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Bo Burnham’s Rise to Comedic Greatness

Back in 2006, an 16 year old living in Massachusetts native uploaded a video to YouTube of himself performing comedic style music. Almost 10 years later, he has become one of the world’s foremost comedy acts.

Born Robert Burnham to his a construction worker and and a school staff nurse in a small town, Burnham always had a love for music of all kinds. The youngest of three children, Burnham attended St. John’s Preparatory School, a Roman Catholic school located in the small town of Danvers, Massachusetts. Burnham’s life forever changed when he uploaded a video of one of his original songs to a slowly rising internet site.

The beginnings of his excellent career in both music and comedy truly began when he showed his fellow classmates a song he had recently written about teen angst. Due to a widely popular reception from his friends, he recorded a live performance of two of his songs on YouTube so he could share them with his family. The two songs, entitled “My Whole Family…” and “My ‘little’ secret”, became an overnight sensation, garnering over 10 million views combined after being shared on Break.com.

Burnham has described his music as “pubescent musical comedy”, diving into mature themes and great social commentary in a darkly comic fashion. The bluntness and cleverness of his lyrics and contrasted by the simple and almost happy sounds of a guitar, piano or sometimes both. Burnham has dealt with many controversial topics from homosexuality, racism and even a romantic relationship with Helen Keller. The Boston Globe once dubbed him “simultaneously wholesome and disturbing, intimate in a folksy-creepy sort of way”, and that’s truly what his fans dearly love about him.  Missy Birnbaum, an Ithaca College student, explains, “Bo uses comedy and music to put out political and social messages in a light hearted way that is funny. But it’s the fact that it is funny that it makes you think about what he is actually trying to say.”As he continued to add to his channel, his popularity only grew from there, especially among people his age.

After the popularity of his first video, Bo continued to upload to the channel, recording many of himself performing the music while sitting in his bedroom, commonly accompanied by a more simple instrumentation. As his popularity increased, Burnham made the decision not to attend university to be able to pursue his musical career fully without distractions. After being signed by his agent Douglas Edley and garnering a four record deal with Comedy Central records, Burnham’s music was finally allowed to spread to the masses.

His first EP, Bo Fo Sho, containing six original songs, was released in June of 2008, with his first self titled album released a few months later in March of 2009. It was in this year that Burnham launched his first national tour, entitled “Fake I. D”, and began a touring pattern where he shared his music with the world not only over album recording but in thousands of live performances.

After a total of four comedy specials and national tours on and off since 2008, Burnham took about two years off in 2013 to work on his newest music album. Now he’s back with a vengeance, traveling around the country with his newest Make Happy Tour. With the first half of the tour recently concluding and whose last stop will be the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas, Nevada, this new tour has shown to be some of his best work in years. Called by The Guardian as one of the finest upcoming comedians of his generation, this new tour has shown to be a great success critically and commercially successful. Bo Burnham may have come from a small town in the middle of Massachusetts, but what his story shows is you can become one of the best comedy acts of a generation by simply getting your material out to the world.


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