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Bo Burnham

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Joined: 08 Jun 2015
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 30, 2016 3:49 am    Post subject: Bo Burnham Reply with quote

Recently one of my favorite comedians, Bo Burnham, released his new special "Make Happy" on Netflix. I say comedian for lack of a better word, but large parts of his show are quite serious and it has many musical elements as well. One part struck me particularly and reminded me of the Jeffrey Lewis song "To be objectified":

"I was raised in America where there was a cult of self-expression, and I was taught to express myself, and to have things to say, and everyone will care about them. And I think everyone was taught that, and most of us found out no one gives a shit what we think. So we flock to performers by the thousands because we're the few that have found an audience, and then I'm supposed to get up here and say 'Follow your dreams!', as if this is a meritocracy? It is not. I lead a privileged life, and I got lucky, and I'm unhappy. They say it's the 'Me Generation' - it's not. The arrogance is taught, or it was cultivated, it's self-conscious... Social media is just the market's answer to a generation that demanded to perform. So the market said: 'Here, perform everything to each other all the time, for no reason'. It's prison. It's horrific. It's performer and audience melted together. What do we want more than to lie in bed at the end of the day and just watch our life as a satisfied audience member? I know very little about anything, but what I do know is that if you can live your life without an audience, you should do it."

This to me seems like a darker spin on the same theme that Jeffrey sings about in "To be objectified":

"Plus, who says it's so important to sort through these thoughts of ours?
Maybe that's why we love to try to see ourselves from the outside
In photographs and videos and diaries and mirrors
'Cos it would be such a relief to be objectified"

The desire to be a neutral observer of our own life.

He also has a song where he parodises so-called "Stadium" country music and its purely commercial interests:

"I walk and talk like a field hen
But the boots I'm wearing cost three grand
I write songs about riding tractors
From the comfort of a private jet.

I could sing in mandarin
You'd still know I'm pandering
Hunting deer, chasing trout
A Bud Light with the logo facing out".

This rather reminds me of "WWPRD":

"So what's the scoop here in the states
Where culture just collaborates?
When I see Beck sell cars
And I see Best Coast selling booze

All this so-called counter-culture offers
No better world for us to choose
A better world to live in
Not the same one that we're given
Better speeches, better sparks
Not just all leaches and sharks"

You can find Bo Burnham's special on Netflix, and on youtube (but not in one piece); it's pretty good, I highly recommend it.
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Joined: 21 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 30, 2016 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the recommendation!
I think that's some interesting statements... (Tho I disagree with the connection to Objectified, which to me is about a different topic). I think the idea of Warhol's "everybody in the future will be famous for 15 minutes" has morphed into "everybody can be 15% famous!" But is this a bad thing? Having the technology to express ourselves and create an even platform for all types of expression, this isn't bad... But I DO see the interesting argument that this interest in being paid attention to as a special unique individual is perhaps just socially-constructed and sold to us, while the idea of ourselves as important because of cooperation and family and relationships and compromising and helping other people, and working together without personal glory, all of that stuff is not very celebrated or respected in western society.
I think about the Kimya Dawson lyric "we all become important when we realize our goal/ should be to figure out our role / within the context of the whole"
and I also think about the Morrissey/Smiths lyric
"If you're wondering why
When all I wanted from life was to be Famous..."
I think these are all great lyrics and thoughts! Well, they come from people who ARE performers and ARE at the center of attention, so you really can't make a statement against that stuff and also have it both ways... That's why I like the Smiths lyric because it's suitably sarcastic and honest. And there's some other Morrissey lyric like this but I forget what it is right now.
As for myself, I always wanted to make art and stuff because it IS a good way to get attention, I think this is the reason for probably EVERY young person growing up making art or music or even sports or whatever, you feel like you don't have the natural looks or personality or charms or social skills to explain your own self-worth and value to other people, so you feel a need to prove your value by developing these other skills - there's such a funny part about this in one of the Dan Clowes "Pussey" comics in an Eightball issue, where he starts out to become an artist because his mom's friends compliments his drawing when he's young, so he devotes his life to it, but then you see later that she's just an idiot who compliments everything!
The other thing, with the anti-commercialism, is all well and good, but the problem with just criticizing performers who do beer commercials, etc, is that it misses the point that it's not enough to just NOT do commercials, I think the point is that artists have a lot of power to "advertise" ANY kinds of ideas, so this power could be used for other things, theoretically.
Anyway the person sounds like an interesting writer and performer, thanks for putting the name on my radar!
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