On the surface, there’s nothing shocking about Bo Burnham. He’s an 18-year-old Catholic school graduate who recently garnered fame by posting songs on YouTube for his brother Pete, who had gone off to college.
Then there’s Bo Burnham’s comedy. Somewhere in the audience, someone didn’t have a clue to what was coming.
Homosexual attractions to Jesus, lyrics poking fun a Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease, and a song about eating fetuses were just some of the jaw-droppingly offensive jokes that an Alumni Hall crowd thoroughly enjoyed.
But it’s his delivery that keeps phrases like “What’s two balls minus one / six titles at the Tour de France” from being low-brow shock comedy. Taboo jests regarding testicular cancer may seem crass, but the songs are written with such artful complexity that it was often hard to keep up with him – the audience would miss the next joke because they had just figured out the previous one.
His acerbic lyrics are also easy to embrace because he’s maintained a likable persona. Other YouTube stars have acquired egos along with their national followings – Bo doesn’t seem to intend on forgetting his roots as a kid goofing off in his bedroom. After jokingly berating a member of Penn State’s Full Ammo Improv Troupe, who darted quickly across the front row to return to his saved seat just as Bo began playing “Sunday School,” Burnham sheepishly said “I’m not this much of an asshole off-stage.”
His exchange with the student, as well as a number of other short segues between YouTube Hits like “New Math” and “I’m Bo Yo,” shows his potential as a great stand-up. He’s still a bit green – his first exit from the stage before his encore lasted barely 8 seconds – but Penn Staters were treated to a very candid, endearing performance by a developing comedic mind who just happens to be writing a film for Judd Apatow. He even stayed after the show to meet fans.
Hell, if he can “Hiel!” the audience like Adolf Hitler after a “WE ARE! PENN STATE!” chant and get away with it, the sky is the limit.
Thanks to Davis, who contributed to this review and provided pictures not from my crappy cell phone camera.