‘I don't like the term young comedian,’ says 20-year-old Bo Burnham. ‘I prefer “prodigy”.’
And on this CD, he offers plenty of evidence for that prodigiousness – as well as lots of similar examples of ironic cockiness. It’s a recording of the much-acclaimed show the American brought to Edinburgh this summer, but the writing is so dense with ideas and fast-moving wordplay that it rewards repeat, and attentive, listening.
He wears his precocious talent on his sleeve, taking pot-shots at William Shakespeare in the Bard’s own argot, distilling gags into haikus or knotting puns into tightly-balled rap lyrics. Equally tongue-in-cheek, the song Art Is Dead exposes how comics self-justify vain attention-seeking as something with a higher purpose.
Only a few short years after becoming a YouTube musical sensation (he exploded on to the web like a ‘horny spider’, he explains), Burnham already has the comic conceitedness to make jibes at comic conventions – then prove he’s perfectly capable of following them, with some of the best one-liners you’ll hear.
There’s a certain nerdiness to most of what he does, very much on fashion at the moment, with gags evoking quantum physics or Salvador Dali for their punchlines. Talking of trends, he does have a slight propensity to follow the stand-up crowd with quite a few ironic ‘non-PC’ jokes, though the crafty punchlines normally excuse them. And for all his faux arrogance, there is an awkward charm behind his whole performace. He’s definitely no Frankie Boyle.
As well as the live show, the Words, Words, Words CD contains full-production studio versions of his two jauntiest songs: the title track with its brain-drilling refrain ‘I hate catchy choruses and I’m a hypocrite’ and the spoof boastful rap Oh Bo, both strong numbers in their own right. Proper Bo.
- Bo Burnham: Words, Words, Words is out now on Comedy Central priced £7.99. Click here to buy or here to download for £7.49.