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Comedian of the Year Bo Burnham Captured Our Collective Anxiety in 2021

Burnham's ubiquitous Netflix special gave us all that funny feeling

bo burnham comedian 2021
Bo Burnham, photo courtesy of Netflix
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    Our 2021 Annual Report continues with the announcement of Bo Burnham as our Comedian of the Year. As the year winds down, stay tuned for more awards, lists, and articles about the best music, film, and TV of 2021. You can find it all in one place here.


    There’s a moment of context in Bo Burnham’s Inside where things start to click in a different way, and the whole special gets cast in a new light. At the end of the first verse and chorus of “All Eyes on Me,” Burnham describes making the decision to return to stand up comedy after a four-year hiatus from the form. In a supremely ironic fashion, he made this decision in January 2020, finally deciding that he was ready to be vulnerable in front of an audience again — all before a global shutdown.

    Hindsight is (clears throat) 20/20, but regardless, Burnham committed deeply to the idea of a new standup special and a re-entry into the form that elevated his career beyond viral sensation. But upon its release in late May of 2021, it was clear that this special had become something entirely different to Burham; this was new territory, a fractured, counterintuitive attempt at returning to comedy in the midst of deep anguish on both a personal and global level.

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    And yet, Inside is his most profound and vulnerable work. As our 2021 Comedian of the Year, Bo Burnham not only single-handedly changed the way we see comedy, but he reframed the experience of performing entirely. “Should I be joking at a time like this?” is an honest question asked repeatedly throughout Inside, and by the end of the special, it appears that Burnham still doesn’t know the answer.

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