Comedy Review: Bo Burnham

10 Jun

Komedia, Thursday, June 9, 2011

It’d be easy to write-off Bo Burnham as a floppy-haired, gangly young Yank who got lucky in his teens when he become an overnight YouTube sensation and bagged a movie deal  just because of a couple of witty and sarcastic songs.

And it shouldn’t be difficult to take petty umbrage at his boyish charm, raging enthusiasm and phenomenal grasp of language. But it’s impossible to dislike him. He’s just too good.

Still only 20, he is destined to become a generation-defining comedian. Supremely confident and already a master of killer timing, his 90-minute set of songs and stand-up repeatedly flits between polite chit-chat and almost psychotic anger and veers from absurd and occasionally infantile humour to masterful wordplay bordering on comic genius.

“I’ll tell you about irony”, he says. “My Gran’s star sign was Cancer and she was killed by…a giant crab”, he deadpans before launching into ‘Irony’, a withering musical riposte to Alanis Morissette’s Nineties dirge ‘Ironic’.

“A little kid died of suffocation, when he choked on a game-piece from Operation,” he bellows. It sure as hell beats “A free ride when you’ve already paid”.

More often than not, Burnham toys with the audience, making light-hearted banter about the likes of Michael McIntyre before bashing out a bitter piano-based tirade against such lame observational comics and taking an almighty swipe at the nether regions of those who find such acts amusing.

Throughout the routine there’s a constant bubbling undercurrent of bile, anger and contempt, but Burnham is too smart to let his show derail into a Frankie Boyle-esque rage fest.

He frequently deploys pauses and silence to impressive effect but his greatest achievement is being able to retain an air of child-like fun and wonder, regardless of the subject matter. Having an arsenal of  catchy tunes certainly helps in this respect, but  he also manages to convey a sense of frivolity when he’s peppering his act with barbed socio-political lines and sideswipes at the very point and purpose of comedy and art, including his own.

“I hated being called a teenage sensation”, he says at one point. “I much preferred prodigy”. Really, we’re in no position to argue.

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