This week I am taking a break from comic-book related stuff to talk about something I have watched, and re-watched, about a dozen times since it came out, Netflix’s latest comedy special, Make Happy by Bo Burnham. It’s currently available on Netflix and you can watch clips and audio from it on YouTube.
Let’s start by saying I am a huge Bo Burnham fan, ever since 2013’s What special; I have devoured everything he has done. From the hilarious one season TV show, Zach Stone is Gonna be Famous, to his book Egghead, it’s all gold. His style is thought provoking and truly, like he says, a challenge to the form. He takes stand up comedy to a new level as he is brutally honest about fame, celebrity, and his own life.
This special, while not being as laugh-out-loud-funny as his previous works, is still amazing. He keeps the edge that he always had but this time applies it to his own fame and what it means to be funny. Like I said, this special is not as knee slappingly funny as What, but it works on a much deeper level. It’s still humorous, but in a far more personal way. It offers a pessimistic and dark view of what it means to be happy, what art is, and how mass media has affected if not ruined culture today.
These ideas fall in line quite while with the overall arc of Bo’s career. I feel like he has effectively charted the rise and fall of a star in a comedic and satirical way, whether he meant to or not. Look at his three major milestones, the first being Zach Stone is Gonna be Famous, airing in 2013 on MTV, which follows a young man trying to become famous, even though he is not good at anything. This show directly spoofs the “get famous quick” mentality of Bo’s generation. Bo plays Zach Stone, a high school graduate who decides to hire a camera crew and become famous instead of go to college. Every episode he tries to become a different type of person to better his odds of being famous.
The second thing we need to look at is the What special. This, I feel, is the height of Bo’s fame, his breakout special that made him a name and got him work. It’s what he has been spending his entire career working towards and he finally has what he has been chasing, the spotlight. Finally we need to talk about Make Happy. An hour-and-a-half special that is basically about Bo and how he isn’t quite happy, saying at one point that he “had a privileged life, and I got lucky, and I’m unhappy.”
This special works as a comedic performance piece in every way. It’s about a young man who got everything that he thought might make him happy, only to realize none of those things can actually bring about said happiness, as he feels like he needs to change himself to appease the masses and keep his fame — something he really feels like he can’t and won’t do. I hope Bo does more specials or releases new material soon; he is a voice that needs to be heard.
The special is 5/5 and you really should go watch it.