Bo Burnham speaks and we listen. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
Where are the limits to creating something special? I thought about how hard it was to create during quarantine and create when we needed to be isolated. In fact, I’ve wasted a lot of time just thinking about it. But instead of thinking that, Bo Burnham took what he had and created something new.
In just one room with light, laptop, keyboard, projector and DSLR camera, he was able to reinvent the comedy special. Or a musical special? I don’t think I am qualified to define anything Within was apart from great art. I think we should include a disco ball in the equation too, but at its core is Burnham’s Within is a dramatic and gripping experiment in storytelling.
We’re more of a documentary than anything, we follow Burnham as he deals with the pandemic and tells us about other aspects of his life. In about 90 minutes we get the range of Burnham’s skills and talents presented in a tight space and some great melodies.
One of the things people talk about a lot on this site is the need for the best cameras and equipment to really make their vision come true. And while I think that’s true, it’s only part of the equation. I think most of us have to try to be creative with the challenges we face ourselves.
What I noticed while watching Within was how much Burnham wanted to introduce us to his perspective, but he didn’t care how expensive it looked.
He turned, edited, and did most of the rest by himself. It actually looked better when it wasn’t polished. It looked intimate, like taking a look at what it’s like to push creative boundaries and see your talent gush over the pot.
At its core, the special is about Burnham telling a story. It’s about his process and his tests. The way he tries to have a special special, the rise and fall of challenging circumstances from lock-in and quarantine. It’s everywhere on purpose. The mania in it grabs you from the start and just lets Burnham be himself. The lack of an audience forces him to just put everything out there and hope that it holds up.
It’s also a showcase for empathy. We feel for him, we know what it was like to be stuck at home, FaceTiming with our parents. Begging for any kind of human connection through a mentally exhausting task. It’s also an examination of the audience in the streaming era. Is It Better To Be With People? For sure. But you can still laugh and feel on your couch. But does that harm the connection at all? Or is this new generation so used to connecting screens that they don’t miss a thing?
I have no idea the answer to these questions, but I’m glad they were asked.
If you can learn a lesson from all of this, then when in doubt do not rely on the equipment, but on your talent.
What do you need to share with people? And what is the best way to get to us? Don’t let circumstances stop you, use what you have, cultivate your storytelling skills and your ability to connect with others.
Everything is realized as special and complete as Within? Probably not. But trying and failing gives a lot of lessons. Complaining and waiting for opportunities or equipment won’t teach you anything.
What did you take away from the special? Let me know in the comments.