Bo Burnham creates poetic comedy
Comedian Bo Burnham didn’t rise to fame like most others, instead becoming one of the first viral stars of YouTube when he was only 16. His humor is also different, incorporating satire, observation, music and even props.
Burnham’s latest project is also something most comedians haven’t attempted. “Egghead, or You Can’t Survive on Ideas Alone” is a book of poems reflecting the author’s unique brand of funny. Featuring topics ranging from love to racism to parodying the art of poetry itself, the works manage to be both silly and insightful. But Burnham said he doesn’t necessarily want readers to take away any moral lessons from his writing, just enjoyment.
“I just hope it makes people think or smile or anything,” he said. “I just want it to be something you can get through that could maybe make a trip to the beach better or a trip to the toilet better.”
Burnham said his poetry was inspired by growing up reading the works of Shel Silverstein, whom he described as a comedic influence. He said the idea of doing a book came after he started writing poems for his stand-up act four years ago. As the number of works started piling up, he said he realized he wouldn’t be able to use them all in his sets, so he decided publish the best ones. As for favorites, Burnham said he doesn’t have one – he has several. He said each poem is so unique that he favors more than one for different reasons, and he wants his readers to feel the same way.
“I hope that if people get the book, they’ll have a favorite poem one day, and then they’ll skim through it a week later and they’ll have another different poem,” Burnham said. “I hope it’s adaptable to different moods… I want (the poems) to feel like they’re existing in whole different little universes.”
There is currently no plan to write another book, Burnham said, but he’d love to if “Egghead” does well. The fact that he’s now a published author shows how far Burnham has come from being the teenager singing hilarious-yet-shocking songs about teenage angst on YouTube. While he admitted he initially wanted to distance himself from the moniker of “YouTube sensation,” Burnham said it doesn’t bother him now.
“I hop from pigeonhole to pigeonhole; that’s my life’s work I think,” he said. “I don’t really worry about controlling what people think of me. If people are watching my stuff and liking it, they can call me whatever they want.”
With four comedy albums, an MTV series and now a book under his belt, Burnham can be called a bona-fide sensation.
Sean Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.