An Interview with Isabel Descutner, the Bo Burnham Cover Queen
Updated: Jan 13
For my next official interview as the #boburnhamhistorian, I interviewed Isabel Descutner, a remarkably talented singer and performer who's had her Frozen YouTube videos go viral when she was a teenager!
Now, Isabel has been taking the Bo fandom by storm by doing gorgeous covers of Bo's most famous songs from Inside and Inside Outtakes. She even includes the lyrics in the background that pop up while she's singing (a lovely touch that makes the videos even more special!).
Here is a recent video she uploaded for my favorite song from the Outtakes: The Chicken (sniff).
Let's learn more about her process, her experiences with Bo, and how she decides what to post on her YouTube channel that she has been running since 2011.
Here is my interview with Isabel, condensed and edited for clarity purposes.
Bo Burnham Historian: Hi, Isabel! Thanks for participating in this interview.
Isabel: No problem!
BBH: Great. Let's get started.
How long have you been posting on YouTube? Is it as long as Bo has been uploading (2006)?
Isabel: Although not on my current channel, I’ve pretty much been on YouTube since its beginning. As a kid, I had a bunch of different channels for posting random videos I made with my friends, but the first video I ever posted was in 2008 on a channel I made in 2007.
This was back when Nigahiga, Smosh, and Fred were really taking off, so my original videos with my friends were all skits, movie trailer spoofs, and music videos. YouTube for me back then was entirely just for fun and to have a place for my friends and I to watch what we made.
Then I made a singing channel in 2010 that I posted a few covers and vlogs on (which, now watching 11 years later, absolutely look like one of Kayla’s videos from Eighth Grade lol) before abandoning ship to my current channel that I made in 2011. My current channel got its humble beginnings as a repository for poorly made Victorious instrumentals and me doing random duets with other youtubers.
I was still learning how not to be so shy about my singing at the time, so my channel was a way for me to really push myself into singing more, learning more about editing, and sharing my videos with friends and family.
BBH: I'm sure you've learned a lot over the years!
When did you go viral? How did it affect your life? Isabel: I’ve never really gone viral in the sense that millions of people saw something I made in the span of a week, but I have had a few videos get decently known in a few niches, which let me join some amazing communities.
In high school, I had a huuuuge Frozen phase, and two of my Frozen videos ended up getting seen way more than I ever expected (a cover of a cut song that was on the deluxe album and an a cappella Frozen medley). Other than gaining more subscribers, it made me grow a bit in this super-niche Instagram theatre community I was a part of way back when. I had a group of friends (a few of whom I’m still friends with) who did little 15-second duets together on Instagram and talked all the time, and funnily enough, a few of those people I knew then are Disney/theatre influencers now! @alyssavjaffe on TikTok? She’s from the OG “let’s cast each other in musicals on Instagram” days, and she’s amazing. A handful of times, I either met people in college or a friend told me their friend had loved my Frozen videos when they were younger, and that always led to a really fun conversation. My one college friend and I had been friends for months before we realized at a dorm karaoke night that he had seen my Life’s Too Short cover years before meeting me, so we geeked out over it and then sang the song together for karaoke night.
He’s also another great youtuber to check out: @Brian Koch.
BBH: That's an amazing coincidence! And it's so cool that you've connected with famous influencers in your past.
You might not consider the a cappella medley to be "viral," but I would say anything that has over a million views is pretty incredible!
Did you feel a compulsion to be the Frozen/Disney girl after the success of those videos? Did it stifle your creativity?
Isabel: Oh, absolutely, to both questions haha. The success of my Disney videos let me become a YouTube partner and start making money from my covers, so my mind got completely stuck in this mode of, “What you make matters now. You have to make stuff that people would want to pay to see.”
Because I grew up as a hardcore perfectionist who’s slowly been trying to unlearn those tendencies, I ended up just not making anything because I never felt like I could make something good enough that still fell under the Disney or Frozen vertical. I felt like if I made something different, no one would watch it, and now that my channel was monetized, everything I did had to be worth paying for.
It was a nonexistent standard I set for myself that created unnecessary anxiety and entirely stifled my creativity for years. I’ve really had to work hard to unlearn it and just get back to making videos I enjoy making rather than pressuring myself to make something “worthy.”
BBH: I bet! It's always hard to balance catering to your audience and doing what you want to do. I'm a perfectionist as well, so I can definitely relate!
So, I have to ask about this. Bo actually COMMENTED on your "Are You Happy?" video and said your cover was “Beautiful.” in 2016!
How does it feel to be the chosen one? Seriously, that must have been mind-blowing to see him compliment you!
Isabel: I couldn’t believe it when he commented! The funniest thing is he commented only a few days after I posted that cover, back when it probably only had 200 or 300 views. I know he’s talked on podcasts about how he likes to filter YouTube results by recent upload dates, so my guess is that’s how he found it, and it was entirely just lucky timing.
I wish I remember where I was when I saw his comment, but I do know that it shocked me so much that I didn’t even know how to respond other than giving it a heart and pinning it. I finally wrote back to him literally 5 years later, after I watched Inside and posted my Look Who’s Inside Again cover.
BBH: Oh wow! I have no idea what I would write back to him. "Thanks," maybe? haha
Another video of yours that piqued my interest was your GRWM video explaining your absence and infrequent uploads.
This particular video feels VERY similar to Kayla’s vlogs in Eighth Grade (and to Inside, if I’m being completely honest). Had you seen Bo’s film by that point, or is it just a coincidence?
Isabel: I had seen Eighth Grade by that point, but that connection didn’t even cross my mind, so that’s a total coincidence. I feel like my natural personality is pretty Kayla-esque though. I’ve only seen Eighth Grade once and thank god I watched it alone late at night, because it absolutely destroyed me.
I watched it in my last semester in my college dorm and felt like I was watching little eighth-grade Isabel dealing with her anxiety and trying to figure out who she is. The moment at the party where she grabs the mic to sing karaoke, and it’s this gigantic anxiety-inducing scene?
That was THE moment in that movie where I went “Oh my god, I have never seen that exact feeling I had so many times portrayed so perfectly.”
Also the scene with her dad in the backyard? The whole “Do I make you sad?” scene? A huge chunk of that felt like Bo just wrote one of my adolescent conversations with my mom into a script. I can cry just thinking of that scene, it’s gorgeous and so heartfelt.
BBH: Definitely! That movie felt like Bo had read my middle school diaries—especially the anxiety description. Makes me emotional just to think about it!
Speaking of Bo, when did you become a fan? What’s the first thing you saw by him?
Isabel: I first learned about Bo from one of my close friends in eighth grade. I’m pretty sure it was eighth grade, so it would’ve been 2010 I think? We were hanging out at her house watching YouTube videos and she said to me, “You have to see this video my brother showed me, it’s so funny,” and she pulled up the music video for High School Party.
After that, I fell down a total Bo Burnham rabbit hole. I got my parents and my best friend into him too not long after. I think my mom and I used to have the entire Words Words Words special memorized.
BBH: That's awesome! You're lucky that you have supportive parents who enjoy his works too.
So what compelled you to cover Bo’s songs in particular after you'd done all the Disney ones?
Isabel: I was never someone who had many gigantic celebrity crushes or obsessions, but Bo was pretty much the biggest, especially in eighth/ninth grade. But even back in those days, I never really posted any Bo covers on my channel.
I made one attempt at Art Is Dead in ninth grade, but I took it down pretty quickly because I didn’t think like it had the right feeling behind it—it felt like a fangirl just singing this song without really getting it. Back in his more strictly comedic days, I never felt that compelled to cover his other songs because they didn’t feel like I had anything to add to them in any way emotionally.
Skip ahead to "Are You Happy?" and then to so much of Inside and the Outtakes, and now there were way more songs that I felt like I could relate to on a more personal level as a singer with an audience rather than just enjoying them for their cleverness.
Goodbye, Look Who’s Inside Again, and The Chicken especially were all songs that I adored but also felt that my singing them had more of a meaning for me that wasn’t just “I’m singing his songs.” This is why I haven’t ever really sung one of his strictly comedic songs as a cover.
While I love singing them in my car, they’re just me singing a Bo song. There isn’t another layer in it that I hope comes across when I cover his songs that makes someone watch and go, “This song means something for her, there’s a new experience I get from listening to this, even if it’s just the slightest change from the original.”
I also just don’t consider myself much of a comedic performer so I don’t feel like I would feel right trying to come across as funny by just repeating Bo’s lyrics. But in the future, if I feel like I can get the vibes right, I wouldn’t be against branching out more to Bo’s other kinds of songs, mostly just the ones from Inside though.
BBH: I agree with you—the lyrics are so powerful for those songs. My favorite is definitely "That Funny Feeling."
So the way I found your channel initially was that I saw your Inside review (and I even liked it!). Why did you post about your movie experience? Did you want it recorded for posterity, or was it just something you felt like you had to do?
Isabel: That’s so cool that this was the first thing you saw of mine!
I knew I was gonna try to go see it in theaters, but I hadn’t originally been planning on talking about it in a video—it hadn’t even crossed my mind that it was something people might be interested in seeing from me until I saw so many people in my comments talking about how they weren’t able to go to a showing.
So after I saw Inside in the theater, I asked people in my community tab if they would be interested in a video talking about what it was like to see it in theaters. I got a bunch of comments basically saying, “Yes, that way I can experience it vicariously through you,” so I wrote down my thoughts and recorded it!
Plus, I had been looking for some more ways to get out of only posting singing videos and finding a community I can chat more freely with. I always write back to people’s comments, but it's fun to post stuff that starts more of a conversation where we all can get to know each other better.
BBH: That's awesome! I really enjoyed watching it even though I was lucky enough to see Inside at the Ritz in Philadelphia.
What’s your favorite album/song/special by Bo? You can absolutely answer more than one thing. haha
Isabel: Oh man, if you would’ve asked me before Inside, it absolutely would’ve been Words Words Words for favorite special, and then I would’ve probably listed off Art Is Dead or Rant or Nerds or Can’t Handle This or literally any of the songs from Bo Fo Sho and not been able to narrow it down at all.
Now it’s absolutely Inside with Goodbye as my all-time favorite, not even a question. Before, I would’ve felt like I’d have to pick “here’s my favorite comedic song, and here’s my favorite more serious song.” Now I can just say Goodbye is my favorite.
It’s a gorgeous standalone song on its own, but in its original context, it’s a fantastic closer that ties together so many elements from the special it’s a part of. Just like how every part of the Inside score directly links to other songs from Inside (except the one that links to My Whole Family and then the Jeans/Camera drums lol), Goodbye takes so many elements from Inside and brings them together so cohesively. It makes my brain happy to hear hahaha
BBH: Agreed! I think it appeals to theater kids in particular with the way it reprises the songs in fascinating new ways. Very Broadway musical, you know? One of my favorite songs for sure.
Are you concerned about being the Bo cover YouTuber for now, or are you okay with that label? Are those your most popular videos?
Isabel: I think I was a little concerned at first because I was worried that I’d feel pigeonholed like I did in my Frozen days, but now I poke fun at it a bit.
I’ll make thumbnails that say stuff like “Q&A from that girl who’s done a couple Bo Burnham covers.” It’s not a bad title to have, and I’ve found that most people who interact with me after seeing one of my Bo videos are SO nice, and we end up having great conversations.
About a year ago, back when Inside was still a really hot topic, my Bo videos were by far the most-viewed videos on my channel, but that’s cooled down a lot now that Inside isn’t as immediately relevant anymore.
I kept posting other covers I just enjoyed making during that time, and I still do now, and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had on YouTube in years. I know my videos that aren’t right on the cultural pulse will get way fewer views, but I’ve finally learned not to care so much.
BBH: That's the spirit! Do what you enjoy and the community will follow (or not). What's most important is posting things for you, not for your viewers.
How did you first join the Bo fandom? Are you active on social media?
Isabel: It's so funny to me to consider myself part of the Bo fandom now because in my head, “fandom” exists so strongly back in my cringy teenage Tumblr days. I’m obviously still fans of things now, but I don’t think to refer to myself as “in the fandom” even though I’m a pretty active participant, at least in the Bo Burnham realm. I guess my brain thinks I need the same level of devotion and obsession I had in my Sherlock days to be considered part of a fandom hahaha.
In terms of fandom now, I post my Bo covers on YouTube and I’ll share them on the subreddit or in a few discord servers, but it feels much more small-scale to me than it used to in high school, which is funny because Bo is undoubtedly more popular now than he was then. Just like back in my Frozen/Instagram days, I’ve ended up making a much smaller group of friends who I met through Bo stuff, but we’ve branched out to talk about other things and just become friends.
I think that’s been the most rewarding thing to come out of going niche-viral—those tight-knit groups you form with a handful of people you wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Publicly, I’m pretty much only on YouTube and my personal Instagram account, @thedescutnerd (though you’ve definitely seen me on Discord too if you’re in any of the Bo servers). I’ve had some fun conversations with YouTube subscribers on Instagram when I share stuff on my stories, but if you’ve followed me on insta for a while, you know that I largely use my stories as a place to track what books I’ve read each year lol.
BBH: That's cool! I don't have Instagram anymore (it was causing way too much anxiety/depression in my life), but I'm sure you're a great follow! And I was also obsessed with Sherlock at one point (I still think of Martin Freeman as Tim from The Office UK, which by the way is Bo's favorite tv show).
What’s a cool fact about you that no one knows about?
Isabel: I’m a huge theme park nerd, especially for ride design and history. The intensity of this obsession ebbs and flows a bit, but I get in moods where I could spend hours watching YouTube channels like Defunctland, Expedition Theme Park, Theme Park History, and ElToroRyan. It’s pretty much my goal to get everyone I know to watch the Defunctland FastPass documentary at least once in their life.
BBH: Nice! I remember watching many tv shows about theme parks as a kid (I've always been interested in them too).
Fun fact—Bo said in a 2020 interview at Sundance that he goes to theme parks for inspiration and would have been an Imagineer if he could.
He REALLY loves Disney (and wore a hilarious Grumpy For Life shirt in the Outtakes lol)!
To finish up the interview, do you have anything you’d like to promote?
Isabel: I’m pretty much always (though slowly but surely) getting involved with collabs with friends of mine that are often more Disney or theatre focused, so if you’re a Bo fan who’s also in the market for a Disney movie fandub or random theatre duet, definitely check out my collabs playlist or upcoming videos!
A few things coming up include a big group collab of a song from Anastasia the Musical, a Nightmare Before Christmas audio drama, and a group cover of a Frozen song that was never publicly released in its entirety—until ours is posted.
I’m also slowly working on getting more of my Bo covers on streaming services, but you can listen to my Goodbye cover now if you look up “& Isabel” on your platform of choice! I think either The Chicken or Are You Happy will be my next additions.
BBH: Wow, that's awesome that you're on streaming platforms as well. I will definitely check those covers out!
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Isabel. I really appreciate it!
Isabel: It's my pleasure.
For more of Isabel's videos, please check out her fantastic YouTube channel!