Bo Burnham’s Make Happy


Mitch Van Cleave

Anybody who has seen anything of Bo Burnham’s knows that he isn’t a conventional comedian; he writes silly songs and bits to entertain his audience. If we’re being honest, when I first saw one of his stand up routines, I was not a fan. He seemed like a funny guy, but I just wanted the classic experience, and not an hour of silly antics. I’m not sure what happened, because watching his most popular routine, Make Happy, at a later date, my stance has completely changed. 

Burnham pushes for a purity of reality in his performance. While he has a large amount of preplanned bits and songs, he touches on this in the act, forcing an image of transparency to his audience.

Something that no one can argue with is that Burnham is not afraid to say anything he wants to on stage. This is made apparent as one of the songs he performs in Make Happy is titled, “Kill Yourself.” Saying this, Burnham is not the same type of comedian as Daniel Tosh. Burnham’s humor is not raunchy or crude, it’s simply real in that it addresses issues, furthers thought, and pulls a chuckle out of the listener.

This leads me into a rather odd opinion about Make Happy, that it’s not just comedy, but an emotional experience. If you watch the last fifteen minutes of the show, this idea is confirmed. There is an incredibly poetic nature to Burnham’s performance; he touches on the subject of his relationship with the audience, airing an environment of understanding into the room. Your heart breaks with Burnham during his final amalgamate between a rant and a song, which touches on his depression, and not in a clingy, cheesy way that always seems to fall short with other performers.

Not only does Burnham deliver this emotional art that could stand the test of time, but also a comedic presentation with well-written music. The songs he writes require skill at the piano, as well as the vocal cords. It’s an impressive feat that Burnham could be a stand alone professional musician if he wished. I have listened to “Lower Your Expectations”, “Pandering”, and “Straight White Male” in my own free time, just due to their achievement as melodies.

My favorite song to listen to occurs once the entertainment has concluded. After the show, you watch Burnham walk off the stage and into his private room with an audible shift to show that this is meant for the individual watching. This is not a comedic tune, and leaves you as a sobbing wreck with the credits rolling.

If you haven’t seen Make Happy, I highly recommend it. It takes a well-made production to bring large quantities of emotion out of me, and this most certainly did that. I don’t want to rate this compared to other comedy routines or shows, because there is nothing like it. I just ask you to take an hour of your time to see this performance, and watch it with an open mind.