Bo Burnham is just like us. He’s 19 years old like most freshmen. He wears plain white shirts and jeans that don’t ride too low yet somehow show off his boxers and he likes dirty jokes and pop culture references. Only one small difference — he does stand-up comedy for a living.
A&O Productions brought the comedian to Northwestern for a packed show at Pick Staiger on Sunday night. Two student acts warmed up the crowd before Burnham took the stage for his hour-long set.
Musical comedy duo “Chris and Pat,” made up of Communication seniors Chris Poole and Pat Bishop, started the show. The pair played three songs filled with moms in penitentiaries, drugs, fighting children, silent clapping and funny faces, and plugged their upcoming NSTV stand-up showcase. “They went along well with the type of humor [Burnham] had,” said Ellen Kourakos, McCormick sophomore.
Next up was the awkward and bumbling Brad West, a Communication senior who describes his humor as “uncomfortable.”
“It was really fun to perform in front of that many people because with those jokes you never know if they’re going to work,” West said about his act. West’s jokes relied on awkward silences, elongated stories and random segues into the next one-liner.
When Burnham finally took the stage, the crowd was ecstatic. He joked about sex, race, college, Disney characters and reporters — usual comic fare, but with an original twist. Burnham is known for his songs on YouTube, and he joked in musical form for part of the show.
“I’ve seen a lot of stuff online of his, but he did a lot of stuff I hadn’t heard before,” said Weinberg sophomore Lisa Shandley.
He rapped most of his songs and relied heavily on random outbursts, rhymes and puns that can require a bit of extra thought. In the song “Ironic,” Burnham spit out “I got my girlfriend pregnant on my sterile uncle’s pull out couch” so quickly that the audience had to pause to make sure they heard “pull out” correctly.
He mocked people of other races, the disabled, women, hip hop stars, Catholics, Jews and pretty much everyone else. He took a second to explain that his jokes are merely satire and added, “after the show, if you see a black guy beating me up, he’s doing it ironically.”
For the first half of his show, Burnham didn’t really interact much with the crowd, but as he warmed up, he became more involved. He poked fun at college in general (“This is the funniest joke to me: tuition”) and spent some time yelling at a reporter for the Daily Northwestern for taking notes, until he realized she was a reporter and decided to befriend her. Well into his show, he also took a moment to look at the concert hall’s design and said, “I look like I’m trapped in a gay German techno beehive.”
Burnham’s humor was quick and smart. He recited lines from Hamlet and mocked Shakespeare (“What light through yonder beaver breaks, it is the yeast…”), he pointed out that “Oedipus was the first motherfucker,” and he used “statistics” — “The average child of Sarah Palin has 46.2 chromosomes.”
He closed the show with one last song, rhyming about how awesome he is. As he struck the last chord, the ever-truthful Burnham stood and said, “This song’s going to end really awkwardly” and walked offstage with one last “thank you.”
The audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy Burnham’s act. His delivery was fantastic, and he never went overboard with his jokes (Tracy Morgan, anyone?). He kept everything short and to the point, used awkward silences and voice fluctuations to the best of his abilities and even managed to fit in a few haikus. Burnham’s brand of humor was perfect for college students looking for a few good laughs on a Sunday night.