Last night I watched Bo Burnham’s new special Make Happy, and I felt compelled to write about it. This is not a review because I feel to review something like this just isn’t right (if you’re curious about specifics I talked briefly about reviewing in my post about The Voices). I don’t really know what I’m going to say, but something is almost forcing me to write this so here it goes.
Yesterday I did nothing. That is not a change of pace for me because I don’t do anything ever and yesterday was no different. I got up late, I wasted time on the internet, I wrote a review, and then I wasted more time on the internet. That’s it. That’s all I ever do. I wanted to watch a new show on HBO but I had an hour to kill before it started. That’s when I realized that Bo Burnham’s new special had come out and I was waiting for an opportunity to watch it (even though my entire fucking day was one long opportunity). I have been a fan of Bo for a long time and I was excited to see his new special. So sitting alone in my room I turned it on. The special started out like his previous special, and carried that momentum throughout. That is until the final two songs rolled around. The second to last song starts with Bo kneeling down at the front of the stage and addressing the audience. He then breaks out into a song/rant that he says is inspired by what Kanye West did on his most recent tour. Now Bo has never shied away from getting deep with his shows, specifically his last show, What., which featured a couple of sad lines and then ended with a heart wrenching performance of “we think we know you”. I felt bad for him when I first heard those, and I still do. I don’t pity him, but on some weird level I think I can relate. The ending of make Happy however was different. Halfway through his song/rant (after discussing Pringles cans and overstuffed burritos) Bo starts to let us into his mind. He starts singing that he doesn’t think that he can “handle this” (in regards to his fame presumably) but then corrects himself by saying that he needs to be funny for the audience. There’s another line around this time that is very telling and that is when he says “It’s time to give these people what you can’t give yourself”. This was a terribly sad end to a comedy special, and even mores when Bo cuts the song abruptly and says “I hope you’re happy” while maintaining a look on his face that is very telling. That was one thing. During the entirety of this song I wasn’t laughing because how could I? I was watching someone who obviously feels trapped doing the same thing over and over. Had the special ended there I probably wouldn’t have been writing this, but it didn’t.
We follow Bo off stage where he approaches and sits at a keyboard in a small room. He then breaks into his song “are you happy?” which is the closest I have ever come to tears while watching a comedy special. In the song he starts it by addressing the audience asking if we are happy (after his show), but he then progresses into asking himself if he is happy. Over and over agin, recounting his success but continuing to ask himself if he is happy. The song ends, Bo gets up from the keyboard, opens the door and runs to greet his girlfriend and his dog. He looks genuinely happy. Again I’m not going to review this piece or talk about what I think it means because that’s not important. I know that Bo “exaggerates” his feelings on stage because that is part of his character, but this didn’t feel like acting. I just want to end this piece by saying this.
Thank you Bo Burnham for creating a piece of art that moved me, made me feel something even though what I felt (and am still feeling) is not a good feeling.
And to answer your question: No, I am not happy. But I sincerely hope you are.