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Bo Burnham

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Bo Burnham
Bo Burnham in Pittsburgh (cropped).jpg
Burnham performing in April 2012
Born Robert Pickering Burnham
(1990-08-21) August 21, 1990 (age 27)
Hamilton, Massachusetts, U.S.
  • Comedian
  • musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • rapper
  • actor
  • poet
Years active 2006–present
Website Official website
Musical career
Genres Comedy, satire
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • piano
  • synthesizer
Labels Comedy Central Records

Robert Pickering Burnham (born August 21, 1990)[1] is an American comedian, singer-songwriter, musician, rapper, actor, director, and poet.[2][3][4] He began his performance career as a YouTuber in March 2006, and his videos have been viewed over 214 million times[4][5] as of December 2017.

Burnham signed a four-year record deal with Comedy Central Records and released his debut EP, Bo Fo Sho, in 2008. His first full-length album, Bo Burnham, was released the following year. In 2010, Burnham's second album was released, and Words Words Words, his first live comedy special, aired on Comedy Central. His third album and second comedy special, what., was released in 2013 on his YouTube channel and Netflix. Burnham finished first overall in voting in 2011's Comedy Central Stand-up Showdown.[6] His third stand-up comedy special, Make Happy, was released exclusively on Netflix on June 3, 2016.[7]

In addition to his career as a comedian, Burnham co-created and starred in the MTV television series Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous and released his first book of poetry, Egghead: Or, You Can't Survive on Ideas Alone, in 2013.[8]

Early life[edit]

Burnham was born in Hamilton, Massachusetts, the youngest of three children of Scott Burnham, a construction company owner, and Patricia, a nurse at Burnham's school.[2][9] He graduated from St. John's Preparatory School in the spring of 2008, where he was on the honor roll and involved in theatre and the campus ministry program.[2][9] He was admitted to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts to study Experimental Theatre,[10] but instead deferred his admission for a year to pursue a career in comedy.[11]


Burnham performing at The Improv in September 2008

In 2006, Burnham videotaped himself performing two songs and posted them on YouTube to share with his family.[12] They became an overnight sensation when they were copied to, with traffic multiplying over 111 times.[2]

Accompanying himself on guitar or digital piano, Burnham continued to release self-described "pubescent musical comedy"[12] 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.[2] All of Burnham's home-released videos were self-recorded in and around his family's home in Hamilton, Massachusetts, most in his bedroom,[2][9] and had an intentional "do-it-yourself [feel], almost like voyeurism".[13]

Burnham's music and performances tackle such subjects as race, gender, human sexuality, sex, and religion.[14] Burnham describes his on-stage persona as a "more arrogant, stuck-up version [of] himself".[15] 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.[4]

Represented by Douglas Edley, Burnham recorded a performance in London for Comedy Central's The World Stands Up in January 2008 (aired June 30, 2008),[2][16] and signed a four-record deal with Comedy Central Records.[17] Comedy Central Records released Burnham's first EP, the six-song Bo Fo Sho, as an online release-only album on June 17, 2008.[11][12] Burnham's first full album, the self-titled Bo Burnham, was released on March 10, 2009.[18]

Burnham has performed his music in the United States, including Cobb's Comedy Club, YouTube Live in San Francisco,[19] and Caroline's Comedy Club in New York City,[11] 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).[20] 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".[21][22]

Burnham's first experience with controversy regarding his music came on March 3, 2009, when fifteen 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. 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.[14][23]

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. It was released on October 18, 2010. Burnham's second special, titled what., was released on both Netflix and YouTube on December 17, 2013.[24] Burnham's latest special, Make Happy, was produced by Netflix and released on June 3, 2016.[25]


Year Title
2009 Fake I.D.[26][27]
2010 Bo Burnham and (No) Friends[28]
2011–2012 Bo Burnham Live[29]
2013 Bo Burnham: what. Tour
2015–2016 Bo Burnham: Make Happy Tour


Burnham performing at Case Western Reserve University in March 2009

While performing at the Montreal Just for Laughs festival in 2008,[11] Burnham met with director and producer Judd Apatow. That September, Burnham negotiated with Universal Pictures to write and create the music for an Apatow-produced comedy film which he describes as the "anti-High School Musical",[9][30] although Burnham insists the script is not a parody of the Disney musicals, but an attempt to emulate the high school he attended. Hoping to star in the film he was writing, Burnham told Wired magazine that he named the star "Bo" in a "not-so-subtle hint [he] want[s] to be in it".[31] In a March 2009 interview with Boston's Weekly Dig, Burnham elaborated on his work with the film. When he is not performing, Burnham spends eight hours a day writing the music, and his nights writing the script, of which he has finished the first draft.[32] Co-writing the screenplay with Burnham was his high school friend Luke Liacos.[33] 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.[34] In May 2009, viral marketing began appearing for Funny People, in which Burnham stars in a NBC sitcom called Yo Teach! In the promo, Burnham stars opposite Jason Schwartzman, as a student in the latter's English class.[35]

Burnham wrote and directed his first feature film, Eighth Grade, which was produced and distributed by A24 and will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018.[36]


In 2010, Burnham wrote and executive produced Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous alongside Dan Lagana, Luke Liacos, and Dave Becky.[37][38] The series was not picked up for a second season and officially ended on June 26, 2013.[39]


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.[40]


Extended Plays
Title Extended Play Details
Bo Fo Sho[11][12] Released: June 17, 2008
Studio Albums*
Title Studio Album Details
Bo Burnham[18] Released: March 10, 2009
Words Words Words[41] Released: October 18, 2010
what.[42] Released: December 17, 2013

*Burnham's stand-up comedy special Make Happy never received an official studio album release.


Year Title Role Notes
2009 Comedy Central Presents Himself[14][43]
2009 American Virgin Rudy
2009 Funny People Yo Teach! Cast Member
2010 Bo Burnham: Words, Words, Words Himself Stand-up special
2011 Hall Pass Bartender[44]
2012 Adventures in the Sin Bin Tony[45]
2013 Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous Zach Stone 12 episodes; also creator and writer
2013 what. Himself Stand-up special; also director
2014 Parks and Recreation Chipp McCapp Episode: "Flu Season 2"
2015 Key and Peele Lyle Episode: "A Cappella Club"
2015 Kroll Show British Contestent 2 episodes[46]
2015 We Bare Bears Andrew Bangs Voice
Episode: "Nom Nom's Entourage"
2016 Make Happy Himself Stand-up special; also director
2017 The Big Sick CJ
2017 Rough Night Tobey
2017 Jerrod Carmichael: 8 N/A Stand-up special; director
2018 Eighth Grade N/A Director and writer


Year Title
2013 Egghead: Or, You Can't Survive on Ideas Alone


  1. ^ "Bo Burnham Bio - affair, girlfriend, salary, net worth, bio, career". ArticleBio. Retrieved July 2, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Kahn, Joseph P. (February 13, 2008). "Nonfamily humor, straight from home". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on October 29, 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2009. Irreverent songs win Hamilton youth a cult following 
  3. ^ Connelly, Brendon (June 11, 2009). "Bo Burnham and Judd Apatow's Anti-High School Musical Wants Your Assistance". /Film. Retrieved June 16, 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c Graham, Adam (October 28, 2010). "YouTube star Bo Burnham mixes raps, laughs". The Detroit News. Archived from the original on October 29, 2010. Retrieved October 28, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Bo Burnham YouTube Channel". YouTube. December 28, 2017. Retrieved December 28, 2017. 
  6. ^ "Comedy Central Stand-Up Showdown Results, 2011". Archived from the original on January 31, 2011. Retrieved February 2, 2011. 
  7. ^ boburnham (May 20, 2016), Bo Burnham: MAKE HAPPY Trailer - NETFLIX [HD], retrieved May 21, 2016 
  8. ^ "Egghead by Bo Burnham – review". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. July 30, 2014. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d Kit, Borys (September 25, 2008). "Singing comic joins Apatow clan". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 25, 2008. Retrieved January 25, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Bo Burnham meets Tim Key". YouTube. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Giltz, Michael (July 26, 2008). "Young comedian Bo Burnham is heading up charts". Daily News. Retrieved January 25, 2009. 
  12. ^ a b c d Wortham, Jenna (June 11, 2008). "YouTube Star Bo Burnham Readies Debut EP, Bo Fo Sho". Wired. Retrieved January 25, 2009. 
  13. ^ Heisler, Steve (April 4, 2009). "Bo Burnham". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  14. ^ a b c Gottlieb, Jed (March 9, 2009). "Bo-dacious comedy: Hamilton's Burnham moves from the bedroom to Hollywood". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: P. Steven Ainsley. Retrieved March 9, 2009. 
  15. ^ Johnson, Nick (February 5, 2009). "Internet celebrity pushes envelope in performance". The Daily Collegian. University Park, Pennsylvania, USA: Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  16. ^ Olson, Kris (July 3, 2008). "Ready, set … Bo! (Burnham, that is)". The Patriot Ledger. Quincy, Massachusetts, USA: Rick Daniels. Retrieved January 25, 2009. 
  17. ^ Ingram, Matthew (September 26, 2008). "Bo Burnham: Teenaged YouTube star". The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Phillip Crawley. Archived from the original on November 5, 2008. Retrieved January 25, 2009. 
  18. ^ a b Comedy Central Records (February 18, 2009). "COMEDY CENTRAL Records(R) to Release 'Bo Burnham' CD/DVD on March 10". New York, United States. PR Newswire. Archived from the original on February 22, 2009. Retrieved February 18, 2009. 
  19. ^ Hartlaub, Peter (October 16, 2008). "Teenage angst has paid off well for Bo Burnham". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 25, 2009. 
  20. ^ Clark, Tim (August 25, 2010). "Bo Burnham nominated for Edinburgh Comedy Award". London, England: Get Comedy. Archived from the original on January 23, 2011. Retrieved August 25, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2010 – 2009 winners". Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Archived from the original on January 23, 2011. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2010 – judging". Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  23. ^ Greaney, T.J. (March 4, 2009). "In-your-face comedy". Columbia Daily Tribune. Retrieved March 9, 2009. 
  24. ^ Kroeger, Jake (December 17, 2013). "BO BURNHAM'S WHAT. RELEASED TODAY ON NETFLIX AND YOUTUBE". Nerdist. Nerdist Industries. Retrieved May 6, 2017. 
  25. ^ Schwartz, Dana (June 6, 2016). "Bo Burnham Is Grown Up and Making Happy". New York Observer. Retrieved June 15, 2016. 
  26. ^ "Bo Burnham announces national tour". Punchline Magazine Blog. July 31, 2009. Archived from the original on January 8, 2010. Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Bo Burnham: Fake ID Tour". Wharton Center for Performing Arts. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University. 2009. Archived from the original on August 9, 2011. Retrieved February 15, 2010. 
  28. ^ Ryan, Mike (September 13, 2010). "EXCLUSIVE: Bo Burnham on His Newly-Announced Comedy Tour and MTV Show". Movieline. Retrieved September 18, 2010. 
  29. ^ "Bo Burnham: 2011 Tour". Brighton, England: Just for Laughs Live. 2011. Archived from the original on May 21, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  30. ^ Hall, Julian (November 14, 2008). "Rising Star: Bo Burnham, comedy actor". The Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved January 25, 2009. 
  31. ^ Wortham, Jenna (October 1, 2008). "YouTuber Bo Burnham Scripting New Judd Apatow Movie". Wired. Retrieved May 30, 2009. 
  32. ^ Clark, Andrew (March 2009). "Bo burnham". Boston's Weekly Dig. Retrieved March 6, 2009. 
  33. ^ Cornwell, Tim (August 28, 2010). "Preview: Bo Burnham, comedian". Edinburgh Festivals. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  34. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (October 14, 2010). "Bo Burnham on Making The 'Anti-High School Musical' With Judd Apatow". MTV. Archived from the original on January 15, 2011. Retrieved January 14, 2011. 
  35. ^ Connelly, Brendon (May 28, 2009). "Funny People Viral Marketing: Yo Teach!". /Film. Retrieved May 31, 2009. 
  36. ^ Debruge, Peter (November 29, 2017). "Sundance Film Festival Unveils Full 2018 Features Lineup". Variety. Retrieved November 30, 2017. 
  37. ^ Levine, Stuart (September 7, 2010). "MTV orders pilot from Bo Burnham". Variety. Retrieved September 10, 2010. Rising comedian just finished run at Edinburgh fest 
  38. ^ "Proper Bo". Chortle. September 8, 2010. Retrieved September 18, 2010. Burnham lands US sitcom deal 
  39. ^ "Bo Burnham responds to 'Zach Stone' cancellation: I'm the luckiest guy I know". LAUGHSPIN. Retrieved September 11, 2015. 
  40. ^ "Scottish Television report, August 31, 2010". Retrieved September 22, 2010. 
  41. ^ "Words Words Words". Alternative Distribution Alliance. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  42. ^ "what. coming soon". YouTube. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  43. ^ Mudhar, Raju (July 12, 2009). "Bo knows musical comedy". Toronto Star. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Torstar. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved July 21, 2009. With a Comedy Central special and an Apatow movie in the works, young Burnham sees plenty of room for growth 
  44. ^ Baez, Dominic (February 27, 2010). "Can we get a 'Hall Pass' from this movie?". East Oregonian. Archived from the original on April 18, 2012. Retrieved August 18, 2011. 
  45. ^ kit, Borys (April 27, 2010). "Three join coming-of-age comedy 'Sin Bin'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on May 1, 2010. Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  46. ^ Upadhyaya, Kayla (March 3, 2015). "Kroll Show: "The Commonwealth Games"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 14, 2015. 

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