Features and Columns · Movies

Mediation, Artifice, and the Anxious Digital Format of ‘Bo Burnham: Inside’

Well, well. Look who’s inside again.
Bo Burnham Inside Format
Netflix
By  · Published on July 23rd, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on the format and structure of Bo Burnham’s comedy special Inside.


However you feel about Bo Burnham: Insideyou must admit: the acclaimed Netflix comedy special definitely feels like the most significant piece of mainstream pandemic art.

Sure, there have been other creative efforts over the course of COVID-19 to grapple both practically and narratively with the effects of lockdown. But Inside feels different. Filmed, edited, written, and performed by comedian/actor/director Bo Burnham from the confines of his guesthouse, the subject matter of Inside is sure to strike a nerve. This isn’t an especially “funny” comedy special. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Inside’s anxieties are blunt and unambiguous. And while critiques of commodified activism, glorifying the ultra-rich, and (sigh) the inability of boomers to navigate FaceTime aren’t exactly cutting edge ideas, their pervasive presence in our lives makes them relatable nonetheless. The more nuanced and personal wrinkles in the special are more compelling and trickier to parse. Namely: Burnham’s admission that the layered artifice of digital life is having an adverse effect on his mental wellbeing. Again, this isn’t a novel thesis. But, as the following video essay explains, it’s one that Burnham expresses in a distinctly novel way.

In a wildly impressive move, the video essay mirrors Inside‘s vignettes and aesthetics to unpack what exactly Burnham is doing from a formal perspective. The essay hits on a variety of topics from Inside‘s groundbreaking articulation of “internet video” cinematography to the special’s overarching concern with authenticity and artful staging. Whether it blew your socks off or struck you as “just fine” (for what it’s worth, I’m in the latter camp), this essay on the format of Bo Burnham: Inside is well-worth watching.

Watch “Breaking Open The Format of Bo Burnham’s Inside”:

Who made this?

This video essay on the format of Bo Burnham: Inside is by Virginia-based filmmaker and video editor Thomas Flight. He runs a YouTube channel under the same name. You can follow Thomas Flight and check out his back catalog of video essays on YouTube here. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).