Robert Pickering Burnham
August 21, 1990
Hamilton, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Total views||569.4 million|
Updated: April 22, 2022
Robert Pickering "Bo" Burnham (born August 21, 1990) is an American comedian, musician, actor, and filmmaker. He began his career on YouTube in 2006, with his videos gaining over 575 million views as of April 2022[update].
In 2008, Burnham signed a four-year record deal with Comedy Central Records and released his debut EP, Bo fo Sho. His first full-length album, Bo Burnham, was released the following year. At the age of 18, he became the youngest person to record a half-hour comedy special with Comedy Central. In 2010, his second album, Words Words Words, was released along with his first live comedy special of the same name on Comedy Central. His third album and second comedy special, what., was released in 2013 on his YouTube channel and Netflix. He finished in first place at the 2011 Comedy Central Stand-up Showdown. In 2013, Burnham co-created and starred in the MTV mockumentary series Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous and released a book of poetry called Egghead: Or, You Can't Survive on Ideas Alone. His third stand-up comedy special, Make Happy, was released exclusively on Netflix in 2016.
Burnham's debut film as a writer and director, Eighth Grade, was released in 2018 to critical acclaim. Among other accolades, it received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay and the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – First-Time Feature Film. In 2020, he starred in the Academy Award-winning comedy thriller film Promising Young Woman. His fourth special, Inside, was released on Netflix in 2021 to universal acclaim and was nominated in six categories at the 73rd Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, winning three awards including Outstanding Music Direction. The special also received nominations at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Music Film and Best Song Written for Visual Media ("All Eyes on Me"), winning the latter. Three songs from the special ("Bezos I", "All Eyes on Me", and "Welcome to the Internet") earned Burnham his first charting songs on the US Bubbling Under Hot 100 and Global 200 charts.
Robert Pickering Burnham was born in Hamilton, Massachusetts, on August 21, 1990, the son of hospice nurse Patricia and construction company owner Scott Burnham. His mother's work was covered in a 2014 episode of This American Life, for which she was interviewed. He has an older sister named Samm and an older brother named Pete, both of whom work for the family's construction company. He was raised Catholic and attended St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers, Massachusetts, where he received a free education due to his mother working as the school's nurse at the time. He graduated in 2008, having been on the honor roll and involved in theater and the campus ministry program. He was admitted to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts to study experimental theatre, but deferred his admission for a year to pursue a career in comedy and eventually never attended the university.
In December 2006, Burnham wanted to show two songs he had written to his older brother Pete, who had moved away to attend university in New York City. A friend suggested that he film himself performing the songs in his bedroom and post them on YouTube, which was then a relatively new website. His song "My Whole Family..." quickly became popular when the link to its YouTube video was shared on Break.com, soon leading to it being shared on other sites.
Accompanying himself on guitar or digital piano, Burnham continued to release self-described "pubescent musical comedy" songs and videos online as his audience grew. Described in The Boston Globe as "simultaneously wholesome and disturbing, intimate in a folksy-creepy sort of way", Burnham wrote and released songs about white supremacy, Helen Keller's disabilities, homosexuality, and more. All of Burnham's home-released videos were self-recorded in and around his family's home in Hamilton, Massachusetts, mostly in his bedroom, and had an intentional "do-it-yourself [feel], almost like voyeurism".
Burnham's music and performances tackle such subjects as class, race, gender, human sexuality, sex, and religion. Burnham describes his on-stage persona as a "more arrogant, stuck-up version [of] himself". When speaking with The Detroit News about his rapping, he expressed his intent to honor and respect the perspective and culture of hip-hop music.
Burnham recorded a performance in London for Comedy Central's The World Stands Up in January 2008 (aired June 30), making him the youngest person to do so at the age of 17, and signed a four-record deal with Comedy Central Records. Comedy Central Records released Burnham's first EP, the six-song Bo fo Sho, as an online release-only album on June 17, 2008. Burnham's first full album, the self-titled Bo Burnham, was released on March 10, 2009.
Burnham has performed his music in the United States, including Cobb's Comedy Club, YouTube Live in San Francisco, and Caroline's Comedy Club in New York City, and internationally in London and Montreal. In August 2010, Burnham was nominated for "Best Comedy Show" at the 2010 Edinburgh Comedy Awards after his inaugural performance (of Bo Burnham: Words, Words, Words). He instead received the "Panel Prize", a £5,000 prize for "the show or act who has most captured the comedy spirit of the 2010 Fringe".
While performing at the Montreal Just for Laughs festival in 2008, Burnham met with director and producer Judd Apatow. That September, he negotiated with Universal Pictures to write and create the music for an Apatow-produced comedy film which he described as the "anti-High School Musical", although he insisted that the script is not a parody of the Disney musicals, but rather an attempt to emulate the high school he attended. Hoping to also star in the film, Burnham told Wired that he named the lead character after himself in a "not-so-subtle hint". In a March 2009 interview with Boston's Weekly Dig, he said that he was spending eight hours a day writing the music for the film and spending his evenings writing the script. Burnham's high school friend Luke Liacos was co-writing the screenplay. In an October 2010 interview with MTV, Burnham admitted that he did not know anything about the future of the project, and that it was all effectively up in the air as far as he knew.
On March 3, 2009, 15 Westminster College students (members of the campus' Gay-Straight Alliance, Black Students Association, International Club, and Cultural Diversity Organization) protested his concert there that evening, due to his use of homophobic and racist terms in performances. Of the controversy, he said, "It's so ironic because gay bashers were the ones labeling me in high school. ... I try and write satire that's well-intentioned. But those intentions have to be hidden. It can't be completely clear and that's what makes it comedy." Despite the college's admission that they had booked Burnham while ignorant of his show's material, dean of students John Comerford praised the opportunities for discourse the controversy brought the school. In May 2009, viral marketing began appearing for Funny People, in which Burnham starred in an NBC sitcom called Yo Teach! In the promo, he starred opposite Jason Schwartzman as a student in the latter's English class.
On May 21, 2010, Burnham taped his first one-hour stand-up special, entitled Words Words Words, for Comedy Central from the House of Blues in Boston as part of the network's new "House of Comedy" series of stand-up specials; it aired on Comedy Central on October 16, 2010, and was released for purchase two days later. Burnham finished in first place at the 2011 Comedy Central Stand-up Showdown.
In 2013, Burnham wrote, executive-produced, and starred in Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous alongside Dan Lagana, Luke Liacos, and Dave Becky. The series was cancelled after one season. His second special, what., was released on both Netflix and YouTube on December 17, 2013.
Burnham's third special, Make Happy, was produced by Netflix and released on June 3, 2016.
Burnham wrote and directed his first feature film, Eighth Grade, which was produced and distributed by A24 and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018. The film has been universally acclaimed; among other accolades, it received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay and the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – First-Time Feature Film. It garnered a 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 316 ratings,[when?] and holds an average rating of 89 out of 100 on Metacritic.
Burnham directed Jerrod Carmichael's comedy special 8 (2017) for HBO and Chris Rock's comedy special Tamborine (2018) for Netflix. In an interview with Vulture, he discussed his directorial outlook when directing a comedy special: "I approached [the special], which was me taking stock of the feelings that I get out of watching this person perform and asking, 'How can I recreate that for the audience as best as possible? How can I make a good container for the thing?' But the thing is being provided by them, so a lot of directing is just getting out of their way."
In 2019, it was announced Burnham would contribute songs to the upcoming Sesame Street film.
In 2020, Burnham played the protagonist's love interest Ryan Cooper in the black comedy revenge thriller film Promising Young Woman. The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, where it received critical acclaim, and was later nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. In an interview, Burnham stated, "This is a story I could never tell. This is a perspective I don't have. After doing my own things, it's like I really like the idea of, I just want to serve someone else's vision."
In March 2021, Burnham was cast as Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird in an untitled Los Angeles Lakers project from HBO. Due to scheduling conflicts, he left the series in August 2021.
In April 2021, Burnham ended his social media hiatus to announce that May 30 would see the release of his fourth special, Inside. Created by Burnham alone in his home's guest house without a crew or audience during the COVID-19 pandemic, Inside received universal acclaim. It was nominated in six categories for the 73rd Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, winning three for Outstanding Music Direction, Outstanding Writing, and Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special. Burnham also received two nominations at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Music Film and Best Song Written for Visual Media ("All Eyes on Me"), although the special was ruled ineligible for Best Comedy Album. Three songs from the album ("Bezos I", "All Eyes on Me", and "Welcome to the Internet") earned Burnham his first charting songs on the US Bubbling Under Hot 100 and Global 200 charts.
Burnham directed, edited, and executive produced Carmichael's comedy special Rothaniel (2022), which received acclaim.
Burnham has cited Kate Berlant, Catherine Breillat, George Carlin, John Cassavetes, Flight of the Conchords, Mitch Hedberg, Anthony Jeselnik, Stephen Lynch, Demetri Martin, Steve Martin, Tim Minchin, and Hans Teeuwen as influences. His musical style has also drawn comparisons to Tom Lehrer, and he was reported to have written his 2009 song "New Math" as a tribute to Lehrer's song of the same name.
Burnham has been in a relationship with filmmaker Lorene Scafaria since 2013. They live in Los Angeles.
|2009||Fake ID Tour|||
|2010||Bo Burnham and (No) Friends|||
|2011–2012||Bo Burnham Live|||
|2015–2016||Make Happy Tour|||
Main article: Bo Burnham discography
|2008||Bo fo Sho||EP||Comedy Central Records|||
|2009||Bo Burnham||Studio album||Comedy Central Records|||
|2010||Words, Words, Words||Studio album||Comedy Central Records|||
|2013||what.||Studio album||Comedy Central Records|||
|2021||Inside (The Songs)||Studio album||Self-released|
|2009||Funny People||Yo Teach! Cast Member|||
|2012||Adventures in the Sin Bin||Tony|||
|2017||The Big Sick||CJ|||
|2018||Eighth Grade||N/A||Writer, director|||
|2020||Promising Young Woman||Ryan Cooper|||
|2010||Words, Words, Words||Himself||Comedy special|||
|2013||Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous||Zach Stone||12 episodes
Co-creator, writer, executive producer
|2014||Parks and Recreation||Chipp McCapp||Episode: "Flu Season 2"|||
|2015||Key and Peele||Lyle||Episode: "A Cappella Club"|||
|2015||Kroll Show||Diz||2 episodes|||
|2016||Make Happy||Himself||Comedy special|||
|2016||We Bare Bears||Andrew Bangs (voice)||Episode: "Nom Nom's Entourage"|||
|2017||Comrade Detective||Sergiu (voice)||Episode: "The Invisible Hand"|||
|2017||Jerrod Carmichael: 8||N/A||Comedy special
Director, executive producer
|2018||Chris Rock: Tamborine||N/A||Comedy special
|2022||Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel||N/A||Comedy special|
Director, editor, executive producer
At the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, he was nominated for the main Edinburgh Comedy Award and won both the Edinburgh Comedy Awards' panel prize and the Malcolm Hardee "Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid" Award.
For his 2018 film Eighth Grade and 2021 comedy special Inside he received several awards and nominations for his writing and directing, including the following:
|2018||Boston Society of Film Critics||Best New Filmmaker||Eighth Grade||Won|||
|2018||Chicago Film Critics Association||Best Original Screenplay||Nominated|||
|Most Promising Filmmaker||Nominated|||
|2018||Directors Guild of America Award||Outstanding Directing – First-Time Feature Film||Won|||
|2018||Independent Spirit Awards||Best First Screenplay||Won|||
|2018||National Board of Review||Best Directorial Debut||Won|||
|2018||New York Film Critics Circle||Best First Film||Won|||
|2018||San Diego Film Critics Society||Best Director||Nominated|||
|Best Original Screenplay||Won|||
|Best Breakout Artist||Nominated|||
|2018||Sundance Film Festival||Grand Jury Prize||Nominated|||
|2019||Writers Guild of America Award||Best Original Screenplay||Won|||
|2020||Hollywood Critics Association||Best Supporting Actor||Promising Young Woman||Nominated|||
|2021||Hollywood Critics Association||Best Streaming Sketch Series, Variety Series, Talk Show, or Comedy/Variety Special||Bo Burnham: Inside||Won|||
|2021||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Directing For A Variety Special||Won|
|Outstanding Writing For A Variety Special||Won|
|Outstanding Picture Editing for Variety Programming||Nominated|
|Outstanding Music Direction||Won|
|Outstanding Original Music And Lyrics||Nominated|
|2022||Grammy Awards||Best Music Film||Nominated|||
|Best Song Written for Visual Media||"All Eyes on Me"||Won|
|2022||Libera Award||Best Outlier Record||Inside (The Songs)||Pending|||
Rising comedian just finished run at Edinburgh fest
Burnham lands US sitcom deal
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Rising comedian just finished run at Edinburgh fest