The Internet met the stage on Saturday, Sept. 17 as the College welcomed YouTube comedian Bo Burnham to Kendall Hall. Alongside comedian and writer Chris Hardwick, Burnham headlined College Union Board’s sold-out fall comedy show.
Burnham made his grand entrance amidst flashing lights as he danced (and stripped) his way around the stage to the sounds of a pre-recorded theme song. This skit, he told the audience, was a “new bit” that he was trying out. As fans know, this combination of music and comedy is no departure from the normfor Burnham; the Youtube star has been known for this type of act since he began posting videos of himself in 2006.
In addition to new material, Burnham performed some of his older songs, such as “Love Is” and “New Math,” accompanying himself on the piano and guitar, respectively. He ended all of his songs abruptly, telling the audience, “I don’t like to end my songs in any clear way.”
When not singing, Burnham recited a series of haikus, a love poem called “I Fuck Sluts” and played a remix of insults directed at himself. Throughout the show he would randomly shout out, “Fuck me, Roscoe!” in reference to the College’s mascot.
Any hecklers in the audience got more than they bargained for when Burnham began responding to individual comments. “This is a listening show,” he said to one audience member, and later pulled a heckler from the audience, made him stand on stage and then promptly heckled him right back. When an audience member began to boo, Burnham calmly stated, “I assume you’re just elongating my name,” to laughs from the crowd.
When asked in an interview whether his comedic routine has changed now that his audience has grown larger than a few YouTube followers, Burnham replied, “It’s changed a lot, and probably for a lot of reasons, but I would say ninety-five percent of that reason is starting at 16 and being 21 … I’d say the biggest thing to change my material is not being a little 16-year-old piece of shit … Just think of what you thought of when you were 16, what you thought was cool, what you thought was funny, and what you think is funny now, and I’ll probably say that again in five years.”
Burnham also gave his thoughts on the impact of YouTube and the internet on live comedy: “As performance becomes so much more impersonal via the internet and TV and stuff, I think it makes live that much more magical, you know.
People see the internet as this big enemy. It’s just not … the internet’s great, I mean, it’s giving shit for free, it’s spreading things around, and it’s putting the power in people, it’s making popularity way more democratic than it used to be when, you know, it could just be a record company just choosing to promote some young star … so I like the internet.”
Opening up for Burnham was Hardwick, most notable for his role as the host of G4’s “Web Soup,” his appearances on “Chelsea Lately” and for his website, Nerdist.com. He began his set by mentioning that a member of the audience had tweeted earlier in the day that the show had “better be worth it.” When Hardwick identified this person in the audience, the individual admitted that he was a Rutgers student, drawing boos from the audience.
This was just the first of Hardwick’s many interactions with the audience, giving out high fives, yelling at students coming in late (“What else is there to do in Ewing, New Jersey?”) and begging an exiting student to stay.
Hardwick joked that “It’s nice to come to a school where people read and understand things,” going on to talk about his upbringing in Tennessee or, as he called it, “’Merica.”
A recurring theme throughout Hardwick’s routine was his self-proclaimed role as a nerd — he went so far as to recite 120 digits of pi. In an interview before the show, Hardwick elaborated on his more nerdy interests, pointing out his calculator watch (which he specified that he wears “unironically”) and talking about his love of the X-Men, particularly his fondness for Wolverine.
When asked if he was always so comfortable with his nerd label, however, he responded, “No, I wasn’t comfortable with it at all, because when I was growing up, it was not a cool thing to do … it wasn’t really until maybe eight years ago where I was like, you know, I think it’s actually OK to be a nerd now because nerds are billionaires.”
In response to a question asked by a HerCampus reporter, Hardwick encouraged other nerds to “never feel bad about the things that you’re passionate about … Those are the things that make you special … no one ever really did anything great by trying to fit in.”