Rubado column: Bo Burnham's new Netflix special reveals the ugly side of entertainment and comedy

The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

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Jared Rubado

My favorite comedian dropped a new special on Netflix this week. It’s effectively broken my brain.

I first saw Bo Burnham’s work on my parent’s desktop computer in 2010 when I was a freshman in high school. A couple of years later, he released his first Netflix special called “What.” He followed that up in 2016 with “Words Words Words.”

The first thing you need to know about Burnham is he is not for everybody. That can really be said about any comedian, but Burnham is dark. He has a particular sense of humor. I cannot express this enough: If you want to see what his specials are about, please do your research because they could be, on the surface, extremely controversial.

The thing about Burnham that you need to realize is that everything he says comes with a purpose. While his stand-up shows are filled with corny songs and cheap one-liners, there’s always a deeper meaning. And a lot of people, including myself, didn’t fully grasp that concept until last weekend.

Over the last five years, Burnham has entered the filmmaking business. One of the best comedies of the last decade, “Eighth Grade,” was written and produced by Burnham. He also played the supporting role in “Promising Young Woman” and will play Larry Bird in an upcoming Boston Celtics biopic.


Despite his recent success in Hollywood, Burnham was still widely known as a comedian first. But after walking off the stage from his 2016 Netflix special, he never came back.

On May 30, Burnham returned to comedy with his new special “Inside.” While it’s funny in some parts and it’s technically a comedy, it’s one of the more bone-chilling things I’ve seen.

Burnham highlighted his struggles with mental health. When he used to go on stand-up tours, he would get panic attacks on stage. Burnham talks about his suicidal thoughts and how he can’t seem to give himself what he’s been able to offer to others: happiness.

I’ve watched “Inside” three times now. It really hit home with me because I had, and still have, issues with my mental health. In some way, I think everybody struggles like this. It’s not fair, and it’s certainly not right to compare the weight of each person’s struggles with each other. But the unfortunate irony for Burnham is being an entertainer, whose job is to provide laughter and happiness, cannot find it himself.

As consumers of this entertainment, we tend to romanticize larger-than-life figures without understanding the mental toll their profession can take on them. One of the greatest minds in comedy was also damaged. Robin Williams was beloved by all except for one: himself.

It’s impossible to talk about “Inside” without sounding pretentious. I’m sure people are going to check it out and think I’m out of my mind with this one, but I legitimately think it’s one of the most extraordinary strokes of genius I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t make you feel better about yourself; it’s not supposed to. It just makes you think in ways you haven’t yet. There’s no proper way to talk about “Inside” but I can’t stop thinking about it.

Again, please do your research before you watch any of Burnham’s three specials. The last thing I want is for you to go into his stand-up and get railroaded by a joke you didn’t see coming. However, I will recommend “Eighth Grade” and “Promising Young Woman” to absolutely everybody. Two brilliant movies loaded with Burnham’s comedic fingerprints.

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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