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What Happened to Bo Burnham? The Comedian Took a 5-Year Break from Live Shows to Focus On His Mental Health

Dayna Remus
May 31, 2022
02:15 P.M.
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Having discovered George Carlin at a young age, Bo Burnham wanted to become a comedian. This dream came true when he went viral after releasing his melodies on YouTube. But he didn't realize the inner battles he would face while performing onstage.

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A year after the release of his Netflix special, "Inside," Bo Burnham is now publishing outtakes, jokes, and unused songs from the original release.

"Inside" is a satirical musical-comedy created by Burnham while alone during quarantine. He released songs in the special that became so well-liked that they ended up on the Billboard Global 200 charts.

Bo Burnham at the Emmy Awards on September 19, 2021 in Los Angeles. | Source: Getty Images

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At its most basic level, "Inside" is about his life making music while indoors during the pandemic, but the messages imbued within this comedy special are much more complex.

It includes commentary on social issues such as the song and simultaneously the Gen Z anthem, "Bezos I" -- an implied critique of Jeff Bezos and the existence of billionaires in general.

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He also criticizes social media and our overindulgence in the digital world. Speaking about the special as a whole, Jason Zinoman from the New York Times wrote:

"A Zeitgeist-chasing musical comedy made alone to an audience of no one. It’s a feat, the work of a gifted experimentalist whose craft has caught up to his talent."

Now, all Burnham fans are in for a big treat. On May 31, 2022, he announced that he would be releasing an hour's worth of never-seen-before footage that didn't make it into "Inside's" final cut on YouTube.

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WHY DID BO BURNHAM TAKE A FIVE-YEAR BREAK FROM DOING LIVE SHOWS?

In his "Inside" special, Burnham revealed he had taken the last five years off from performing live because he began experiencing panic attacks. The comedian has stated that he's had ten of these attacks, most of them while on stage. Burnham describes::

“It’s a feeling of riding your nervous system like a bull. And then being in the real world with anxiety feels like you’re riding a bull and everyone else is an equestrian."

He said that when he was a sophomore, he would be in the hospital all the time with stomach issues. He eventually learned that this was a symptom of anxiety. Burnham's special itself includes commentary on anxiety and other mental health issues.

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THE PRESSURES OF THE ONLINE WORLD

While moving away from live audiences, Burnham couldn't seem to escape his consistent inner distress, stating that the online world is also anxiety-inducing. The comedian expressed:

“In my adult life, and especially in my standup career, I’d felt like the way my anxiety is interfacing with the Internet is very specific and strange. The Internet isn’t helping it. It’s exacerbating it. The Internet means a lot to me, and no one is talking about it correctly.”

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Burnham added that the pressure he feels onstage has now been translated to an online audience. This strange reality, he states, is not only real for him but for everyone who has a presence on the internet, feeling as though they need to perform for their friends or, in some way, their fellow spectators.

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WHAT ELSE HAS BO BURNHAM BEEN UP TO?

Burnham certainly has passionate opinions about the internet and social media to the point where he wrote and directed a film called "Eighth Grade" -- a movie that examines how younger generations are toxically absorbed into the digital world. The film has won many awards.

Besides his own projects, he has made an appearance in "Parks and Recreation" as well as two films, "The Big Sick" and "Rough Night." Burnham is also writing music for the new Sesame Street movie.

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As mental health issues become increasingly normalized, more people feel comfortable talking about their struggles. One of those people is World Cup alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn, who opened up about her depression.

Vonn states she has been suffering from depression since she was 18 years old. Like Burnham, she is yet another influential individual willing to be brave and speak up about mental health.

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