They're really gonna make me vote for Joe Biden.
How is the best-case scenario Joe Biden?