the lion in winter (anthony harvey, 1968)
taking throwback literally

what. (bo burnham, 2013)

It's not really a movie, just a TV stand-up special by, as the IMDB calls him, "the famous Internet musician," Bo Burnham. I'd never heard of him, but he's getting raves reviews for his first feature as writer/director, Eighth Grade, so I gave this a try.

Burnham's show is more than simple stand-up ... he uses recordings of voices and music, he mimes, he plays music live, and he runs around a lot. It's all quite inventive and energetic, if not my own cup of tea. A lot of the material is hit or miss, and he seems to build this into the show, rather like when Johnny Carson would tell a dud joke in his monologue just so he could respond to the groans in the audience. He adopts a faux-confessional mode, broken up by songs like "Beating Off in A Minor" ... as he explains, "'A Minor' the key not the felony." There is a healthy dose of shock humor that sneaks up on you because he looks a bit like a choirboy.

He's still in his mid-20s, and his influences are clear, especially the frantic pace of Robin Williams. My favorite parts were the brief non-sequiturs that reminded me of Mitch Hedberg ("My friend asked me if I wanted a frozen banana, I said 'No, but I want a regular banana later, so … yeah'.") or Steven Wright ("I spilled spot remover on my dog and now he’s gone."). Like them, only with the energy level ramped up to a 100. It gets tiring keeping up with Burnham, even or especially when he's clever.

There's a lot of talent here, and I can imagine Eighth Grade could be a good movie. But I've probably seen enough of his stand-up.



Comments