On Monday May 30, 2022, comedian Bo Burnham honored the one year anniversary of his popular Netflix special Inside by releasing over an hour of outtakes on his YouTube channel. While the outtake reel isn’t as polished as the original special, I believe it more effectively satirizes the role of media in our society and delivers laughs of larger quantity and quality. It also serves as an educational tool for aspiring and practicing artists alike:
Lesson 1: Respect the audience.
Burnham’s music in Inside can be tediously repetitive and although quite a few of the cut songs follow this trend, many are thought-provoking and relatable. For example, the song Feel Good features a subtle tonal shift that cleverly portrays existential desperation in a way that is funnier and smarter than anything in Inside.
Lesson 2: Get experimental, but don’t forget about punchlines.
Burnham’s satirical sketches The Podcast, Be Yourself, and The Dump are by far the highlights of the reel. They are funny, sharp and capture the dark, sly tone of Inside while maintaining the wry hilarity of his previous specials what. and Make Happy.
Lesson 3: Create content for the medium.
The reel also includes many short humorous moments, the best of which wouldn’t have been possible if the special was performed live. Since the cinematic medium felt not only beneficial but necessary, these moments shined.
Lesson 4: Create substance beyond the highlights.
Unlike Inside, the reel has a clear throughline: Burnham deemed all of the material we are seeing too silly (Spider), demented (Who Knows) or self-indulgent (This Isn’t A Joke). This creates a second layer of enjoyment, heightening the entertainment value of his weirdest bits and making the reel engaging even when the content isn’t particularly strong. It also helps show Burnham’s struggles rather than merely speaking of them, providing a firm sense of truth, something Inside lacked.
Lesson 5: Surprises are fun.
From my experience, surprises are often ruined, but Burnham delighted seasoned fans and casual Inside viewers alike by waiting to announce the outtakes until an hour before their release. This also lowered viewers’ expectations, making the reel even more enjoyable.
The Inside outtakes are honest, cathartic, and anomalous yet trackable. Watching them made me realize that there is a long road to a final product that we often don’t see, whether in art or the people around us. Perhaps that's the most powerful thing about the outtakes: they inspire empathy.