Bo Burnham: 'I'd love to get back to live performing, but I'd have to figure out what I'd say next'
- Brian Donaldson
- 10 April 2019
Acclaimed US stand-up tells us why the world of film is a better fit for his current ideas
It can be a lonely experience being up on a stage by yourself, even if adulation is coming at you in waves from audiences, night after night. Massachusetts-born comic Bo Burnham gained that love from both the public and critics with boldly experimental live shows such as Words Words Words and What, after stepping out of the bedroom from where he'd become an internet sensation with videos he himself dubbed as 'pubescent musical comedy'.
Proving that he could well be the next big multi-disciplinary thing, his debut feature film, Eighth Grade, has already scooped prizes from the American Film Institute, the Writers Guild of America, the Independent Spirit Awards and Sundance. His move away from comedy (the movie has a few moments of levity but it's overall a pretty bleak affair) and into film has arrived through various reasons. 'I'd love to get back to live performing, but I'd have to figure out what I'd say next,' Burnham says while in Scotland for the recent Glasgow Film Festival where Eighth Grade had two showings. 'I went into films because I was desperate to collaborate with people. I was tired of myself as a subject, I didn't like only looking to myself to express through myself about myself, so that's why I wanted to do a film. Collaboration was the great strength of the process for me.'
There are plenty who will look at Eighth Grade and seek clues about Bo Burnham's adolescent years, but he is reticent to draw too many parallels himself. Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is a lonely early teen who takes to her bedroom to record and upload films of herself (messages of inspiration rather than that 'pubescent musical comedy'). She lives and struggles to communicate with her single-parent father (sorry, Bo lived in what is generally known as a steady home with two parents and two older siblings) while making friends and pursuing people for romance is constantly anxiety-inducing (well, both Bo and Kayla were voted 'most quiet' at school).