Quarantine Content: How Bo Burnham’s ‘Inside’ gives a Realistic Example of How COVID-19 Rewrote our Timelines

Hayley O'Brien, Contributing Writer

In June 2021 comedian Bo Burnham released his special ‘Inside’ on the popular streaming platform Netflix. Burnham’s piece contains music and skits written and performed by him alone in a single room in his home, that was filmed over his year in quarantine. He was able to publish with the help of a small production crew and it has grasped attention from a magnitude of young individuals who have found comfort in the realism displayed regarding many social issues from the past years and even those before it. However, it is not just what is seen on screen that makes Burnham’s production so reflective of the time the world spent inside. Burnham’s artistic piece of theater produced through the pandemic indirectly shows just how fast a week of staying in turned out a new life story for people of all ages. 

Like many, Burnham’s January 2020 started with a plan. He originally planned to return to performing live comedy as he had done extensively in the past – he had stopped his public shows five years before that due to mental health issues. When Burnham had finally found himself at a point where he believed he would benefit from returning, the pandemic hit. Now surely there is a metaphor in there somewhere about making lemons and what not and Burnham surely did. He decided to continue his plan just in an online setting. This sounds familiar, many would assume, to most people who were working on projects at that time. People simply adapted, however, just like everyone else Burnham’s plans got switched up again.

The special, a project Burnham had planned to work a few months on, became a year-long affair. Like the rest of the world, he was shut in and all he had in front of him was a computer and a goal he had shot for; but, like pretty much everyone else, he missed. (Now let’s be clear this is in no way meant to be slander towards Burnham, the special is a masterpiece and is highly recommended, so if you can, take the time to watch it. It was labeled as a comedy many would beg to differ with how emotional and powerful the piece is.) However, missing a target is a good example for reflecting on just how much the pandemic changed everyone’s lives. Timelines were rewritten, some people abandoned their projects, others made completely new ones. Either way, everyone all spent that year a little differently than anticipated. 

 The most paramount concept in Burnham’s project is how honest he was and how he still created something for his audience. He was honest about how different his life had become, honest about how quarantine made him feel, honest about the things he missed out on, and honest about how his timeline became more of a time squiggle of confusing proportions. Besides all of the setbacks, and challenges Burnham faced, he still managed to set quite a beautiful example. Burnham finished his project. It took way longer than expected and it took a heavy toll on him, which he showcases with raw, and somewhat blatant, emotions, but he finished the project. What he produced affects the lives of many by simply sympathizing with what they had felt for months. Burnham’s goal was never about how he was to present his performance, he just wanted to use his voice, to make people laugh, and to make a point, and he did. That’s where to find the true metaphor: even if you take the long road, or make a few wrong turns, you can still find your way to your destination, whether it’s where you wanted to end up or where you were meant to be.