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  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

Bo Burnham and Instruments: Part 1 (published on Twitter on 3/6/22)

Updated: May 17, 2023

The #BoBurnhamHistorian is back to discuss the various musical instruments Bo has played throughout his career.

We all know Bo has mastered the piano and guitar since he started performing in 2006...

But, to quote Bo in Nerds:

For instance I like poetry, I like instruments/Maybe we have similar interests

And he's played MANY unique ones throughout the years!

Let's start with the first instrument the world ever heard Bo play—the keyboard

The one constant instrument that appears in every Bo special is the keyboard/piano.

Bo has frequently said that he prefers to play the piano over other instruments, and his most iconic images are usually with a keyboard (see Bezos I and Welcome to the Internet in Part 2 of this thread).

The next instrument most associated with Bo is the guitar.

In this article, Bo is described as follows:

"a Hamilton 17-year-old who just two years ago only 'sort of' knew piano and had yet to pick up a guitar"

Bo quickly added the guitar into his repertoire, playing it in songs like New Math and Sunday School.


Then, after Men and Women in Words Words Words, Bo completely ditched the guitar from his act, not picking it up again until over a decade later in That Funny Feeling (my personal favorite from Inside).

FYI: If you count Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous, there's one more guitar example.

Piano/keyboard and guitar aside, Bo has played many other instruments over the years.

1. Saxophone

Per Bo himself in a TimeOut interview:

"I can't, man. Oboes are double reeded. They're really really hard. I played a saxophone in sixth grade and even the one reed would squeak on me like no-one's business."

That's right: Oh Bo can't play the OBOE despite the clever wordplay. D'oh!

2. Slide whistle

Bo has this instrument in his back pocket (literally) in Words Words Words, and he unleashes it to perfection in the Inappropriate Musician bit.

3. Triangle

Also in Words Words Words and in his first appearance on Conan, Bo bangs a small metal rod against this instrument to punctuate the end of his hilarious haikus.

4. Chimes

Similar to the triangle, Bo brushes his hand against this instrument to punctuate the end of his poetry from Egghead.

5. Drums

Bo first plays a drum in Words Words Words for his rimshot bit that ends with a sanitary napkin joke and him shoving the set over while yelling, "That was a JOKE!"

And there is another appearance in his "Bathroom" Vine where the drums act as the punchline.

Finally, there is this screenshot of Bo playing the bongos in his bedroom.

That's all for now. Check out Part 2: Instruments in Inside for more fun!


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