Review: Bo Burnham’s “Inside” is a terrifying look at the human condition

After almost six years of silence, Bo Burnham is back. This time, he exposes himself in hopes to make a point—it’s okay to fall apart in a crisis


Photo courtesy of Netflix

Colleen Leidner, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: If you have thoughts of suicide, support is available. FAU’s Counseling and Psychological Services crisis hotline is 561-297-3540 and you can see their hours here. You can reach out to the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255.

Bo Burnham has been off the grid for a little while.

When Netflix suddenly dropped a comedy special that was written, edited, shot, and directed by Burnham himself, fans were incredibly excited. However, the fans weren’t ready for what was in store for them in the comedic film titled “Inside.”

This macabre piece is entirely different from anything that has been done before in the comedy field. Burnham wrote the act, filmed himself, edited, and put it out all while under lockdown inside his home.

Burnham has always had the philosophy that his battle with depression can be made light of through comedic endeavors—making people happy when he cannot be. This is demonstrated by his song “Left Brain, Right Brain” from his 2013 show “what.” Considering that the pandemic negatively affected mental health across the globe, it makes sense that Burnham would try to combat his depression with something that has always worked: comedy.

Through the course of 19 songs sung in a dark and cluttered office, Burnham takes viewers on a journey of what it feels like to be locked in their house without hope during a worldwide crisis. While most of Burnham’s content is a jab at himself and his insecurities, “Inside” takes his staple self-deprecating humor to a whole new level. He talks about hiding behind his childhood, regretting his life, and wanting to kill himself. 

As the content progresses, so does the level of Burnham’s desperation to peel back every figurative mask he wears and bare himself to the world. He rips himself apart in the isolation of just himself and a camera in a room, out there for anyone to see.

It becomes apparent that there was a lot of thought put into the conception of “Inside.” Burnham thought out every detail, from the canned laughter to the background lights. Whenever there is a specifically bleak scene, Burnham’s appearance is more ragged and disheveled. As far as comedy routines go, the nuances of “Inside” work together as a beautiful narrative.

Burnham’s previous shows had an obsessive air of perfectionism to them, with the solid subject matter of a man who has thought out every nuance down to his own gestures.

“Inside” is nothing like Burnham’s previous genius. It’s an introspective look at one man’s fears and desires, and it paints a horrifying portrait of what the human mind does when locked in isolation. The concepts within this special are easy to grasp and lack the usual genius luster of a Bo Burnham show, thought out in an entirely different way of art than anything the comedian has ever done before.

Self-deprecation and suicidal urges are nothing to laugh at. Burnham shows this as he makes plain his deterioration and fear while he is locked under the same quarantine the rest of the world was. While interesting and occasionally humorous, “Inside” struck me more as a sad story that slowly played out into something approaching hope– the hope that one day, there wouldn’t be a need for canned laughter anymore. 

Burnham has once again proved that he understands what the human condition is. It just so happens that the human condition was locked away for a time, and we are all hopeful to reach into the light again.

Colleen Leidner is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @silver_tragedy.