What Bo Burnham’s “Inside Outtakes” Reveals About the Creative Process

Exactly a year after Burnham released his Inside special on Netflix, he released the outtakes on YouTube

Jamie Cohen

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I watched Bo Burnham’s Inside Outtakes while waiting to board my flight at the airport. It’s the first time in years that I’m flying international as I, like many others, spent a great majority of the last few years inside. While I wore a mask, I was surrounded by mostly maskless people. I’m flying to teach a study abroad and taking precautions. The airport is crowded. The pandemic isn’t over. Bo Burnham’s special reminds me of where we were.

It’s been one year since Bo Burnham’s Inside was released on Netflix. It was a meticulously edited and produced comedy (?) special about what a performer goes through when he’s stuck inside a single small space for over a year. When Inside first came out, I couldn’t watch it. It was too… real. But when I finally did, I found myself tearing up several times. The songs and sketches were ridiculous, but they felt raw and emotional. A performance of solitude for invisible viewers.

I taught remotely for three-and-a-half semesters. Some of my courses were synchronous (meaning livestreamed on Zoom), but a few were asynchronous. I couldn’t see the viewers (my students) and I had to perform to a camera in an empty room. It felt awkward many times — could my wife hear me? Did the microphone pick up my dogs ticky tack nails on the floor? Did what I say even make sense? Many times, I’d flub lines or simply lose my train of thought or, worst case, just record the entire lecture over again from scratch.

The students never knew. To them, I was keeping my shit together, being the strong one while we were all inside, doing our part.

Then, there’s the process of content creation. And not to say that my lectures were simply content, but that is really what they are. I make my educational videos in the style of “content” so the students will watch it……

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Jamie Cohen

Digital culture expert and meme scholar. Cultural and Media Studies PhD. Internet studies educator: social good, civic engagement and digital literacies