Creators should stay true to themselves and their fans

During my freshman year of college, I was wandering around campus sulking because I didn’t know how to meet people.

I ran into someone I knew, and she invited me to her dorm to watch one of Bo Burnham’s Netflix specials because she knew it would make me feel better.

Once I had seen the full special, there was no looking back.

It’s so rare to see self-aware performers and celebrities. That combined with his quirky musical comedic style was like nothing I’d ever seen.

He has a book of poetry, “Egghead,” and wrote and directed a coming-of-age film, “Eighth Grade,” which was released last year. This proves that he can successfully do more than just musical comedy, as both were successful.

Many of his songs are self-deprecating and involve his struggles with anxiety and depression.

Others are cynical about all the unpleasant things in the world, like how musicians trade artistic integrity for sales, double standards in religion and other social issues like racism and homophobia.

“Art is Dead” is a great example of this. In the song, he laments the death of art and compares famous creatives, including himself, to attention addicts and bratty children who get rewarded when they throw temper tantrums.

He also feels guilty that money being put toward tickets to his show could be used for better things, like feeding “a family of four for forty f—ing fortnights.”

While not only a critique of art, his music is a critique of himself.

He wants to pursue what he’s passionate about, but he feels that he’s being rewarded for his own attention-seeking behavior.

“We Think We Know You,” the closing song in his Netflix special, “what,” is another one of my favorites.

In the song, he gets voicemails from a girl from high school inviting him to a party now that he’s famous, an agent in L.A. trying to get him to change his style to cater toward what’s trendy and a rude guy trying to sell him weed because a “friend’s old roommate’s friend” used to know him.

Bo remixes clips from the voicemails into a song about how all of these people pretend to care about him because they want something from him.

Whenever I’m feeling down, I always rewatch his comedy specials. In the three years since I first saw him, I’ve re-watched the specials so many times I have them memorized.

Even last week, I was feeling pretty down, so my friend came over and we watched one of his specials, did some laundry and laughed until we cried.

I feel that it’s refreshing to watch a creative-type who is so self-aware and down-to-earth.

It doesn’t feel like he’s trying too hard to be relatable because he’s genuine, and anyone who watches him can tell. I appreciate that he doesn’t pander and knows when to stop.

In fact, he went on hiatus from comedy in 2016 because he needed to take time for himself and work on other things, which I have a lot of respect for.

I think what it all boils down to is that watching or listening to him feels like you’re just hanging out with your weird friend Bo, not watching some famous person who’s out of reach.

Beneath his jokes, there’s a type of wisdom that’s helped me more than some therapists have.

What I really want to say is, Bo Burnham, if there’s any reason you’d ever be reading this, even though it’s probably not what you want to hear, thank you.


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