Bo Burnham came to Providence Friday night, for the third stop of his Fall 2015 MAKE HAPPY tour. Burnham is a comedian, musician, and writer. Starting out of YouTube at the age 16, Burnham was the youngest comedian to record a Comedy Central special at the age of 18. He’s recorded two hour-long specials since then – Words, Words, Words in 2010 and what. in 2013. Burnham also wrote and starred in the MTV series Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous, is hilarious on Vine, and wrote a bestselling poetry book, EGGHEAD.
Burnham performed Friday night at the gorgeous VETS auditorium, and he killed it. Here are the 7 things I learned at MAKE HAPPY 2015:
1. WolfCop is a must (?) see
Burnham’s opener, Adam Newman from Comedy Central, gave a hilarious raving review/reenactment of WolfCop, a Sharknado-esque 2014 movie on Netflix that’s fairly self-explanatory (read: werewolf and cop). However, as Newmann animatedly described, this werewolf movie is the only one where the protagonist transforms into a werewolf wiener-first. WolfCop (aka Lou Garou) transforms into a werewolf mid-pee, and the transformation is a progression of approximately “wiener to potato to explosion.” My friend and I started watching it after the show, and it’s definitely, as Newman argued, a must see. The Netflix description: “After being transformed into a werewolf, a boozy cop uses his new powers to tangle with devil worshipers, shape-shifters, and other minions of evil.” I mean…
2. Bo is tall, so very tall (and also very fluid)
Yes, Bo is ridiculously crazy tall in person, a friend you’d definitely want to take apple picking. At 6′ 5″, Bo was easy to see on stage, sporting his signature white T. The man is just a lot of limbs and is also a very animated performer and dancer. His long legs and arms form a whirlwind of Bo, a fluid octopus of comedy, dance, and sound, if you will.
3. Straight white men have a lot of problems
Bo sat down at his piano and prefaced a song with, “I have a lot of problems, and I like to share them with people,” beginning a satirical, self-aware song from the perspective of a straight white man. Bo belted out a drawn out and melodic, “Straiiiightttt whiteeeeeeee mannnnnn” chorus throughout the song, singing, “Can’t you just leave us alone, and also, no, to the things you asked for” to all the gays and the women’s rights activists.
4. Funny music can still be great music
Bo is a musical comedian, but also just a great musician, one with a hilarious self-aware perspective on popular styles. Bo talked about his observations of ‘beat fetishism’ in rap music, one that has drawn the focus away from words and poetry in music towards just random lyrics accompanying a sick beat. He demonstrated this effect by performing a pretty fire rendition of “I’m a Little Teapot” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep” that I would 100% add to my “F me up” playlist on Spotify. He also took on country music, explaining how he’s concerned about stadium-level country stars and how far detached they are from the lifestyle and demographic they cater to. Bo sang a country song of his own, with just a ton of adjectives and occasional, random phrases, like “shirt off…” “dirt roads…” and “red truck…”
5. A crowd singing Bo’s songs in unison can be strange and beautiful
Bo invited the packed VET auditorium to sing with him for some of his old songs. Bo performed “From God’s Perspective” from what. and “Oh Bo” from Words, Words, Words as an encore. It’s a little weird to hear a full auditorium sing “I look like Woolly Willy with a really woolly willy,” but listening to Providence join Bo in lovely harmony was pretty awesome, and a reminder of (5) – Bo makes some funny, catchy, and memorable music.
6. Rhode Island is essentially Mass’ soul patch
FUN FACT: there is actually a state in America called “Rhode Island” and some people live there.
— Bo Burnham (@boburnham) June 25, 2015
Bo tweeted over the summer about Rhode Island’s strange existence, and maintained that confusion and fascination throughout his show. Bo repeated a couple times, with a shake of his head, “Rhode Island, man…”, though promised he was excited to be in Providence for the night. However, after an audience member failed to empathize with Bo’s breakup story, Bo retracted his support for Lil Rhody, and declared R.I. as just “Massachusetts’ soul patch.”
7. Comedy doesn’t just have to be someone standing with a microphone
Bo’s set, like his other specials, was far from just being a guy telling jokes into a microphone for an hour. Flanked by six light towers, Bo’s show was accompanied by strobe lights, smoke cannons, and existential omnipotent voices. Bo again proved his incredible sense of sound and timing, moving with energy around the stage, with his quick jumps between characters, voices, and musical styles accompanied by the changing stage around him.
MAKE HAPPY comes to Boston next month for three nights, 11/18, 11/19, and 11/20, with tickets still available on his website. Bo Burnham’s MAKE HAPPY special will be taped at his December show in Port Chester, NY. Burnham’s 2013 special, what., is available on YouTube and Netflix.
Image via and Kenji Endo ’18.