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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
  • ukulele
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 213 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]


  • Fake I.D. – autumn 2009[26][27]
  • Bo Burnham and (No) Friends – autumn 2010[28]
  • Bo Burnham Live (UK/US tour) – June 2011 – July 2012[29]
  • Bo Burnham: what. tour – summer 2013
  • Bo Burnham: 'Make Happy' tour – early 2015 and fall 2016


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]

Performance credits[edit]




  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. (2008-02-13). "Nonfamily humor, straight from home". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 2010-10-29. Retrieved 2009-01-25. Irreverent songs win Hamilton youth a cult following 
  3. ^ Connelly, Brendon (2009-06-11). "Bo Burnham and Judd Apatow's Anti-High School Musical Wants Your Assistance". /Film. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  4. ^ a b c Graham, Adam (2010-10-28). "YouTube star Bo Burnham mixes raps, laughs". The Detroit News. Archived from the original on 2010-10-29. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  5. ^ "Bo Burnham YouTube Channel". YouTube. 2016-12-26. Archived from the original on 2016-12-26. Retrieved 2016-12-26. 
  6. ^ "Comedy Central Stand-Up Showdown Results, 2011". Archived from the original on 2011-01-31. Retrieved 2011-02-02. 
  7. ^ boburnham (2016-05-20), Bo Burnham: MAKE HAPPY Trailer - NETFLIX [HD], retrieved 2016-05-21 
  8. ^ "Egghead by Bo Burnham – review". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d Kit, Borys (2008-09-25). "Singing comic joins Apatow clan". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2008-09-25. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  10. ^ "Bo Burnham meets Tim Key". YouTube. Retrieved 2016-07-19. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Giltz, Michael (2008-07-26). "Young comedian Bo Burnham is heading up charts". Daily News. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  12. ^ a b c d Wortham, Jenna (2008-06-11). "YouTube Star Bo Burnham Readies Debut EP, Bo Fo Sho". Wired. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  13. ^ Heisler, Steve (2009-04-04). "Bo Burnham". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  14. ^ a b c Gottlieb, Jed (2009-03-09). "Bo-dacious comedy: Hamilton's Burnham moves from the bedroom to Hollywood". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: P. Steven Ainsley. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  15. ^ Johnson, Nick (2009-02-05). "Internet celebrity pushes envelope in performance". The Daily Collegian. University Park, Pennsylvania, USA: Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved 2009-02-05. 
  16. ^ Olson, Kris (2008-07-03). "Ready, set … Bo! (Burnham, that is)". The Patriot Ledger. Quincy, Massachusetts, USA: Rick Daniels. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  17. ^ Ingram, Matthew (2008-09-26). "Bo Burnham: Teenaged YouTube star". The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Phillip Crawley. Archived from the original on November 5, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  18. ^ a b Comedy Central Records (2009-02-18). "COMEDY CENTRAL Records(R) to Release 'Bo Burnham' CD/DVD on March 10". New York, United States. PR Newswire. Archived from the original on 2009-02-22. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  19. ^ Hartlaub, Peter (2008-10-16). "Teenage angst has paid off well for Bo Burnham". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  20. ^ Clark, Tim (2010-08-25). "Bo Burnham nominated for Edinburgh Comedy Award". London, England: Get Comedy. Archived from the original on 2011-01-23. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  21. ^ "Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2010 – 2009 winners". Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Archived from the original on 2011-01-23. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  22. ^ "Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2010 – judging". Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  23. ^ Greaney, T.J. (2009-03-04). "In-your-face comedy". Columbia Daily Tribune. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  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. 2009-07-31. Archived from the original on 2010-01-08. Retrieved 2010-05-15. 
  27. ^ "Bo Burnham: Fake ID Tour". Wharton Center for Performing Arts. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University. 2009. Archived from the original on 2011-08-09. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  28. ^ Ryan, Mike (2010-09-13). "EXCLUSIVE: Bo Burnham on His Newly-Announced Comedy Tour and MTV Show". Movieline. Retrieved 2010-09-18. 
  29. ^ "Bo Burnham: 2011 Tour". Brighton, England: Just for Laughs Live. 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-05-21. Retrieved 2011-05-23. 
  30. ^ Hall, Julian (2008-11-14). "Rising Star: Bo Burnham, comedy actor". The Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  31. ^ Wortham, Jenna (2008-10-01). "YouTuber Bo Burnham Scripting New Judd Apatow Movie". Wired. Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  32. ^ Clark, Andrew (March 2009). "Bo burnham". Boston's Weekly Dig. Retrieved 2009-03-06. 
  33. ^ Cornwell, Tim (2010-08-28). "Preview: Bo Burnham, comedian". Edinburgh Festivals. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  34. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (2010-10-14). "Bo Burnham on Making The 'Anti-High School Musical' With Judd Apatow". MTV. Archived from the original on 2011-01-15. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  35. ^ Connelly, Brendon (2009-05-28). "Funny People Viral Marketing: Yo Teach!". /Film. Retrieved 2009-05-31. 
  36. ^ Debruge, Peter (November 29, 2017). "Sundance Film Festival Unveils Full 2018 Features Lineup". Variety. Retrieved November 30, 2017. 
  37. ^ Levine, Stuart (2010-09-07). "MTV orders pilot from Bo Burnham". Variety. Retrieved 2010-09-10. Rising comedian just finished run at Edinburgh fest 
  38. ^ "Proper Bo". Chortle. 2010-09-08. Retrieved 2010-09-18. Burnham lands US sitcom deal 
  39. ^ "Bo Burnham responds to 'Zach Stone' cancellation: I'm the luckiest guy I know". LAUGHSPIN. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  40. ^ "Scottish Television report, 31 August 2010". Retrieved 22 September 2010. 
  41. ^ "Words Words Words". Alternative Distribution Alliance. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  42. ^ "what. coming soon". YouTube. Retrieved 10 December 2013. 
  43. ^ Mudhar, Raju (2009-07-12). "Bo knows musical comedy". Toronto Star. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Torstar. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 2009-07-21. With a Comedy Central special and an Apatow movie in the works, young Burnham sees plenty of room for growth 
  44. ^ a b Shanahan, Mark; Paysha Rhone (2009-01-07). "From YouTube to Hollywood". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: P. Steven Ainsley. Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  45. ^ COMEDY CENTRAL Corporate Communications (2010-02-22). "Comedian Bo Burnham to Tape First-Ever Special at the Newly Branded COMEDY CENTRAL's House of Comedy Live From House of Blues in Boston on Friday, April 16. The Performance Will Air As An Original One-Hour Special in Fall 2010". PR Newswire. Retrieved 2010-02-23. 
  46. ^ Baez, Dominic (2010-02-27). "Can we get a 'Hall Pass' from this movie?". East Oregonian. Archived from the original on 2012-04-18. Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  47. ^ kit, Borys (2010-04-27). "Three join coming-of-age comedy 'Sin Bin'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on May 1, 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-09. 
  48. ^ Upadhyaya, Kayla (2015-03-03). "Kroll Show: "The Commonwealth Games"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2015-04-14. 

External links[edit]