Theatre

Bo Burnham @ Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh



Among the thousands of posters of comedians pasted on every vertical surface in Edinburgh, you might not have noticed three advertising rising comic star Bo Burnhams Words, Words, Words. There were four posters (to Jim Jeffries 300-odd) but one of them got nicked.

No matter, word of mouth has meant tickets for the show have sold so well extra dates have been added.
The middle-class 19-year-old sulky teenager has nailed the market for self-deprecating, angry, liberal and anti-religious songs and one-liners. In Burnhams opening ditty he describes himself as silly and pretentious (like Shakespeares willy), gay (hes not) and offensive (he definitely is). Others describe him as a young comedian – he prefers prodigy.

The teenager, who accompanies himself on the piano and guitar, is clearly clever. During Words, Words, Words we are treated to haikus, Shakespeare monologues, a sonnet, statistics (the average human has one fallopian tube) and songs that will be stuck in your head for days. Particularly, ironically, the refrain that goes I hate catchy choruses, and Im a hypocrite.

Burnhams twisted way of looking at the world, particularly when singing about the differences between men and women, will make you chuckle for days when youve given your brain time to catch up. Take for every dollar man makes, women get 70 cents. Thats not fair. Men are only left with 30. Or women are like puzzles, because prior to 1920 neither had the vote. Puzzles still dont.

But like all the best comics especially those who have clearly always had it all – Burnham shows elements of being troubled. Youre an artist, people apparently say to him, how do we fix Africa? His profession indulges his attention-seeking nature, he gets paid to do what he loves while others struggle to make a living doing something they hate.

Burnhams pessimism and sulkiness do occasionally border on petulant. He blames his audiences for lulls in energy, moans about a mid festival slump, tells you not to laugh, and then is disappointed when you dont. This could all be an elaborate set up for a rollercoaster punch line (which, granted, is very funny). But no audience likes to hear how bad they are. Besides, Burnhams delivery seems purposefully aimed at discouraging laughter. Songs end abruptly, punch lines run straight into the next one-liner and when there is clapping, the audience are told to stop.

It very much adds to Burnhams self deprecating style that he doesnt want to be appreciated. But he will find it increasingly different to hold back the praise and applause if he keeps coming up with stellar material like this. Definitely this years one to watch.



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