One year after its release, Bo Burnham released a series of outtakes and unused songs during the filming of his latest special “Inside.”
“Inside” is the very definition of a time capsule, where its subject matter and very existence are a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being filmed over the course of a little over a year, the special not only shows Burnham’s comedic and musical brilliance but portrays the emotional and mental toll brought about by the pandemic in a disturbingly effective way. One year later, when the world has seemingly come back to normal, “Inside” reminds us of the solitary bliss of staying indoors while showing its grim consequences.
Filmed entirely in Burnham’s guest house, “Inside” comprises of several songs, skits and comedic interludes that range from white women’s Instagram accounts, white savior syndrome, the tactical approaches to sexting, the nightmare of turning 30 years old and the “quiet comprehending of the ending of it all.”
Visually, “Inside” is a DIY marvel, where wires and other pieces of equipment are strewn all across the floor. It shows that for all of the special’s technical brilliance and slick editing, it wouldn’t be so without the tedium known as the filmmaking process. How Bo is able to use the confined space and still adequately express the spectrum of deep emotions found here is nothing short of spectacular.
My initial reaction to “Inside” a year ago was a mix of awe and envy: awe that someone was capable of musical and visual creativity. The special remains one of the most singularly creative and artistically pure pieces of “content” out there, and it has only gotten better with age.
The feeling of envy came about for the exact same reason: the technical side of the special is second to none. Not only is the editing natural and ingenious enough to effectively land a punchline, Bo uses long takes to near-perfection with the camera slowly zooming in and out to ensure visual momentum. He’s his own writer, director, musician, lyricist, editor and star, making “Inside” a product of his vision in the purest sense.
Now, about those outtakes…
“The Inside Outtakes” is exactly what it sounds like: an hour-long making-of video that shows how much work, frustration and tedium the filmmaking process reliably delivers. The video shows the special’s well-known songs in their infancy through alternate angles, lyrics and even musical octaves. Unreleased songs about dumplings and a chicken crossing the road show Bo’s comedic sharpness as well as his penchant for sincerity in the most absurd of situations. While they are genuinely good songs, they likely would’ve felt out of place had they been in the initial tracklist. What made “Inside” so effective is that no song or skit overstayed its welcome. It has a certain brevity that managed to be brisk in its tempo but all comprehensive in its presentation and attention to detail.
Releasing the unreleased songs along with the behind-the-scenes footage is a filmmaker’s dream, allowing the viewer to appreciate just how much work went into making a single song. It’s slowly becoming a thing of the past since the bulk of streaming services don’t provide special features or commentaries for their catalog, so the mere existence of “The Inside Outtakes” is a welcome throwback for people who care about how their favorite piece of media came to be.
If “Inside” is a showcase of singular creativity, its outtakes celebrate what that ingenuity consists of. Filmmaking is a slow-moving, tedious, frustrating, time-consuming, brain fogging, rewarding and fulfilling journey and the outtakes reflect that in such a refreshing way. We already know how talented Bo is, but to see how his latest masterwork takes shape is a testament to his commitment and unconditional love for what he does for a living. He clearly cares about his work, willing to make a piece that is as hilarious as it is disarming and painfully vulnerable. Whatever he does next, whether it be a film or another special in front of an audience, Bo Burnham’s talent reflects the patience and emotional awareness needed to realize an artist’s vision.