Robert "Bo" Burnham (born August 21, 1990) is an American comedian, singer-songwriter, musician, actor, and Internet celebrity. Writing comedic and satirical songs with a politically incorrect slant, he achieved fame when his YouTube videos took off and received more than 70 million views by October 2010.
A few years ago, Bo Burnham was just another high-schooler recording YouTube videos for fun. Today, Burnham has burst on the comedy scene with film roles, a full-length LP, an hour-long Comedy Central special and a deal to write a film for Judd Apatow. On top of that, Entertainment Weekly named Burnham one of the “12 Rising Stars of Comedy” and Variety named him one of the “10 Comics to Watch.”
MTV has ordered a 30 minute scripted pilot from Burnham about a kid fresh out of high school who’s pursuing the American dream of being a celebrity without having any talent.
Besides his advanced skills at the piano, he can play with words like few others, and refreshingly, he never panders to his audience, presenting himself as highly self-satisfied young stallion but with an innocent, Charlie Brown-esque underbelly. Spend five minutes listening to his material and he’s undeniably talented, but that doesn’t keep his Steven Wright-meets-George Carlin-meets-Ben Folds-meets-Eminem act from being an acquired taste.
Burnham has released two studio albums and an EP: “Bo Fo Sho - EP” (2008), “Bo Burnham” (2009) and “Words Words Words” (2010). Burnham’s March 2009 “Comedy Central Presents” special made him the youngest comedian to have appeared on the program.
Offering a gangly cross between the verbal wordplay of George Carlin, the drollness of Steve Martin and a self-deprecation all his own, the Hamilton, Mass., native's explosive success began when he sat in his bedroom and videotaped a performance of an original song called "My Whole Family (Thinks I'm Gay)" and then posted it on YouTube just so his older brother at college could have a laugh.
Burnham flits between personae so swiftly you can't keep up. "I misdirect the audience," he says, "so they have no idea where they are or who they're listening to." Is it the erudite rapper citing poet Robert Frost, or the gag-man giving loopy definitions of the word irony ("My grandmother was a cancer – and she was actually killed by a giant crab")? Or is the real Burnham the pernickety statistician who insists "the average person has one fallopian tube"?
Here, Burnham comes across as a scowling adolescent – albeit one in remarkable control of his surliness, which is wielded as the sharpest weapon in Burnham's comic arsenal. In both standup and song, this is a boy faintly sickened by his own virtuosity, by the glibness of comedy and the egotism implicit in art.
Seldom do you see an interview with Bo Burnham without the label 'YouTube sensation'. Indeed, the video-streaming website is how he first entered the public eye, aged just 16, with his bedroom-filmed songs acquiring 90 million views and a fanatical following. But Burnham has made a remarkably natural transition to live comedy.
Burnham's film credits include roles in Judd Apatow's Funny People, Rob Schneider's Virgin on Bourbon Street, and he recently wrapped production on the comedy feature Sin Bin.
Reflecting on his early work, Burnham is (not for the last time) contradictory. On the one hand, he dismisses it as "cheap and shocking. And I don't like shock humour," he says. "The rule should be, it needs to be funnier than it is offensive. A Holocaust joke needs to be as funny as the Holocaust was tragic."