Comedian-songwriter Bo Burnham gets lyrical

The YouTube sensation entertained students in Goldstein Auditorium Tuesday night with his smart, shameless style.

Slouched over his keyboard like the Peanuts’ resident pianist Schroeder, Bo Burnham’s shaggy, blond hair shakes to the rhythm as he pounds the keys and belts his original ballad, “Love is.”

“I want you, yea, like JFK wa-aa-nted a car with a roof.”

Last night, Burnham brought his unique brand of humor to Goldstein Auditorium in a show that audience members described as “hilarious,” “mean,” and “genius.” The 20-year-old is a rising star in the comedy world. First discovered on YouTube, he went on to become the youngest person ever to record a Comedy Central special at eighteen. He won international accolades for his performances. And he will be embarking on a world tour in less than a month.

Photo: Megan O'Malley
Comedic Bo Burnham pauses to reflect on the existence of unicorns in his opening act. The stunt is purely theatrical as a background track introduces his performance with jokes and sarcastic humor.

This was not his first time performing in Syracuse, he performed at the Westcott last March, and he seemed to know exactly what the crowd wanted. He began bonding with the audience right from the start, making fun of Otto the Orange and poking fun at SU’s Sunday night loss. Quickly realizing he’d hit a sore spot, he joined the crowd in bashing Marquette, the team who knocked the Orange out of the NCAA tournament.

“I do want everyone from Marquette to die in a car fire,” he said.

The show mixed his signature comedic songs with stand-up, poems, and impromptu audience interactions. His style combines clever, metaphor-laden jokes with a Paul Rudd-like awkward, self-deprecating delivery. The crowd cheered at the first sounds of his classic songs like, “Words, Words, Words,” and, “Oh Bo,” and many loyal fans enjoyed the chance to hear his new material for the first time.

Burnham diverged from singing to deliver a series of haikus--his self-proclaimed "deep" thoughts on the world around him. The pieces were riddled with biting sarcasm like, “My aunt used to say, ‘Slow and steady wins the race.’ She died in a fire.”

A crowd favorite was the fast-paced, “I F---- Sluts.” Its quick tempo and rearranging repetitive words gave it a Dr. Seuss-like quality; like a dirty, “Green Eggs and Ham.”

The maturity level of Burnham’s comedy is reflexive of his age. He is an intelligent wordsmith who requires quick thinking audience members to get his jokes. His lyrics reference chemistry, Oedipus Rex, and xenophobia; yet he follows these with lines about dry humping and date rape. His unsympathetic, unyielding lyrics have been known to cause controversy, but the audience seemed to appreciate his off-color side, and take it in stride.

“The really inappropriate songs are my favorite part,” said accounting junior, Jill Dintino. “It was offensive and wonderful.”

Burnham’s most avant-garde act came when he played mock audio clips of people ridiculing him, from high school friends to a music-exec type who seemed to say he'd never make it. Burnham stood in the middle of the stage, silent, reacting to the pre-recorded voices of discouragement.

Many audience members said they were initially confused by the act. They wondered if the dialogue was from real situations, or if it was leading into a joke. Finally, with the audience on the edge of their seats, Burnham pointed in the direction of the voices, cutting and mixing the sounds like a phantom DJ. He compiled a song out of the negative voices that haunted him.

Audience members also had issues understanding the lyrics to Burnham’s songs. Burnham has a tendency to mumble and speak away from the microphone. Whether incidental, or part of his act, many had trouble hearing what he was saying, and missed some of the punch lines. Whispers of, “What’d he say?” and, “Did you hear that,” could be heard through the aisles.

“I didn’t know if that was part of his act or if he just got tired,” said psychology junior, Carla Santamaria.

Even if they missed a few jokes, Burnham had plenty to spare. He kept the laughs rolling in with his shocking lyrics, witty metaphors, and goofy demeanor. Now a Syracuse veteran, Burnham proved he’s got what it takes to amuse the Orange.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.