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  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

A Bo Burnham Primer (published on Twitter on 10/2/22)

Updated: Jan 20

Hi, everyone!

After the success I had with my Jerrod primer (and to avoid answering the same questions about Bo's past stuff), I figured it'd be a good idea to list everything Bo's worked on and where to find it.

Let's dive in!

All of these streaming suggestions are based on where you can find them in the United States currently. (sorry, international Bo fans!)

Let's start with the easiest list: Bo's specials.

Despite having performed for close to 16 years, Bo only has four real comedy specials to his name—and ALL of them are fantastic!

1. Words Words Words (2010)

Watch on: Paramount+

Words Words Words was Bo's first hourlong show and aired on Comedy Central. It's where Art Is Dead comes from, and the special was filmed at the House of Blues in Boston with six large screens depicting the entire script behind Bo.

2. what. (2013)

Watch on: Netflix or YouTube

Co-directed by Bo and The Bear's Chris Storer, what. was filmed in San Francisco at the Regency Ballroom and truly lives up to its name. This is also the start of Bo's EPIC finales with We Think We Know You!

3. Make Happy (2016)

Watch on: Netflix

Right before the election, Bo (along with co-director Chris Storer again) gifted us with his funniest special and then peaced out for five years.

Filmed at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York, Make Happy is a wonder of gorgeous lighting and audience manipulation—and it ends with Bo in the ruhm from Inside!

4. Inside (2021)

Watch on: Netflix

Bo's masterpiece that he filmed in his guest house over the course of a year brought him international acclaim and made him a household name (Bezos!).

Inside is the ONLY pandemic-related media you need to watch.

4B. The Inside Outtakes (2022)

Watch on: Netflix or YouTube

And The Inside Outtakes special is a fantastic companion piece, loaded with new songs and sketches that didn't make the cut. (please watch Inside first though!)

Bo's Directing Credits

In addition to what., Make Happy, and Inside, Bo has directed other works, including comedy specials for other comedians AND a feature-length film.

Let's take a look!

1. 8 by Jerrod Carmichael (2017)

Watch on: Max

Bo's first solo directing gig and filmed at the Masonic Hall in NYC, 8 is a leap forward in cinematic specials that focus on the audience at home. Jerrod and Bo are a winning combo (and have more works together in this primer)!

2. Eighth Grade (2018)

Watch on: Max

This was Bo's feature film debut that he wrote AND directed, and he chose the subject of a teen girl navigating middle school life as well as the internet and social media—a must-watch!

3. Tamborine (2018)

Watch on: Netflix (not the Total Blackout version)

For his first Netflix special, Chris Rock enlisted Bo to direct his return to the comedy stage. Fantastic lighting and Bo's signature close-ups appear throughout!

4. Cinnamon in the Wind (2019, but released in 2022)

Watch on: Hulu

As promised earlier this year, Kate Berlant's black-and-white special finally was released after many delays.

A tour-de-force of improvisational prowess that confirms Bo's tweets about Kate's brilliance!

5. Rothaniel (2022)

Watch on: Max

This Emmy award-winning special was filmed in February of this year (I was at one of the tapings!) and marks Bo's second directing collab with Jerrod.

A stunning dissection of the secrets we keep and those we must admit (like Jerrod coming out)!

6. Kate (one-woman play, 2022–2024)

Bo's first foray into directing a play, Kate is an incredible immersive experience that defies explanation—try to see Kate Berlant's masterpiece if you are able (its first run ended 10/8).

***Update: Kate added a Winter Encore at the Connelly Theater in the Village, which ended on 2/10/23 (I was lucky enough to attend that final show and to meet Kate in person!).

And now there have been runs in London (September 2023) and LA (January 2024).

I hope it moves to Broadway eventually so Bo can snag the T in EGOT!

Bo's Film Acting Roles

In addition to writing and directing, Bo has taken the backseat to play a character in someone else's artistic vision.

Acting is Bo's first love, so he's had a number of roles (some better, some worse) over the years.

Let's dive in!

1. Funny People (2009)

Watch on: Peacock, YouTube

Bo's first role was as Bo the basketball player in a tv sitcom parody called "Yo Teach...!" in the film (love his rap about changing grades!).

Here's the official YT channel for Yo Teach...! And here is the Thanksgiving dinner scene where Bo tells Adam Sandler he's an actor (aww).

2. American Virgin (2009)

Watch on: Amazon Freevee

This is undoubtedly Bo's worst role (the movie is an abomination), but his Rudy character is very sweet and worth watching.

ONLY view if you're a completist like me!

3. Hall Pass (2011)

Watch on: Max

Another not-great role, Bo appears as a bartender for a few minutes.

Just watch this YouTube clip for the entirety of his acting (including a well-timed eyebrow raise)!

4. Adventures of the Sin Bin/The Sin Bin (2012)

Watch on: not streaming, but you can rent or own

His largest role at the time, Bo plays the snobby and pretentious Tony Caito to perfection!

I also love the oboe reference....very Oh Bo.

Fun fact: Bo first met the illustrator of his poetry book Egghead through this film (Chance Bone plays Glenn, one of the students). And this is when Bo met his frequent collaborator Chris Storer who wrote the movie's script.

Here's all of Tony's scenes on YouTube!

5. The Big Sick (2017)

Watch on: Amazon Prime Video

Bo's first role in an Oscar-nominated film (not his last), his character CJ is an aspiring comic whose success comes too easily to him.

Bo's scenes with Aidy Bryant are particularly fun to watch! And you can hear some of Bo's cut jokes (including his pirate's map one) in this blooper reel.

6. Rough Night (2017)

Watch on: Amazon Freevee

Another supporting role, this time Bo plays Tobey, the Best Man who helps concoct a plan for the groom.

The best scene involves Bo's speech about going Sad Astronaut and buying adult diapers!

7. Promising Young Woman (2020)

Watch on: Amazon Freevee

Bo plays Ryan, a doctor who wins over Carey Mulligan's Cassie with his wit, charm, and good guy personality, but all is not as it seems...

This is Bo's BEST acting to date, and the film won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay!

Bo's TV Acting Roles

While he has appeared on the silver screen, Bo has also played parts on television throughout the years.

Let's check them out!

1. Comedy Central Presents, S13, E22 (2009)

Watch on: Paramount+ or YouTube

Before Words Words Words, Bo appeared on the popular comedy showcase when he had just turned 18 (Seniors '08!). Originally airing on 3/27/09, this half-hour special also has the weirdest words bleeped out ("down"? "Holocaust"? "bleed"?).

2. Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous (2013)

Watch on: not streaming, but you can rent or own  

For Bo's first foray into episodic tv acting, he decided to co-create this show with Dan Lagana about a high school senior with no ambition but to become rich and famous.

Each ep features a new version of the theme song—so cool!

3. Parks and Recreation, S6, E19 Flu Season 2 (2014)

Watch on: Peacock

In a memorable cameo, Bo pops up in the Pawnee-set show as South Bend, IN's Chipp McCapp, a country star with a penchant for loving his mom and the troops.

Bo said this role helped to inspire "Pandering" in Make Happy!

4. Kroll Show, S3, E8 The Commonwealth Games and S3, E10 The Time of My Life (2015)

Watch on: Paramount+

Bo appears as a hooligan named Diz in 2 episodes of Nick Kroll's sketch comedy show.

This was the first thing I EVER saw Bo in—here's all his scenes on YouTube!

5. Key and Peele (2015)

Watch on: Paramount+, Netflix, YouTube

Bo has a cameo as Lyle, the leader of an a cappella group in this hilarious sketch.

Fun fact: Jordan Peele presented Bo with his DGA award in 2019 for Eighth Grade!

6. We Bare Bears, S2, E4 Nom Nom's Entourage (2016)

Watch on: Hulu

Bo plays Andy Bangs, a troublesome YouTube prank show star who battles Nom Nom (Patton Oswalt).

It's incredible, PLUS you get Demetri Martin as Ice Bear!

Here's a clip of Bo interacting with Nom Nom.

7. Comrade Detective, Ep. 1 (2017)

Watch on: Amazon Prime Video

This parody of a communist propaganda show features not only Bo but also Jerrod Carmichael as drug dealers.

A fun romp, and it's hysterical hearing Bo and Jerrod's dubbed voices coming out of Eastern European faces! lol

There is even a clip on IMDB called "Drug Deal" that provides a glimpse of their scene if you're curious!

Bo's Producing Credits

In addition to acting and directing, Bo has executive produced many programs over the years.

Let's take a look at some specials that have not yet been mentioned in this primer!

1. Home Videos/Sermon on the Mount (2019)

Watch on: Max

Bo helped produce Jerrod's two mini documentaries about his family, the lives of Black women, and infidelity.

These two programs are wonderful companion pieces with Rothaniel!

2. Lil Rel Howery: Live in Crenshaw (2019)

Watch on: Max

Bo produced Lil Rel's comedy special (directed by Jerrod) that's set in a beautiful school gymnasium while the sun is setting behind the comic.

Lil Rel was also in The Carmichael Show and Get Out!

3. Whitmer Thomas: The Golden One (2020)

Watch on: Max

Whitmer was an opener for Bo during the Make Happy tour, and Bo must have liked him so much he offered to produce this fascinating special that dives into the singer-songwriter comedian's traumatic past in Alabama.

Finally, Bo has written or composed a number of works during his career.

For every major success (Eighth Grade), he has also had other promising ideas shelved.

Let's check them out!

1. Anti-High School Musical (2009)

Bo's first writing credit was an R-rated version of HSM, which he was working on with frequent collaborator Judd Apatow.

While the movie didn't happen, Bo and Judd did work together on Funny People and appeared on the Green Room.

2. Gay Kid and Fat Chick (2013)

Another work caught in production limbo, this script by Bo garnered a place on the prestigious Black List.

There was talk of it being directed by Amy York Rubin with some much-needed updates, but we'll see what happens!

3. Sesame Street (2019-?)

This one REALLY hurts. Bo had signed on to write the movie's music and possibly act with Anne Hathaway.

However, multiple delays due to Anne's pregnancy and then the pandemic mean this likely won't see the light of day.

Fingers crossed we eventually hear the songs somehow!

I hope you've enjoyed this primer of Bo's many works and how you can watch them!


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