In 10 Words or Less
A genuine prodigy you'll actually want to watch perform
Likes: Bo Burnham, musical comedy
Dislikes: YouTube celebrities
Hates: Not having his talent
It's rare that someone who gets famous via YouTube can translate that fame to genuine real-world fame, because they gain notice mainly via a gimmick or for something stupid, not for any real talent. Then there's Bo Burnham. It would be very easy to hate this older Justin Bieber for achieving so much before the age of 20 simply by posting videos to YouTube, if his act wasn't so damned brilliant. Here, in a 63-minute set recorded on his home turf at the House of Blues in Boston, you get to experience just why he's become so big so fast.
Having grown up nurtured by the work of the late, great George Carlin (whom he name checks in one song), Burnham's act is incredible wordy and intelligent, while also incredibly filthy. While his most famous bits come in the form of white-boy rap (a genre he has completely mastered, sounding like a hyper-literate Eminem) it's mainly because it allows him to display his amazing command of wordplay in a hugely memorable way. Each song contains tons of jokes you won't catch until your third viewing, because they blow right past you at lightspeed, but at the same time, they are incredibly catchy, putting him in fine company with Stephen Lynch as musicians/comics instead of comic musicians.
I don't know if there's a comic out there who you could compare Burnham to, as his act is unique, blending music, stand-up and monologues into something close to a one-man show mixed with a concert. The scary thing is whether he's singing and playing piano, performing a perverted Shakespearean soliloquy, delivering stream of consciousness jokes or just interacting with the crowd, he displays the utterly smooth delivery and confidence of a 20-year stage veteran, rather than the 20-year-old he is. The contrast is aided by the fact that he looks and acts like such an innocent high-school surfer dude, reminding one of a bit of Nick Swardson, only with a touch of Ben Folds' musical talent and Eddie Izzard's educated wit.
Though the level of his vocabulary and the references in his act make him out to be far more mature than his age would suggest, there's no doubt there's still the heart of a guy in his early 20s in his chest, evident in the frequently sexual or politically incorrect nature of many of his jokes. I have no issue with such material, but with the way Burnham kept going back to it, it felt too easy for him, especially when compared to the rest of his act. For instance, there were several Nazi jokes, which came off as a bit hacky when followed by stuff like his theoretical dick jokes. Someone who can come up with a line like "a titty Venn diagram" doesn't need to go to the gay or Down's Syndrome well so often.
A one-disc release, this DVD comes in a standard keepcase. The disc has an animated, anamorphic widescreen menu with options to watch the show, select chapters, check out the extras and adjust the audio. Audio options include Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 English tracks, though there are no subtitles (only closed captioning.)
The show looks solid in anamorphic widescreen, with a nice clean image that captures the impressive stage design well. Colors are appropriate, as are the black levels (a key part of one section, where the lighting is adjusted) and the level of fine detail is rather high, letting you ready the words all over the stage clearly.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is just as you'd want a stand-up DVD to sound, keeping Burnham in the center channel, while the music and crowd take up residence in the side and rear speakers, putting you in the room. Everything is clean and clear, without any distortion.
There are two extras included, a pair of music videos from Burnham, repeating two songs from the show, "Words, Words, Words" and "Oh Bo." These album cuts will settle in in your brain thanks to the incredibly catchy choruses, and the videos are fun as well, with one utilizing a lot of silly, low-fi animation, while the other parodies glamorous hip-hop videos by transplanting the idea to a bowling alley. You may watch these as frequently as the special, as with some clean-up, they could be Top 40 hits.
The Bottom Line
Melding highly-intelligent material with mainstream-friendly rap music and low-brow subjects, while delivering it with a welcoming, even inoffensive persona positions Bo Burnham to be the next big thing in comedy, if he isn't already there thanks to his alliance with Judd Apatow. Either way, if you haven't checked him out online, give a look at this far more polished version of his act, delivered in a quality presentation, with a few nice extras.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.