“Comedy is the one absolutely self-aware art form. Actually, hip-hop’s another one, I suppose. Because in your songs you’re talking about how good a hip-hop artist you are. It’s like a painter painting a painting of himself painting a painting.”
You could say that American comedian singer-songwriter, musician, poet and actor Bo Burnham’s career in entertainment began at age three when he began performing “Bo Shows” in his home in Hamilton Massachusetts. Despite the fans he gained through these performances (his parents and his older brother and sister), Burnham says that his real musical-comedy career began in 2006 at age 16 when he first created a YouTube account featuring his own musical comedy material. Originally, these videos were simply made to show his family and friends. That December, Burnham posted his first two songs titled “My Whole Family…” and “My ‘little’ secret…” The response to his videos was initially unexceptional, but the videos became an overnight sensation when they were copied to Break.com, with traffic multiplying over 111 times. As of April 2015 his videos had been watched more than 152 million times.
Now, at only 25-years-old, Burnham has quite the resume. In 2008, he signed with Comedy Central Records and released four CDs, tried his hand at creating his own television show Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous in 2010, held small roles in films like Hall Pass (2011), made appearances on television shows like Key and Peele, wrote a book of comedy-based poems titled, Egghead.
and held five tours:
- Fake I.D. (fall 2009)
- Bo Burnham and (No) Friends (fall 2010)
- Bo Burnham Live (U.S./ U.K. Tour) (June 2011-July 2012)
- Bo Burnham: what. Tour (summer 2013)
- Bo Burnham: ‘Make Happy’ Tour (early 2015 and fall 2015).
He’s also won the Edinburgh Comedy Awards’ panel prize and the Act Most Likely to Make a Million Award.
March 27, 2009 marked another impressive feat for Burnham; he became the youngest comedian to have his own special on Comedy Central Presents at only 18-years-old. He still holds the title to this day. He has performed in the United States in locations including Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco, YouTube Live and Caroline’s Comedy Club in New York City and has performed internationally in London and Montreal. His performances tackle race, gender, human sexuality, sex and religion (not to mention subjects like his small penis, the real reason an old person’s skin sags, how he treats his objects like women and why he took being called a “fairy” in high school a compliment).
On September 7, 2010, Burnham tried something new. He acted in and—along with Dana Lagana, Luke Liacos and Dave Becky—wrote and executive produced his first and only television series Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous. The show followed the daily struggle of a kid “fresh out of high school who’s pursuing the new American dream of being a celebrity without having any talent.” According to Variety, the first season of Zach Stone premiered in May 2013 on MTV but was not picked up for a second season. The show officially got cancelled in June 2013. Despite the disappointing way the show ended, Burnham remained positive and had no regrets about his attempt at a television series. in response to the cancellation of Zach Stone, Burnham said: “When making the show, I kind of thought/sensed that it may be a one season show, so we made sure that this season could stand alone as its own thing.” He also added if the show continues to be watched/shared, “…it very well may have a second life somewhere other than MTV.”
Burnham told Pollstar that he’s not exactly the same guy he was when he first started uploading his satirical videos to YouTube back in 2006. His life experience has changed, he’s grown up and now has life experience to talk about and do in monologues as well. “I’m 19, going on 20” he began, “and the three years from 16 to 19 might be one of the biggest progressions in attitude. What I found funny at 16, I don’t find [as] funny now. And … I was writing for YouTube; I wasn’t thinking of just being on stage or being in a show. My new [material] will hopefully look like it’s built for the stage rather than transposed from the Internet.”
However, Burnham insists that in many ways he is still the same person he was since the “Bo show” era. “I was just singing and dancing, wanting attention,” he told Pollstar. “And I don’t think that much has changed.” He then explained his reasoning:
“I do think comedians … are the same little kids at the birthday parties that were shouting ‘Look at me!’ but now they’ve grown up and made it a little more sophisticated. But it’s just a horrible, horrible ruse for attention that we code with artistic integrity or whatever we say to make it look like we aren’t just attention [whores]. Nothing has changed since I was three years old.”
One might call Burnham a jack-of-all-trades…it just seems like he can do it all. However, the title doesn’t fit Burnham exactly because unlike a jack-of-all-trades, he embraces his many talents and gives his all in order to perfect each of them to the best of his ability. So passionate about his work, Burnham holds himself to a high standard and could never allow himself to give an audience less than 110 per cent, which is one of the main reasons he stands out as an entertainer. Burnham came into the industry with a bang, still goes into every performance with a bang, and at the end of his career, he’ll go out with a bang.
Look out for Burnham’s “Make Happy” tour live performance, which will air on a later date in 2016. Don’t miss it! You won’t be disappointed!
Follow Bo Burnham on Twitter.