Bo Burnham Reminds Us That The World is Not Funny, but He Makes Us Laugh Anyway

You may have heard of Bo Burnham for his funny, satirical songs, or perhaps from one of his shows on Comedy Central: Words Words Words and what. While you can watch what. on Netflix and his videos and songs on YouTube, there’s nothing like a live show. Bo’s Make Happy Tour (A Night of Laughing and Smiling and Not Dying Yet) kicked off Tuesday at the Keswick Theatre and begins with a three night stint in Glenside.

Bo’s opening act, Adam Newman, began his 15-minute set with “Yeah, I heard the audible dip in excitement when you all heard there was an opener” and went on to describe the movie Wolf Cop, his lack of chest hair, and funny Yelp reviews. Having decided that he’d thoroughly warmed up the audience, Adam left, and the stage dimmed. Choral music began and played for a few moments, while the audience sat in the dark in mutual confusion. A calming voice came over the speaker system and said, “The world is not funny. We are all dying,” and proceeded to explain to us that we should not laugh at the show because the world isn’t a funny place. She reminded the audience of a few depressing facts about the world, and then her voice faded and the stage lit up.

Bo, a 24-year-old skinny white guy, the quintessential ‘comedian’ type, emerged on the stage amidst a sudden escalation of lights and sound. He hyped the audience up with some common response questions (“Who’s ready for some jokes?” “Who likes alcohol?” etc.) and then the lights fell to a single spotlight and he began a stand-up comedy routine.

The beginning of the show set the tone for the rest of the evening – moving from serious, to bizarre, to amped, to normal stand-up. In the moments of stand-up, when it was just him and a microphone with no strobe lights or sound effects, he showed his raw funniness – Bo Burnham is a genuinely funny guy. He responded well to the audience with clever off-the-cuff jokes about things people had yelled, or weird-looking guys in the front row. (A good rule for any comedy show: avoid sitting in the front row.)

Other segments were planned, involving lights, sound effects, and even pre-recorded voice overs that Bo conversed with. These were funny bits, enhanced by the lighting or music, and often very creative. It kept the hour-long show interesting because it moved from segment to segment; one minute he was standing in front of everyone with just a spotlight, telling a joke like any old comedian at a comedy club, and the next he’d be standing amidst pulsating lights, rapping the lyrics of I’m a Little Teapot over a thudding bass beat.

Some of the most classic and organic moments were when he sat down at his piano, which always got an extra cheer from the crowd, because they knew what to expect here. He played his biggest hits and let the audience sing along, which transformed the room from a comedy club to a concert venue. These familiar and much-viewed songs were peppered amidst the new material.

It wasn’t all jokes, though, which sets Bo aside from some other comedians. He did a good job of integrating just enough serious moments to get important messages across about his negative views on advertisement, and how he feels that people should make the art that they want without having to pander to audiences. He spoke about his own insecurities and his confusing relationship with his fans, which made him feel more real­­­­­ and, somehow, funnier.

He made timely jokes about important current events, throwing in a dig at Donald Trump and singing an ironic song about how difficult it is to be a straight white man. He was tasteful but edgy, with an energy that engaged the audience. The show moved seamlessly from one segment to the next, melding different styles into one big, weird, creative hour that showcased the immense talent that is Bo Burnham.

It’s a show worth seeing, and October 1 is the last night to catch it in Glenside before Bo heads to New York to continue the tour. For ticket information, visit http://www.boburnham.com/tour/.

Images: Emily Evans

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