Bo Burnham is at the top of his game with his latest special Make Happy. It’s unbelievable at times to realize he’s but 25 years old. Burnham is one of a kind, mixing traditional stand-up, theater, and music into a batter of awesomeness. He can make the most hot button topics seem so trivial yet turn age old nursery rhymes into the most hot button topics. His tools for this juxtaposition range from sentimental piano based music to hardcore rapping and provocative monologues to simple one liner jokes.
Make Happy opens with Burnham waking up in what appears to be a hotel room, television still on from the night before, and a clown nose on with face paint. He then draws the curtains to greet the day. After leaving his hotel room, the journey begins. He heads out on foot through various terrain while computerized VO plays overtop the montage. During this time, we are instructed not to laugh and to not forget our problems which is the perfect setup for Burnham’s first strike.
Once arriving on stage, he quickly engages the audience with a song full of call and responses, tricking them into yelling things they shouldn’t. Sorry audience, too late. Quite clever and entertaining. Burnham’s brain can work on any level. Heady if he wants, simple-minded if called for. And he does all of this with complete comfort and control.
The special itself is shot beautifully. The esthetic in combination with Burnham’s presentation go together like peanut butter and jelly. This is also a sandwich reference that he makes during his first piano performance, a sarcastic song about what it’s like to be a straight white male exploiting the “white people problems” scenario with perfect jest. The light show throughout is quite pleasing and accommodating.
Burnham draws you right in with swift interactive one-offs delivered seamlessly between bits keeping you on your toes at all times. No rest for the wicked here. His self depreciation showcased during Make Happy distracts you just long enough that you don’t even realize he made you use the “N” word or leave you enough time to be offended by the cutest jingle ever written. One that interrupts his performance in order to call the comedian the “F” word… the one that rhymes with bag.
Words, as always, play a huge role in Burnham’s shows. And Make Happy is no different. His ability to analyze, dissect, and regurgitate the English language is nothing short of genius. He’s able to find triple meanings within a world where there should only be one. Even when the multi-facited comedian calls out exactly what he’s going to do before he does it, you can’t stop yourself from being consumed by his sarcasm and meta-like presentation only to be diverted yet again. And then he hits you right in the jugular.
At one point, Burnham even jokes that every joke should come out of a vaccuum and not have to rely on the momentum of previous ones. Whether it’s his presentation of his interpretation of what it’s like to make a sandwich while high, or calling out politics because we only know our ideas about how we feel about other people’s ideas of politics, Make Happy is a rollercoaster ride of jokes with more twist and turns than Chubby Checker in a blender. On top of that, Burnham acts as a mirror reflecting the ridiculousness of “life” back on to itself.
Do yourself a favor and watch Bo Burnham: Make Happy. And after you do, watch it a second time so you can pick up on all you missed the first go around. I’ll now use the now immortal words of Bo Burnham himself, “We all deserve love, even on the days when we aren’t our best. Because we all suck, but love can make us suck less.”
Bo Burnham: Make Happy is available for streaming right now on Netflix.