Bo Burnham Lights, Shoots, and Edits His New Netflix Comedy Special All by Himself

Bo Burnham Lights, Shoots, and Edits His New Netflix Comedy Special All by Himself

Bo Burnham's new Netflix comedy special hit people's screens last week, and it has been receiving wholesome responses. The new special, titled "Inside," was impressively solo-filmed over the course of a year, with nothing more than minimal gear inside a small room.

After recently watching Inside, I was blown away by the plethora of creative techniques employed. With so few resources, Bo was able to achieve beautiful cinematography that complemented his performances to a T. Armed with only some lighting, audio, and camera gear, Bo transformed a small room in his house into his own theatrical stage.

A particular visual element that stood out to me was the lighting. Bo used lots of color, patterns, and moving light to illuminate himself. For the opening song, Bo attached a flashlight to his head, which he then aimed at a disco ball, creating a disco effect. Another example was his unique use of LED lights. As his room had white walls, Bo could change the color of the set by using RGB LED lights. He would aim these at a wall, sometimes using multiples, to alter the background color — a quick and easy alternative to a backdrop. In some parts, Bo also used controllable DJ lights. These allowed him to have crazy kinetic lighting effects while simultaneously performing, sometimes switching lighting ques with his feet.

Bo Burnham has single-handedly put on a theatrical masterpiece that made me laugh, cry, and feel so incredibly connected to his being. Alongside his refreshing creativity employed to make this special, Bo is also brutally honest about his mental health throughout. Suffering from anxiety attacks, he opens up about his past and current experiences with the disorder. Additionally, he includes candid moments that show him at his lowest point. There are times he becomes aggravated while recording dialogue or cries while attempting to explain his health. The emotions shown are incredibly strong, authentic, and relatable to many people, including me.

While watching these moments, with my increasing heartbeat and sweaty palms, I realized that I was associating Bo with myself. I was no longer watching a professional comedian on my screen; I was watching myself break down and cry. Never before has a comedy special made me connect to the comedian on such an interpersonal level. Bo’s openness about such a difficult thing is admirable. It is helpful to all of us with mental health issues, as it reinforces the fact that we are not alone. We can get through this.

In his previous special, released in 2016, titled “Make Happy,” Bo touched upon his mental health and gave an indication of his well-being. In the song “Can’t Handle This,” he sings: “Come and watch the skinny kid with the steadily declining mental health and laugh at he attempts to give you what he cannot give himself.” After this special aired, Bo began experiencing severe anxiety attacks while on stage in front of audiences. This led to him taking time out of his career to focus on bettering his mental health without the added pressure of needing to entertain his fans. After four years of mending, Bo decided to start performing again in January of 2020. As COVID-19 hit, however, his wish to do so was halted, which launched him into a more severe state of anxiety. It was then that Bo decided to create his own show anyway, even if it meant no live audience or crew.

To be transparent, I carry partial bias, as I have been a Bo Burnham fan since he began posting on YouTube and have since followed his career. However, Inside is exceptionally well executed. Each song and every moment are so meticulously thought out, making this his best special yet. He didn’t need a huge theater with lighting rigs and a live audience. He looked deep into his experiences and produced a feature-length special from his own house. I think that is something to admire.

Inside is now available to watch on Netflix.

Lead image by Pexels from Pixabay, used under Creative Commons.

Tom Anderson's picture

Tom Anderson is a video director and cinematographer from the UK. Part-time, he teaches Film & TV for Pauline Quirke Academy in Cambridge. Tom holds a BA Honors degree in Media Production from the University of Lincoln.

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I thoroughly agree with your review, just stumbled across the show and watched it last night. The production (lights/camera, etc.) was amazing and impressive, and the social commentary (internet, social media, and subtly - or not so subtly - the Amazon/Bezos references hit the nail on the head). I prefer typical stand-up and am not a fan of "musical comedy" but besides being chock full of relevant commentary this had value for the photographer/videographer both in technical method as well as serving as an inspiration to what is possible with the technology now available to the common man (or insert desired gender pronoun here).

Thank you for your great comment, Peter :) You're right, the social commentary was very intelligently written and Bo seems to have his head screwed on correctly with current affairs. I think the show was quite inspirational, creatively. Cheers!

Bo is absolutely amazing and I've also been following him since YouTube. We all deal with mental health issues and I'm glad he tackled that in this new work and his past work too. Him putting off finishing 'Inside' so he could stay sane rang true in so many ways. This new special was a masterpiece and I hope Bo is doing well.

Francisco, I concur with everything you've stated, excepting the premise that "we all deal with mental health issues." Not disagreeing to start an argument; just not able to accept this current generalizing trend without commenting...

Well said, Francisco! Bo's certainly a true artist and puts his all into his work.
Peter, don't worry, no argument started! I do understand what you're saying. We all do suffer from anxiety and depression in some form. After all, we're human. However, Anxiety Disorder and Clinical Depression are illnesses, which only certain people have.