Bo Burnham and his final tour – reflection

This video popped up on my Youtube feed yesterday. I’ve watched a few of Bo’s songs before and they have made me laugh, so I clicked on it, but this one is another level.

This song is from the end of Bo’s final stand up tour ‘Make Happy’.

“My stand-up,” says Bo in an interview for the podcast ‘Good One’, “is trying to describe this meta-anxiety you feel by being on the internet in a place where your self is atomized into a thousand different versions of you that are watching each other and taking inventory of each other.”

Anxiety also featured a lot in Bo’s stand up career. Bo suffered from extreme anxiety about going on stage. He had his first panic attack on stage in front of 800 people in Edinburgh.

By the time he got to his final tour, Bo felt like he had “exhausted himself as a subject.”

Inspired by a rant Kanye did on his Yeezus tour, Bo decided to do something similar. He decided he wanted to ‘speak his truth’ on stage. His truth was “burritos and Pringles and something…” The result was this song.

There is something in this video that I really connect with. Maybe it’s the performer speaking truthfully about his anxiety. Maybe it’s the comedian no longer hiding behind jokes. Maybe it’s the musician using music to share their feelings honestly. Maybe it’s the raw, exposed feeling he leaves you with at the end. Maybe it’s all of those things.

The video leaves me with a lot of questions. What happens when artists draw upon themselves as the subject? How far is too far? In this online world, where we are encouraged to share everything, how can we set appropriate boundaries, even when our audience is demanding more and more?

As an artist, I hope one day I can find the courage to express my truth in my art in the same way that Bo has managed to here. And also to find the courage to know, like Bo, when it is time to step away.